September is a month when everything gears back up after the summer. Children don backpacks and return to school and grownups return to work, leaving the lazy days of vacation or long weekends behind. Sports teams, clubs, committees, and professional organizations that may have suspended their meetings and practices over the summer are back in full swing. Many people find the cooler temperatures invigorating and welcome the quicker pace. But others feel like digging in their heels and stubbornly shouting “Whoa!” when they see how much is now on their plates. If this latter description fits you even slightly, read on for some suggestions for reclaiming control over your time.
LOOK AT HOW YOU ARE SPENDING YOUR TIME—Here’s an eye-opening exercise I’ve used with many of my clients. Make two pie charts (circles that you will divide into sections) next to each other and label one “Actual Day” and the other “Ideal Day.” Divide and label the first circle into sections that represent how you allocate a typical day, (i.e. sleep, grooming, exercise, work, running errands, preparing and eating meals, TV/reading.) Are you surprised by where your time goes? Now segment the second circle according to how you’d prefer to spend your time.
REEXAMINE YOUR PRIORITIES—What do you most want to devote your time and energy to at this point in your life? Make a list and narrow down to the three to five things that are most important to you. These are your top priorities. Refer back to your “Actual Day” pie chart, to see how much of your time is engaged in activities that are important to you. What steps could you take to make your days more reflective of your true priorities?
MAKE CHOICES BASED ON YOUR PRIORITIES
1. Set and stick to limits. My limit is two meetings a week and, when my boys were in school, it was one sport per child per season.
2. Divide and conquer. Have your spouse or a friend fill you in on what happened in a meeting.
3. Say no. If it doesn’t fall into your top priorities, isn’t something you want to do, or if it would push you over the edge into overwhelm, say no to it.
4. Schedule what’s important. Treat family dinners or exercise sessions the same way you would a business meeting—enter them in your calendar and work around them.
5. Make adjustments as needed to make your life work for you.
We are each given 24 hours each day; choose wisely and most the most of every moment!