New wisdom: the struggle of time management, the power of limitations

Life is busy, I don’t care who you are, how old you are, where you are.

I’m learning that acknowledging my limitations is really a gift when I’m struggling to keep all my juggling under control.

It’s common knowledge, accepted wisdom, that some plan for time management is key: to keep up, stay on track, be efficient and productive. It’s easy to give lip service to good habits, hard to stay focused in the nitty gritty, where a lot of life (at least my life) is lived.

The routines of life, daily schedules and commitments, they crowd us, hurry our hours along. And so much of what we plan each day…well, it all has to be done, doesn’t it?

Does it?

How can anyone have time to think, read, grow, process, and learn from life, or share what we’ve learned, without time to absorb? Time to reflect? And how can we find the time for any of this if we don’t consciously plan for it?

Even as I tell myself that quiet time in my daily life is important, I struggle with commitment to this ritual.

Like other promises to self, it’s easy to shortchange when push comes to shove. When my days get busy, or worse, crazy, with travel, meetings, project deadlines, or the urgent over the important, it’s easy to cut the plans that only impact me.

But isn’t that like shortchanging diet, or exercise, or some other part of self-care that has long-term impact? We tell ourselves the story that these compromises aren’t really significant, it’s just now and then, right? A miss of my quiet time, exercise, eating right, these occasional passes I give myself don’t really matter. Don’t really add up?

Yes. Yes they do.

Unfortunately, every time I miss out on my quiet time, I’m the poorer for it. That’s the truth. Even if I’m the only one that’s impacted, isn’t that significant?

You see, I tell myself my compromises aren’t important. But they are. And it’s the same for every one of us. Missing out on our time to read, reflect, and process, paves the way for so many negatives.

When we don’t nourish ourselves, the poverty of that shows up in every facet of life…in our relationships, in our ability to absorb and weather, in the words we share with others.

How can we have wisdom to share if we aren’t feeding ourselves, and learning from the tools at our disposal?

I do a mix of reading, meditation, and prayer, and my preference is to set aside time in the morning for this ritual. But mornings aren’t always convenient, and if I get off track with my day, I don’t always find my way back to a calm space. I’ve tried doing this in the evening before bed, but I usually don’t last too long. It’s discouraging to find myself falling asleep instead of finding inspiration or wisdom from my current book.

So how can I manage my need for quiet, for downtime, for personal reflection, in a way that is responsive to my day-to-day, and not at the mercy of my travel schedule?

How can any of us?

I’ve tried a lot of different approaches, with varying success…nothing is foolproof, unfortunately.

But some things I’ve learned. These are my new commitments to manage this issue differently, and better than before.

  • Connect the dots…when I think about giving up my quiet time due to time-pressure, I need to consider what else I’m giving up…balance, composure, calm? My new commitment is to literally ask myself the question…what am I really giving up? Say the words out loud, hear myself acknowledge what I’m really choosing by neglecting my time.
  • If I’m too busy, or already too tired, to consider getting up early to read and carve out time for preparation for my day, I’m over-booked. My new commitment: don’t over-schedule. Because I work in block increments, it’s easy to build more into a week than I can really manage, and I need to resist this temptation.
  • Do less, not more. I give myself permission to produce less.
  • Be intentional with my time, not spontaneous. There is a place for spontaneity, but too much of it and it becomes a negative that derails my focus.
  • Use an app to track consistency.
  • Instead of viewing early mornings as “I have to” view them as “I get to.” The hardest part is getting up.
  • If I have to push my quiet time to another time, target a lunch break rather than end of day, when I’m often tempted to turn in early.
  • I am not Superwoman, and I need to give up the fantasy that I can fill my days to overflowing and have capacity for any quality of down time.

The habit of taking time to reflect and meditate has nothing to do with gain that can be measured by financial or material standards, though there may be some correlation. This practice is about the intangibles of life.

That’s what’s really valuable to me now.

What about you? How do you carve out time, and space, to think, and grow, and reflect?

Please share! I’d love to hear what others do to get a handle on this challenge.

~ Sheila



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