Finding Time for Things, Finding Time for You
It’s amazing how time can be on your side one moment, and then acting against you the next. Recently, I found myself almost running out of time for quite a few of my responsibilities not to mention responsibilities to myself. For me, the last few weeks have simply been an avalanche of things, both at work and in my personal life. During all this, I found myself thinking everyone has the same 168 hours in a week. So how do some people handle so much while others can barely handle keeping up with just a few things?
After finding myself not having as much time as I believed I needed, I decided to re-examine the ways I use to find time in the past. The funny thing is that no matter how good you are at managing time, every now and then a person needs to revisit the process for time management and be reminded of how to make better use of time.
Below is a story I learned a long time ago from a workshop on time management. Since the workshop, I’ve heard it repeated many times in different scenarios and in different formats. Regardless of how the story specifics go, the overall message of the story was the same. I’d love to give full credit to the author of the story. But since I’m not sure who the author of the story was or how the original story went, I’m repeating the version I first heard in an effort to help illustrate one of the most important points of time management:
Is My Jar Full or Not?
One day a business school teacher was speaking to a group of students in one of her classes and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget. As she stood in front of the class she said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then she pulled out a one-gallon Mason jar and set it on the table in front of her. Then she produced about a dozen large rocks about the size of her fist and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, she asked, “Is this jar full?”
Everyone in her class said, “Yes.”
Then she said, “Oh really?” She then reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. She dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the space between the large rocks. Then she asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was on to her. “Probably not,” one of them answered.
“Good!” she replied. She reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. She then started dumping the sand into the jar and it went into all of the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more she asked the question, “Is this jar full now?” “No!” the class shouted.
Once again she said, “Good.” Then she grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then she looked at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”
One person raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!”
“No,” the teacher replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the large rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”
Find Time for the Large Rocks that Make Up Your Life
Finding time for the large rocks or simply the things most important for you first depends on examining what is important in your life. What are the ‘large rocks’ in your life? Are the large rocks:
Your loved ones?
Some worthy cause?
Your spouse or significant other?
Doing things that you love?
Having time for yourself?
Remember to put the LARGE ROCKS in first or you’ll never get everything in at all.
If you sweat the small stuff (the gravel, the sand in the story) then you’ll fill your life with little things you’ll worry about that really don’t matter, and you’ll never have the real time you need to spend on the big stuff (the large rocks).
Make a list of the things you definitely want to accomplish — For those who’ve gone to time management seminars and/or have taken classes on the subject, I’m sure you’re heard this time and time again. Even so, how many times have you found yourself intending to create a list of the things you want to do, but failed to do so? Or even worst, creating a list but then, have days where you forget to look at it? One day passes, and then another, and then another. Sometimes you may be in the middle of something and you remember your list only to say “I’ll look at it when I’m finished or when I’m not as busy as I am now”. Doing that will sooner or later render the list created ineffective in helping you to accomplish the things you want to accomplish.
Make sure you review your list everyday, preferably at the same time each day. I find that doing this as part of the morning routine in the easiest. By reviewing your list each day at the same time, you make it a habit to review your list.
When You Make Your List, Pick the Top Three Things to Accomplish – Many people when they create a list of things to do, they still get overwhelmed at the things they intend to do. There’s an old saying that says, “How do you eat an elephant? You do it one bite at a time.” This concept is similar to the concept of large rocks in the earlier story. What are your large rocks?
Keep Your List in a Place Where You Can Easily Find It — If you create a list, it’s easier to review it if you keep it in a place where you can easily find it every day. What good is a list of things to accomplish if you are not able to easily find it?
Learn to Say “No” — I myself am quite guilty of doing this on many occasions. I’m the type of person that by nature wants to get as much accomplished as possible. The irony is that the more a person has going on, the more chance they’ll not be able to accomplish everything to the level of satisfaction they set for the task. That’s of course assuming they’re able to finish everything they’re personally responsible for. Who said you have to say “Yes” to everything that is asked of you?
Have a Pad and Pencil/Pen Next to the Bed — One thing that has helped me is to have a pad and pen on the nightstand next to my bed. Reason being is that I find I remember many of the things that I’d like to do or plan to do as I lie down relaxing just before I go to sleep. Having a pad and pen next to the bed has helped me to get a much better night’s sleep. Why? Because as soon as I remember something I’d like to do the next day, I write it down on the pad. The beauty of this is that I don’t have to worry about remembering it the next morning. I can go to sleep without the worry that I’ll forget.
Block Out Time Each Day for Yourself to Catch Up — If you use a personal information manager such as Outlook or Google Calendar, make sure you block out half an hour to an hour each day for you to catch up on things. Once you do so, make sure you keep this appointment everyday. This has been one of the most valuable lessons I learned early on in my career from one of my mentors. Having that time each day, allows me to either catch up on things, or re-examine how my day is going. Sometimes I use this time to re-evaluate my list of things that I want to accomplish and if needed, re-prioritize.
Make Sure Your List of Things to Accomplish contains Fun Things to Do As Well – Having fun things to do on your list is just as important as having things you feel are not as much fun. Sometimes, having a list of fun things to do can make life much more enjoyable. Making time for you is not selfish but just as important as everything else. If you do not find time for yourself every so often, you will find yourself getting time-starved. You’ll start feeling tired, and over-extended and believe me that others will notice. Scheduling time for rest and relaxation will help to give you energy to do the things you need to do.
Note: If you’re in a relationship, make sure you plan time into your schedule to spend it with your significant other. This will help ensure a successful relationship.
How Do You Find Time?
The ideas I’ve mentioned above are just some ideas to help manage time a little bit better. These are not the only methods for finding time for things, they are simply a handful of the many ways a person can create time for themselves.
What are some of the ways you find and make time for yourself and for the things you want to accomplish? Why not share them with others below?