“I don’t have time.” It’s a simple phrase you have probably thrown out to your friends, significant other, or kids, particularly if you feel as if the elusiveness of time is slipping through your fingers.
But when you sit back and reflect on the statement, what are you really saying? More importantly, consider who you are saying it to, and what it communicates to them. What you are really saying is that your time is being preoccupied with something else. Something your brain has told you is much more important.
We have to stop being victims of time and instead take ownership. The words you tell yourself matter. And if you are telling yourself (and others around you) that you don’t have time, you may just begin believing it.
Once I conscientiously began removing that phrase “I don’t have time” from my everyday conversation, time seemed to loosen its controlling grip over me. I was no longer the victim, I was the one in power.
It’s not time management you need.
As someone who has spent years teaching productivity, I have come to this simple conclusion: time management does not exist. You cannot manage time. It is not an angry three-year-old throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store that you can swiftly march out to the car.
No, you cannot manage time (spoken by someone who personally tried to for years), BUT you can manage your activities. We can manage how we individually choose to spend our time. With all the inequalities of wealth in our world, time is not one of them. Time is equally doled out to each of us and it is up to us to decide how to use it.
To determine how we want to choose our time, allow me to break down the four different ways one can spend their time, as well as the importance of each for your productivity.
Resting may seem like a strange place to start but in reality, it is by far the most important if we desire to achieve the success we crave as human beings. Our society mistakenly believes that if we just follow the “hustle mantra” we will find success, so we are afraid to stop moving.
But our brain requires periods of rest. Healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Acknowledge it, accept it, and move on. Sleep is non-negotiable. In fact, according to Tom Rath’s book, “Eat, Move, Sleep: Why Small Choices Make a Big Difference,” your quality of work can drop down as much as 30% when you are not getting an adequate amount of sleep.
What do periods of resting look like? Well, we just covered sleep, but it can also include meditation, closing your eyes and taking a break away from the computer, or sitting outside in nature for a few minutes. The key to your resting periods is they should feel renewing and restorative, otherwise, it’s not rest!
We know our day is already filled with doing, but what exactly is it we are doing? And are we using our time the way we really want?
When we use the phrase “I don’t have time” what we’re really doing is lying to ourselves. We are simply choosing to not prioritize whatever it is that truly needs the space. For me, I have started using other phrases that show intention, like, “I don’t want to give this my time right now,” or, “That’s not a priority for me at the moment.”
I like these subtle changes to the words because what they do is remind me that I am in control of my choices. Time doesn’t demand how I spend it. I do.
One important caveat to “doing” that must be discussed is that sometimes we have trouble prioritizing the tasks we want to do for ourselves because we are so busy “doing” for everyone else in our lives (I imagine many of the women reading this are nodding their heads right now). When it comes to doing, please remember that you do not have to do it all, and you do not always have to sacrifice time on your tasks for the sake of others.
Personally, I think we have the wrong idea around the concept of “quitting.” Quitting is not an end, rather it is the first step in refocusing and redefining your life. When we give ourselves permission to let go of the things that no longer serve us, we gain the opportunity to pursue what is aligned with our purpose.
Many of you reading this may assume I am about to lecture you about removing distractions from your day, but that’s not how I roll. Plot twist: we actually need some distractions in our day!
A lot of people believe if they are not spending their time hustling towards some tangible goal, then they are not doing anything worthwhile. That could not be more false! Play is essential for our brains but we tend to undervalue it because it seems so silly next to our serious life or professional goals. What’s ironic though is that when we increase play, give ourselves time to actually enjoy time, we become more productive. When more frequent play is incorporated into our days we see dramatic increases in creativity, attention, and performance.
For those of you asking, “But, Tanya, how do we determine between good and bad distractions?” Here’s my answer: it is entirely up to you to decide. And before you go panicking, know that the deciding factor is so incredibly simple. After indulging in the distraction stop and ask yourself, “How do I feel after I finish this?” Is your answer along the lines of, “That lifted my mood and was exactly what I needed,” or is it more so, “I feel worse off than I did before.” Therein lies the answer.
We have a tendency to bind our feelings of self-worth tightly with our daily achievements. We need to loosen these knots because the problem with this is it doesn’t take into consideration the important time we’ve spent thinking.
Every day we have over 6,200 thoughts, which, roughly calculated, means we have about four new thoughts every single minute! The big question though is what are we thinking about?
We spend an excessive amount of time thinking about the things that don’t require it: the worrying and stress, tweaking and reworking of tasks and projects that don’t even need it. We spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about the minutiae, the unimportant.
You may have noticed a recurring theme woven throughout this article: it’s not the action that matters, it is the intention behind it. We don’t want to just find ourselves doing and thinking. We want to choose to think and do what’s most important. With that, you may just unpack an extraordinary life for yourself that you never knew could be.
About the author: Tanya Dalton is a best-selling author, speaker, and nationally recognized productivity expert. Tanya serves as a growth strategist for female leaders. Her highly anticipated second book, On Purpose: The Busy Woman’s Guide to an Extraordinary Life of Meaning and Success, will be on sale wherever books are sold on October 12, 2021. Tanya is also the founder and CEO of inkWELL Press Productivity Co. a multi-million dollar company providing tools that work as a catalyst in helping women do less while achieving maximum success.