By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
We all get 24 hours in a day, but some of us seem to get a lot more done than others.
I used to have a teacher colleague who had a very simple principle; don’t do anything that the students couldn’t do themselves. He had his students keep attendance and all kinds of minor administrative tasks to keep the class running smoothly. His focus was on what he was trained, and paid, to do.
I suggest that more of us use this principle to reclaim our time – at home and at work.
To do this we might ask ourselves a few basic questions; first, does this need to be done? Second, does it need to be done by me? Third, does it need to be done now?
Yes or no?
Every “yes” or “no” is a compromise.
Every “yes” is a “no” to something – or a whole set of “somethings” that could have been done instead.
Any “no” might provide time or attention, maybe even fuller attention to the same (or related) task tomorrow.
Any given “yes” or “no” is for that situation or time – and perhaps not for the next opportunity or challenge that comes along.
A “no” today, is not necessarily a “no” for tomorrow.
Situations, and perspectives may, and in many cases, certainly will, change.
If you can’t eliminate something, make a move toward delegating it – to a person, a system or an automation of some kind.
Instead of taking time to pay bills, for example, could you set up an online payment system?
An hour or so setting up such accounts could save you many hours over months, even years, to come.
Instead of doing those time-consuming routine activities, get someone else to do it.
For simple things, a young person may not know how to do it just right, but they’ll learn.
For those projects, large or small, simple or complicated, consider what your time is worth.
For that handyman project – especially anything to do with plumbing, have an experienced and reliable expert do it. You’ll save yourself worry, stress and probably some money. Your peace of mind, and a good night’s sleep are both worth far more than what you might save by doing it yourself.
Do it later
You could call this purposeful procrastination.
If something needs to be done, but not now, bundle it with other related tasks.
Keeping a clear distinction between the urgent and the important – in life and work – can save you many headaches.
An oil change in your car, for example, is important but rarely urgent.
A flashing “Check engine” light on your dashboard screen is almost certainly urgent.
Some phone calls are urgent. But not every chirp or beep from your phone is of equal importance.
If you procrastinate on purpose, you’ll eventually decide whether to eliminate, automate or delegate the task, or you may find that it has solidified and risen in significance, importance or urgency, compelling you to get it done.
Clear out your clutter
I think of time wasting activities as being like that clutter of unused, neglected or forgotten long-lost objects found in the back of almost every closet. They take up space; space that could be used, at minimum, more productively.
The same principle holds true for time-wasters. They occupy time but they keep us from accomplishing much.
Clearing out a cluttered space is much like clearing out a cluttered calendar.
We all know the term “spring cleaning,” and “COVID cleaning” has become a familiar term for many of us.
And more and more of us are discovering the liberation inherent in a cleaned out room – or schedule.
The 10% rule
There’s an old saying that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react. To put it mildly, our “reactions” are what consume our time and energy.
Any shift in the balance in the positive direction will save you some, or even a lot of, time and energy.
Getting as close as possible to reversing that ratio will save you a massive amount of headaches – and relationship or career disasters.
It might seem impossible, but do yourself a favor and restrain your reaction. Very few situations are improved by venting, ranting or even worrying.
There’s an old saying in parenting circles; pick your battles. The same is true in work and life in general.
None of us has the time to fight about every issue or crisis that emerges. Pick the battles that are worth fighting – or that you need to win.
One thing I have learned is that the vast majority of “battles” are literally not worth fighting.
Delegate or defer or even procrastinate, but you cannot fight every battle that comes along. And you won’t have the energy to fight the battles that really matter.
Learn from your pets
Ever notice the animals in your life? Most of the time they are calm yet alert. Most of us are the exact opposite – too much of the time we are anxious and sluggish.
Most animals are “all-in” – they are fully awake or fully asleep. Most of us spend the bulk of our time in some in-between state – not fully awake or fully rested.
Healthy animals live fully in the moment. Only traumatized animals live in a state of fear or anxiety.
Live like a healthy animal.
Waste some time
Not every moment of life is meant to be measurably productive.
“Waste” time in the best ways – ways that you look forward to, and remember.
“Waste” time looking at clouds or sunsets. Or with those people who understand you best.
It just might remind you what is worthy of your time.
Time only goes forward
There is no going backwards.
Time and opportunity are always and only in front of us.
Each one of us, each day, uses our time to make us who and what we are.
Whether we “waste” time or use it fully, it is the one element we all share.
Yes, time is money. But it is also far more.
Time is the ultimate investment.