By Jacki Post Ashkin, LCSW-C
There just are not enough hours in the day. How often do we find ourselves mumbling that under our breath? But still, no matter how you slice it, we only get 24 each day. That is 1,440 minutes. Or 86,400 seconds. When you look at it that way, it doesn’t seem so unreasonable.
Here is the plain truth about “time management.” There is no such thing. You cannot manage time. We can’t take five minutes and coax them into six. Time is fixed and, as the famous saying goes, it waits for no one. We really must face the fact that it isn’t time we need to manage, it’s what we pack into the 1,440 minutes we count on being granted every day.
If we were going on a trip and could only fit so much into our suitcase, we would think carefully about what is most important to pack and what we can comfortably leave behind. Packing ten pairs of shoes, no matter how amazing they look, won’t do us much good if we neglect to bring some clothes to cover the top half of our body!
As we travel through each day, shouldn’t what we pack into our limited time be given at least as much consideration? And if so, how do we do accomplish that and feel good about our choices?
Rather than starting with calendars, schedules, and sticky-notes as tools for managing our busy lives in hopes of finding that all-important balance, we might find help grounded in values-based priority setting. In a nutshell, this is the idea:
- Start with a values checklist, like this one.
- Put a check next to each word that represents a value you hold.
- Next, put a check next to the 10 values that are most important to you.
- Finally (and be honest) put a check next to the 10 values on the entire list that your behavior shows you actually live by.
The concept is based upon the belief that first you need to identify the gaps between your top values and how you are actually living your life and then you can take steps toward realigning how you prioritize your time. Simply put, do your actions reflect your values? For instance, is “health” one of your top 10 values but you never find time to exercise yet you do find time for channel surfing? Is “reliability” a top value, but you are always late?
It can be a real wake-up call to see a disconnect between what you list as a priority and what you actually invest your time and energy in on a day-to-day basis. While it is true that in our complex lives there are some things we can’t change (unfortunately, most of us can’t afford to give up our jobs to devote those 8+ hours a day to family or community service), usually we can identify small changes we could make to move a little closer to our target and then find the tools and supports that will help us. After all, sticky notes, calendars, and email prompts can go a long way in keeping us on track.
At the end of a day, if we are fortunate enough to look at what we packed into our 86,400 seconds and believe it truly reflects who we are, we can feel good knowing it was time well spent.
Jacki Post Ashkin is Director of Community Connections at Jewish Community Services.
Jewish Community Services (JCS) is dedicated to providing programs and services that help people of all ages and backgrounds achieve their goals and enhance their wellbeing.
To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or 410-466-9200.