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It's about Time!: 10 Smart Strategies to Avoid Time Traps and Invest Yourself Where It Matters

It's about Time!: 10 Smart Strategies to Avoid Time Traps and Invest Yourself Where It Matters

by Carolyn Castleberry


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Award-winning reporter Carolyn Castleberry brings workable solutions to help women discover and apply the right strategies for time management in their lives, freeing them to invest themselves in what really matters.

American women are in a time crisis. They are doing more but enjoying it less. Fueled by both internaland external pressures, they run from task to task without pausing to ask themselves, “Do I really want to do all this stuff? Why can’t I get a handle on managing my time?” How can they find true time balance in their super-charged,over-scheduled lives?

Carolyn Castleberry co-host of ABC Family’s Living the Life, has not only asked herself these questions, but has interviewed countless accomplished newsmakers over the years. Determined to bring workable solutions to women, she commissioned a national survey of women. Roughly half of those surveyed felt busier than they did five years ago (50 percent), don’t feel there’s enough time to get everything done (45 percent), and say they don’t have enough time for themselves (43 percent). One in three women (34 percent) described themselves as overwhelmed.

This book delivers proven, effective strategies for time management. First, it offers women a chance to take a selftest to see where they fall on the “time-balance scale,” a tool to assist the reader in diagnosing her time-management style in order to apply the right strategies and biblical principles to fit her needs. Once diagnosed, readers discover the unique factors standing in their way of effectiveness. They explore the time traps to avoid—those habits, decisions, and disempowering thoughts and words that literally steal time. Then with smart, biblical strategies in place, readers discover how to select their true priorities and invest their talents, careers, and selves in living to do what really matters.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416568452
Publisher: Howard Books
Publication date: 01/13/2009
Edition description: Original
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 8.98(w) x 5.94(h) x 0.63(d)

About the Author

Carolyn Castleberry is an international television co-host on ABC Family’s Living the Life. She has authored Women, Take Charge of Your Money and Get Answers About Your Money. As an award-winning reporter and television anchor, her reports have been featured on such major media outlets as CNN, FOX & Friends, Family News in Focus, and print publications across the country. She lives in Norfolk, Virginia.

Read an Excerpt


Time Crunched

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.


As a young woman, I took time for granted. Not anymore. Some of us understand intuitively that time is our greatest gift — ours to invest for a lifetime. For others, like me, it takes a defining moment to realize that moments, hours, and days are all we have — a defining moment followed by a complete shift in life priorities. It may be losing a loved one. It may be giving up on a dream. For me it was having two healthy babies and losing two babies, one in the second trimester of pregnancy. For years I had been a career woman and wasn't even sure I had time for kids. Time was all about me. But having and losing children — struggling for the dream of motherhood I hadn't even realized was hidden deep within me — caused me to reevaluate my time in a big way. More on my story in a we say on TV.

First let's talk about you. After all, it's about time. Yours. In decades of television and radio interviews, I've heard one consistent theme: American women are in a time crisis. "There's just not enough time," everyone seems to say. We're doing more but are less satisfied. Fueled by both internal and external pressures, we run from task to task without pausing to ask ourselves, Do I really want to do all this stuff? Am I investing my life where it matters? How do we manage to find the time to balance our supercharged, overscheduled lives?

To prove that I wasn't just imagining this time crisis, I commissioned a national survey on women and time (go to for the full scoop on how we put this together, who we interviewed, and verbatim comments from our participants). Sure enough, in an online survey of three hundred women, we found that 74 percent of them weren't happy with how they spent their time. That's three out of four!

Half of our group felt busier than they did five years ago (50 percent); nearly that many didn't feel there was enough time to get everything done (45 percent) and said they didn't have enough time for themselves (43 percent). Here's another finding that confirmed what women are saying — one in three women (34 percent) described herself as overwhelmed. Listen to what some of the women said are their greatest time traps:

"Too many demands on my time from people who do not consider that I have other things to do"

"Too many activities at one time as a single mom"

"Expecting too much from myself"

"Letting others tell me how things should be done"

"Lack of ambition or drive to get things done"

"I just have a lot going on. I am a full-time everything."

How Do You Feel About Your Time?

Whether or not you are also a "full-time everything," how do you feel about how you are investing your time? We asked the participants in our survey to tell us how much they agreed with several statements that measure perceptions in these four important areas impacting time management:

• Outside Pressures

• Attitudes

• Smart Strategies

• Time Wasters

A significant proportion of women felt stress and dissatisfaction about time management. Based on these attitudes toward time, we identified five groups of women, each with distinctive characteristics. Chances are you'll see yourself in one of these "time groups" — which range from women who felt overwhelmed when it came to time management (34 percent) all the way to those who were very organized and comfortable with their ability to effectively use their time (26 percent). The remaining 40 percent felt they needed some help in managing time and had specific challenges that keep them from doing so.

If you're looking for your basic, how-to-do-more-stuff time-management book, this isn't it. Instead, we'll look at the real reasons we're not investing our time the way we want to. You'll be able to identify the traps that are robbing you of your greatest asset. But here's the big difference between this book and many others: in these pages, we'll go way beyond simple strategies for time management because our results showed that a woman's relationship with time isn't determined by what she does or how much she is able to accomplish. Rather it's determined by how she feels about what she does. It involves your own relationship with time — your personal scale of balance — which is unique to you and is directly related to this key question: are you investing your life where it matters to you?

That's why this book won't focus on checking off more items on your to-do list. (Who needs that?) We won't be trying to get more done. (Oh, doesn't that feel good?!) In fact, in some cases you may find that the key to healthy time investment is doing less! (That's me.)

What Do We Want Anyway?

Interestingly, only one in four women had a clear idea of what really mattered to her and how to achieve it; in other words, goals. Only 22 percent of the women we surveyed felt they had an effective system for managing time, and only 27 percent had well-defined goals. That's close to the number that reported being happy with how they were investing their time on this earth. These are the women we call our Balanced Group, and we'll learn a great deal from them.

We also found that women fit into four other basic categories: the Overwhelmed (put me here for much of my life), the Procrastinators, the Pressured, and the Self-Stressed.

You Know Who You Are

The good news is there are solutions for all these groups, even if it's one baby step at a time. And my guess is that when you look at the list — Overwhelmed, Procrastinators, Pressured, and Self-Stressed — you intuitively know where you fit. Something inside tells us that somebody is causing all these time pressures or, dare I say, that we are the problem in our own lives. First, let's visit the four segments of women we found in our survey. Later in the book we'll address specific strategies to take back time for all of them.

The Overwhelmed

Women in this first group typically answer to the label of either Superwoman or Single Mom. Here are some more of their cries for help:

"I have entirely too much stress because I don't seem to have enough time and money to invest either one properly."

"I am not disciplined enough to stay on task; too many uncontrollable things demand my time...mainly my nine children!"

"I have too much on my plate at once."

Oh boy, I can relate! We may not have nine children (God bless you, dear soul!), but most of us have way too much on our plates at once. The Overwhelmed are the ones who feel the most unbalanced and out of control when it comes to time management. These women believe they have no time for themselves and that time pressures are constantly accelerating. They believe they cannot exercise control over their time. They feel helpless:

"I am unable to set goals."

"I am feeling overstressed and overwhelmed by the demands on my life. And I have a feeling of tiredness much of the time."

"I think that I feel overwhelmed by the quantity of what has to get done and when it has to get done by."

It's easy to see why many of the Overwhelmed women feel so out of control. This group tends to be younger and includes the highest number of single parents. For these women, just surviving each day appears to be the top priority. Because I was once constantly overwhelmed, my first ten strategies to take back time will begin with you, my friends (see chapter 3). Plus, I'll throw in a bonus ten, because we need them so badly.

The Procrastinators

The second group we identified is the Procrastinators. Thirty-one percent of the women we interviewed said they had this tendency. You know her. Maybe she's you. Maybe she's me, as I glance away from my computer screen to a little clutter pile growing on my desk. I'll get to that later. Our well-intentioned Procrastinator makes big plans, has big ideas, and makes a big list of things to do. But something happens along the way:

"I procrastinate. I know something needs to be done at work (I'm self-employed) or around the house, but I will find an excuse to have a friend visit or play with my pets or grandson rather than tackle it."

"I hate school but know it is important if I hope to advance in a career. In effect, procrastinating, homework, and working odd shifts prevent me from managing my time better."

"I hate to grocery-shop, always putting it off until there is nothing in the house to eat."

"I am lazy or there are just too many things going on at the same time."

I love their honest answers. One woman summed up her life in two words: bad habits. Whatever the underlying reason for their lack of motivation, these women had acquired some behaviors that were literally killing their time. Our top-ten smart strategies for our Procrastinator girlfriends (see chapter 4) will target time-stealing habits.

The Pressured

Working moms, this might be you. That includes stay-at-home moms who may also home school their kids and who are working harder than anyone can imagine. You want to talk about pressure? A producer I work with was caught in the "sandwich generation," and at one point her elderly father, two grandchildren, and the children's mother who was recently divorced all lived with her. Could you keep up with that? At times, she couldn't either! Students, career women, you can certainly relate to feeling pressured too. This third group tends to be largely married with children and feels weighed down by external forces:

"People have no idea of all I'm supposed to do."

"Everyone assumes I can do it, since I've done it before."

"My friends call me, day or night, even though they know I'm working."

"If I don't do everything my kids ask of me, I think they won't feel loved or cared for."

"I stay at home with my daughter, who is eight months old, and she is very hands-on at this stage in her entire day is spent just taking care of her.

Thirty-four percent of the women we surveyed felt that constant interruptions prevented them from getting more done, and they felt they didn't get the support they need from others (27 percent). Overall, these women felt they were not very good at making decisions on managing their time. In fact, they didn't feel empowered to make these decisions and blamed external forces for the problems. A typical attitude of this group can be summed up in this quote: "If it weren't for everyone else, I'd be fine." Hey, who hasn't felt that way!

Not surprisingly, these women said they spent the least time relaxing.

Also, many of the youngest women in our survey said they felt the most pressured. As a result, they placed a higher priority on work and career than any other group. One woman wrote, "To the extent that it lies in my own hands, I think I manage my time very well. However, as I said before, my employer pretty much 'owns' me. I have a management-level job, which we need in order to stay afloat financially, so I put in however many hours I can." Your top-ten strategies are in chapter 5.

The Self-Stressed

My friend, Tanya, is a real estate agent who is consistently the number one performer in her office. She also manages a home, raises two children, and volunteers for church and school functions, usually serving as a committee chairperson. From the outside it looks like the perfect life, doesn't it? There's just one problem — Tanya doesn't have time for all of this stuff, and the stress is chipping away at her joy with each new task she adds to her Day-Timer. Meet our fourth group of women: the Self-Stressed. These women are similar to the Pressured except for one important difference. While the Pressured woman tends to blame others for her inability to manage time, the Self-Stressed woman puts the blame right smack on herself. She may feel a need to be perfect and live up to the world's expectations, like the lady who wrote that "I am trying to accomplish too much at once." When it comes to time management, the Self-Stressed woman tends to target her own lack of organization rather than fault interruptions or a lack of support from others. One woman wrote, "I think it's a lack of discipline in this area, first of all, and I also think there are distractions that I allow to get me off track or off schedule."

This group's tendency to blame themselves may also be related to their age and general lack of life experience (the women in this group tend to be the youngest in our survey). Here are a few more of their comments:

"If I were only better at managing time, I'd be fine."

"I'm completely disorganized and under a lot of stress."

"There's not enough time in the day."

"I can't possibly cover everything on my list, so I ignore it."

Are you listening to the words? Mostly negative. These also seem to be the women who struggle with disempowering thoughts and beat themselves up on a regular basis. Have you ever been there in your life? Many of us have. That's why our ten smart strategies for the Self-Stressed (see chapter 6) will focus on thoughts and words that can help in overcoming time traps.

The Balanced

Ah...our heroines. The Balanced felt very in control of their time and felt generally good about their lives. Don't be jealous! This group gives us hope. They generally didn't let external factors derail their schedules. They also felt they could control their own actions with respect to time management. They were basically happy with how they spent their time. Not surprisingly, this group tended to be the oldest, and they were the least likely to have children in the house. Probably due to their age and experience, this group also felt the most satisfied with life:

"I prioritize what needs to be done and then prioritize what I want to do."

"I simply make a plan in the morning and follow the plan."

"I manage my time well."

"I don't make an unrealistic schedule, because I know things in my house don't run smoothly. I basically just go with the flow of things."

"I make a list of all the things that need to be done for the day and the time it will take to get them done. As each item is accomplished, it is crossed off the list."

One survey respondent said, "Save enough time in each day/week, etc., so that there is no need to have to manage your time. There will always be free time in every day/week if you set aside time in each day that is not scheduled for anything."

I love it! We can all do that! And we don't have to wait until we're seniors to enter this arena.

You may be the hyperbusy woman who needs more time for herself and her family or the type of personality prone to daydreaming, struggling with fears, or becoming paralyzed by indecision. No matter how you describe yourself — in one or several of these categories — we are a society that is wasting time despite our busyness. We find ourselves speeding from here to there in a never-ending sequence of "important" activities, and our world is moving so fast it's hard to keep track of the days, weeks, and years anymore.

The older we get, the more we feel we just blinked and thirty years went by. So many valuable moments are gone — time that we'll never, ever get back. With all the responsibilities we have to face each day in our work, families, and personal lives, we must first learn to get control of our time — this limited resource — and our greatest God-given asset here on this earth.

Back to my story. As I mentioned, having children for me was extremely difficult, and our first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. We had planned to visit my husband's family the following week for a get-together when I told him, "John, I can't go. I can't speak to anyone. I need to go away by myself for a while." Poor John. He didn't know what to think. He had just lost a baby too, and now I was going away to think and pray. How was he going to explain this to his family? But I was so absorbed in my own pain that all I could think of was escape. Refuge.

I found it in a place called Safety Harbor in Tampa, recommended by a friend. I loved this quiet resort getaway by still waters. But it was also a place for families and friends, and it seemed like I was the only one who came alone. Ate alone. Walked alone. When people asked me if I was okay, I decided to be honest and said, "I just lost a baby, and I need some time." And the people responded in a wonderful way. I'll always be grateful for their understanding and kindness to me.

But there was another Person I had to make peace with. The Lord. The Lord of my life, the Lord of my future, the Lord of all time. "God, how could this happen? Why is life so unfair? Why did you give us this baby in the first place just to lose her?" I had already named her Chloe. I just knew she was a girl. "Lord, everything that was so important in life just doesn't seem to matter anymore." I was so angry with God, I didn't hesitate to tell him about it. Then I slept. Then I gave him another earful and slept some more.

During that last day of pouring out my hurt, lost dreams, confusion, and anger to the Lord, I suddenly felt his presence. I felt peace. Above all, I felt his love and his Spirit whispering to my spirit, Carolyn, I love you and haven't left you. I still have wonderful plans for you and John. Loss is just a part of life. Will you love me anyway?

In that moment, through my tears, I said, "Yes, I will love you. Yes, I believe you. Yes, I will surrender to you — even this desire to be a mom. If it never happens, I will love you anyway."

I went back home, and in the years to come, John and I would go on to have a beautiful baby girl we named Lindsay. We would also feel the devastating pain of losing another baby, a boy, in the second trimester of pregnancy. His name was David. We then had another beautiful baby girl we named Brooke, and John's son from a previous marriage came to live with us at age twelve. Jack, my stepson, rounded out our family. Yes, indeed, the Lord had plans.

Perhaps it was our loss and hardship in having children that caused me to fall so deeply in love with my babies. Perhaps this newscaster found her heart for the first time. Perhaps it's just the miracle of children, but I knew I had to spend as much time with my kids as possible. With sudden clarity, I knew this was what I was put on earth to do.

There was just one problem. Money. Talk about crashing down to earth with a huge dose of reality. Just as our first baby was born, John and I faced a devastating financial crisis. Downsizing is a word we both know well in the tumultuous world of broadcasting (John is a sportscaster), and since I had planned to quit my job as a reporter, we were looking at an income of zero. We had to change those plans, and I went back to a job of reporting bad news.

As I've written in two business books, John and I now know how to make life work, no matter what the circumstances, and I teach women around the world that they always have choices. Hey, now I get to report good news, like writing this for you! But back then, as a young couple, we didn't know what to do. I just knew that I wanted more time for my babies but could never scrape more together. I thought time would always be there, that there would be days ahead where I could modify my schedule, but I was discovering my days were not my own. That realization became most poignant when one of Lindsay's first words to me turned out to be "bye-bye" as I raced to another news story.

I realized that time was all I had while my children were little, and I became determined to spend as much of it with my family as I could.

The editors I've worked with over the years are much smarter than I am. Thomas Womack, a sharp and insightful editor, realized that in writing books about money, I was really writing about time — what I call our greatest asset and a much more valuable currency. I had been a wage slave and my freedom to choose how I spend my time came through none other than Jesus Christ. Really. His wisdom and guidance showed me how to walk in true freedom.

My heart was with my family, but much of my time still belonged to my career. That's when I made the choice to walk away from a job I'd held for fourteen years as a local newscaster. I had a no-compete clause in my contract that prohibited me from working in any capacity at another local station for one year. I couldn't anchor, report, make coffee, or even step foot in the building to serve as the janitor at another station for 365 days.

Ah...time. As I've written about in Women, Take Charge of Your Money and Women, Get Answers About Your Money, it was God's wisdom in showing me how to invest money wisely that allowed me the choice and the dignity to walk away from a job that stressed my spirit daily and stole my family time.

It was one of those periods of life when I also heard that challenging voice of the Lord saying, Move on. I have something better for you. Trust me. Now, I haven't always been a person of great faith who knows the right thing to do and actually does it. Many times worry and practical responsibilities get the best of me — after all, I have little mouths to feed! But for some reason this time I actually had the faith to do the right thing. In deciding to walk away from a safe and secure job as a reporter (reporting mostly bad news), I held on to to Galatians 5:1: "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" (nasb). As a "wage slave," I made the decision to grasp freedom, walk away, and give myself the gift of time to think.

During my days off, I was faced with many choices. Many of my resulting decisions were good — they just weren't the best. Therefore they weren't God's will for my life. One day during this confusing time, I lay on the floor, facedown in prayer, and said, "Lord, I'm so sick and tired of asking you to get on board with my plans. This time I want to get on board with your plans. What is it that you require of this life?"

That very day I got an answer. A producer from the Christian Broadcasting Network called to tell me about a show called Living the Life that reaches out to women. A week later God set me on a path of reporting and writing books about the good news of Christ — something this newscaster, who had made a life of reporting bad news, had only dreamed of doing. And my greatest dream — more hours with my little family; a new path; and a better investment of my greatest asset, time — came true.

The test of time. Where are your time traps? How will you invest the years you have on this earth? Our first step in solving this problem is tracking where our time goes. That may take more than a moment. But even Jesus stepped away from the crowds who followed him everywhere so he could take time to rest, regroup, and communicate with the Father.

The Master of Time

In Ordering Your Private World, Gordon MacDonald asks whether we are driven or called when we invest our time. For example, are we driven by our need to succeed? Are we feeling overly responsible for areas in life that aren't our responsibility? Or are we called by the Father of time into a life of purpose and clarity?

The good news is that we have someone to learn from in managing our most valuable asset — the Lord of time, Jesus, who never seemed to waste a minute. He never lost focus.

As MacDonald observes,

When I look into the Bible, I am deeply impressed with the practical lessons on organization that one can learn from the life and work of Jesus Christ. All four Gospel writers present to us a picture of Jesus under constant pressure, as He was pursued by friend and enemy alike. His every word was monitored, every action was analyzed, every gesture was commented upon.

Talk about pressure! But through it all, Jesus had a firm handle on time. He was clear on his purpose and even took private time with the Father so he could regain his strength as the crowds followed him everywhere. He took time to speak with people whom many of us would pass on the street. Jesus wasn't in a hurry, even though he had an urgent mission and only thirty-three years to complete it. Thank God he didn't procrastinate!

As we learn in these pages to be better stewards of our time, I'll take us back to the Bible many times — because on this topic, as with every other area of life, it provides words of hope that go beyond just good information. God provides power to change your investment of time, if you ask him. The first step is determining the leaks in your time budget. Who and what is stealing your time without your permission?


Track Your Time

Are the areas in which you're investing your time really that important to you, or have you been lured into giving away your greatest asset to anyone and everyone without a thought?

Are you investing yourself where it matters to you?

Here's a simple but valuable exercise. Turn to the Where Does the Time Go? log on page 235. Track your time to see how you use it — keep a daily log of how much time goes to each activity you're involved in. A few minutes of writing and analyzing these logs can show you much more clearly how to eliminate many hours of wasted time. You'll see how much time is spent in unexpected ways, whether from internal or external time stealers. Often it appears that the busier you feel, the more time you waste. Another important discovery you will make is how much time things really take. One of the most common problems in personal time management is underestimating the time needed for each activity.

So take a few days or a week, and write down what you do with your time, just as you would log your spending if you're setting up a budget or a log of your calorie intake if you're embarking on a diet. If you're like me, chances are you'll be surprised at where the time goes.

Copyright © 2009 by Carolyn Castleberry

Table of Contents

You Don't Have Time for This?



1. Time Crunched

2. This Is Your Time



3. The Overwhelmed

10 Smart Strategies to Tame Time Traps

4. The Procrastinators

10 Smart Strategies to Overcome Time-Stealing Habits

5. The Pressured

10 Smart Strategies for Stellar Decision Making

6. The Self-Stressed

10 Smart Strategies Using Thoughts and Words



7. Time for Your Loved Ones

8. Time for Work That Matters

9. Time for Money Matters

10. Now Is Your Time

Where Does the Time Go?

Personal Strategy Notes



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