I am very familiar with setting goals, making intentions, and creating an action plan…or so I thought.
Where does the time go? This is a question I ask myself repeatedly, whether it’s about hours, days or years. I think most people probably ask themselves this question, but I wonder if they spend any time finding the answer? I’ve always been sensitive toward time, even more so recently. So for the fourth week of my Experience Expedition, I decided to find out where my time goes. Like a hunter stalking wild game, I became a “time tracker”. That is, in addition to the calendar + to do list that I keep by my side at all times, the 5 clocks in my 3-room apartment, the 4 watches in my jewelry box, and my ever-present iPhone, I added yet another ‘time management’ device — a written record of how I spend ALL my time for 7 straight days.
There is no better way to raise awareness of something than to keep track of it. Keeping track of something everyday keeps it at the front of your mind. Making a mental note just doesn’t cut it. We forget. So, keeping a log, a journal, a diary or any kind of record is the first step. There are plenty of ways to do this. You could use an app, a daily calendar, a voice recording, the back of a cocktail napkin, whatever. The important thing is to record it. Every minute of it. I chose to use the ‘Notes’ app on my iPhone because 1.) the digital clock is the first thing to appear on the screen, and 2.) at the end of the day, I can send the log to my computer for printing. I did well with this exercise, yet I made no note of the time it took to make my notes. I wonder how much time I spent on THAT?
I am definitely a planner, a scheduler, a doer, and usually very fast-paced. Therefore, I am very familiar with setting goals, making intentions, and creating an action plan…or so I thought. What I realized through this time-tracking experience is that it’s all about creative productivity for me. What it means. How I seek it. How to get it. How I lose it. But not necessarily in that order.
1. Wasted Time
Sometimes wasting time is okay–when it’s intentional, but not when it’s wasted on hurrying around, doing trivial stuff, or sleeping in, or forcing yourself to sleep, or staring at social network sites, or wallowing in indecision. I lose a lot of precious time this way. I am simply not being mindful, and I let myself get distracted. I allow myself to be held hostage by intrusions, interruptions and certain perceived obligations. Of course, it’s unintentional which is why it’s not productive. Intentionally wasting time would be okay if it’s of high quality and I can go all out. Something like spending an entire afternoon sipping champagne and dreaming and scheming with my husband, or wandering our way through the streets of new neighborhoods, people-watching and taking photos would be a wonderful “waste” of time!
2. Up With Downtime
As I mentioned, I’m a scheduler. I have always kept a calendar. In fact, I keep several, but my most cherished one is way more than just a calendar. It’s actually called The Inner Guide Planner: A 12-Month Journey to a Fulfilling Year. It’s designed to help us set intentions, prioritize goals, stay committed, reflect and be grateful — all the important things to maximize the joy in life. But the one important idea that’s missing is downtime. Rest is so important in our days, and yet, we simply fail to prioritize it. I certainly failed, as there is no mention of any downtime in my time-tracking log (other than nightly sleep)!
3. Making Time
Time does not exist unless you create it. You cannot simply set aside time for something, or that something will simply sit aside as time marches on. By making time for an activity or a goal, you are creating and filling that time with your intention and presence. I love the old adage that says, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” Busy people are busy creating time to do all the things they want and need to do. But how do they do it? What I learned from keeping track of my own time is that we need to become more aware, more conscious and more creative (not necessarily more artistic). Instead of just running down a list, I found ways to mold and shape chunks of time, which generated a different kind of feeling toward the experience. I created various categories and then totaled up the time spent in each, and put it in pie chart form. This way I could see what was eating up the majority of my time. If I needed to, then I could slice it up differently, or trim the fat or put some of it in the freezer or simply dig in! It’s just a matter of prioritizing, choosing, opting in or opting out. So, it’s time to get “busy”!
4. Losing Track of Time
Losing track of time can mean sheer passion is in action. I’m sure you know what I mean. When you are passionate about baking those perfect Apple Rose Muffins, or painting tiny nail art designs, or writing a new blog post, or editing your vacation photos, you are totally absorbed in the activity. When you look up, hours have flown by! Any relationship with the clock has been temporarily suspended. BUT, you have creativity and productivity to show for it! It is this kind of passion that is and was present in some of the greatest people of all time. So, I won’t say, “I don’t have enough time” anymore. I know I have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, or Albert Einstein. So sometimes, when you lose track, you gain traction.
That’s what this experience did for me. I got a grip. No more spinning my wheels. It’s time to dig into that creative productivity pie, and have the time of my life!