Saturday, June 29, 2013

How are you using your 1440 minutes?

I've been thinking a lot about time lately. Life is composed of days, weeks, months and minutes. There are a limited number of minutes in each day. A total of 1440 to be exact.

Over the past two months, I have felt deeply out of balance due to the many life changes and demands on my time. I left a job I loved, became quite ill with pneumonia, moved to a new state, started a new job in a new industry all while trying to complete doctoral coursework. These past two months have forced me to become hyper-aware of time and thoughtful about how I spend it. Here's what I have learned so far:

1. Build in thinking and planning time. Each day we react and rush around to get everything done and try to stay ahead of the next demand. Somehow we equate speed with effectiveness. Indeed speed and responsiveness matter greatly in business and in life. When you answer questions or resolve a problem quickly you are showing you care enough to honor the request of another. But in our rush to "do" we have stopped thinking about what we're doing. We simply run from one thing to another with no time to truly ask ourselves, "is this necessary?" I've learned that thinking plus planning actually equates to greater speed. I'd suggest that we would be even more nimble and excellent in our actions armed with a thoughtful plan. Thinking and planning should never slow you or others down, they should in fact, make you and others more efficient and effective. Build thinking and planning time into your day, week, month or even year.

2. Choose to whom you gift time. Family, friends, church members, professors and employers will require your time daily. Giving your time to them is a precious, personal and sometimes emotional gift. I do not believe one can ever find a perfect balance when everyone needs something from you. However, I have learned that we must always negotiate and counterbalance the many demands of a well-lived life with the things that bring us joy. There are indeed things we are required to do everyday. Sometimes we cannot change that. Yet, we always have some freedom to choose how to counterbalance the stress of  life's daily requirements. Give time to the people and activities that bring you joy or allow you to re-charge while helping someone else. What makes you smile? What can you do to make another person smile? Try to do more of those things.

3. Include rest and rejuvenation time. There will always be deadlines and demands. Yet, it is important to shut off your technology and spend time listening, resting, reflecting and rejuvenating. That will take a different form for all of us. No matter how important your job, family, friends, church or other responsibilities, you will better serve all of it if you periodically remove yourself from it. Things won't fall apart without you. If they do, maybe you have taken on too much alone.  If they don't fall apart, you will have learned a great lesson. Turn it off. It's good for your mind, body and spirit. Be still and know.

4. Respect the physical body.We are not effective when we disrespect the 1440 minutes in each day. We become irritable, emotionally charged, physically ill or just plain unhappy. Well, maybe that's just how it affects me.  Nope. Some highly intelligent people have done research on how the human body is negatively affected by the stress of daily time pressures. This can lead to lack of sleep, weight gain, headaches, low immunity and overall irritability. We are not able to give our best professionally, emotionally or spiritually when we fill every minute in every day with activity. Get some exercise, or as I like to call it, "intentional movement." Sugar and caffeine only offer a temporary boost of energy.  Eat less processed foods and more natural foods. Get 6-8 hours of sleep. Respect your mind and body.

Take a moment to write down how you use your 1440 minutes. Write down 1440 on a sheet of paper, then start subtracting chunks of time (in minutes) from that number. What is left? When I did it I ended up with a minus 95 minutes each day--sometimes more. Scary. Find ways to counterbalance those things that suck up more than their fair share of your 1440 minutes. You might even have to say no to someone. Once you do, you'll be stronger, smarter, happier and more fun to be around. As for me, I'm going to go for a run, then get a massage and take a nap. By the way, there are 525,600 minutes in a year. Here's the song to prove it.

What have you learned about time? I'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.