“Time = life; therefore, waste your time and waste of your life, or master your time and master your life.”
Of course you’ve probably heard the sayings “go fly a kite” or “stop and smell the roses.” These normally accompany an outburst or a plea to take it easy. So why am I telling you to go ride a bike when we’re talking about time management you ask? Read on.
In todays, fast-paced, competitive, technologically advanced world, we tend to try to do more and more each day. However, one thing isn’t changing—there are only 24-hours in a day and last time I checked there is nothing we are going to be able to do to change that reality. The question becomes how are you going to spend the precious time you have?
Medical experts, depending on who you believe, will tell you that 4-10 hours of that time needs to be spent sleeping to recharge your battery. Considerable time is also spent working to earn a living—in fact according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Time Use Survey in 2011, the average employed person aged 25-to-54 with children works 8.8 hours per day. Throw in time for exercise, leisure, eating and you can see the calendar quickly fills up.
In the Air Force, we implemented an initiative called Comprehensive Airmen Fitness, built on four pillars: Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual fitness. The idea is to be strong in all areas of your life so you are well-rounded and resilient to deal with life’s challenges. The goal is to thrive, not just to survive!
So how do you find time for this? Simple—you prioritize and organize!
Four Simple Time Management Steps
Here are four simple steps you can take to help yourself manage time effectively. Think of the word TIME as a memory jogger:
- Take time to organize yourself! Spend part of that 24-hour day to ensure you have a plan. This will be easier for some than others. The late Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, provides some great resources to help in this area. I tend to really thrive on routine and organization. In fact, many say I’m not just a Type A personality, I am a Double A, although I’m not sure if that is a compliment or not.
- Invest your time in things that matter most; perhaps your faith, your family, and your friends. Work is important because, let’s face it, we all must earn a living and you can get great satisfaction from a job well done. Sleeping and eating are vital to sustain health. However, I challenge you to invest your time by making your child’s soccer game or piano recital, taking your spouse on a date night, or going to dinner with an old friend, just to name a few.
- Make a list and check off items as they are completed. Not only is this a good habit if you have memory challenges like me, but you will also get a sense of satisfaction as you check off items on your list. At the end of the day, you can look at your list and rejoice in what you were able to complete and add those incomplete items onto tomorrow’s list. This will also help with Step 1 keeping you organized.
- Enjoy every blessing life has to offer. We all have good days and not so good days, but if you sit down and count your blessings, I think you will find that you have much to be thankful for, even if you are going through a challenging time.
There is a popular song on the airwaves by a group called Revive titled Blink. The song starts with these powerful lyrics:
Teach me to number my days
And count every moment
Before it slips away
Take in all the colors
Before they fade to grey
I don’t want to miss
Even just a second
More of this
It happens in a blink it happens in a flash
It happens in the time it took to look back
I try to hold on tight but there’s no stopping time
What is it I’ve done with my life?
It happens in a blink
This song is a powerful reminder that we need to live every day to the fullest as all our days are numbered. This requires balance, because we all have areas in our life that are important to us. Here is where the bike comes in. When you learned how to ride a bike, you probably learned from the school of hard knocks and bruised knees. Eventually you learned how to balance yourself and then the freedom of riding a bike allowed you to travel the streets with wind blowing in your face, and the joy of tackling this challenge leading to a great sense of accomplishment.
Let me take the symbolism of riding a bike a step further. If you had a bicycle wheel that had different size spokes; some 24 inches, some 26, and some 30 inches, how would that bicycle ride? Not very smooth, that’s for sure. I would argue the same thing is true with your life. Think of those areas in your life that are important to you, invest in them, to ensure you are balanced. For me, my priorities in order are faith in God, affection for my family, loved ones and friends, and military service to this great Nation. These are my three main spokes if you will so I need to ensure I stay balanced by devoting time and energy to all.
Sure, there are days when you will be out of balance, so this perspective needs to be considered for the long haul. If you are a lawyer studying for the bar exam, a politician campaigning to win an election, or an Olympic athlete training for the gold, chances are good you will be focused on your goal for a season. During these times you may be balanced, but as one mentor taught me, you are aligned towards achieving your goal. However, you still need to keep your priorities in check, hold yourself accountable, and rebalance as opportunities allow.
Remember that life is a journey, not a destination. As you continue your life’s journey, take time for what is really important and savor those memorable moments along the way. Once you make it to the finish line of life on earth and look back, you will have a lifetime of great memories to reflect on and know that you made a difference. Enjoy the ride…enjoy the journey!