We’ve all been there. The spiraling trap of not having any time. You’re eat crappy grab-n-go food because you don’t have time to grocery shop. Your whole week is shot when your car ends up in the shop because you don’t have time for an oil change or to figure out what the hell that noise what then you hit 50 mph. You waste 20 minutes searching for that thing that you know you left on your desk but got buried by everything else because you don’t have time to get organized. With so much to get done, you drink coffee and power through your exhaustion because you don’t have time to sleep.
It can feel like there is never enough time! And then some of us take it even a step further by developing future-oriented regret about all the stuff we would like to do someday if only we have enough time.
Once you’ve been sucked into the there’s-no-time vortex it can be difficult to get out. But you can.
I had an epiphany recently when I was working with a client. I spent a week helping the person get packed up and organized before leaving on a long trip. The whole week was a comedy of errors. They had planned to take two weeks to get ready, but they lost a week when they came down with a bad cold. We had trouble getting things packed into the proper boxes because they hadn’t had time to complete a thorough inventory. They wasted a lot of time wondering around looking for things they had misplaced.
Meanwhile, they needed to attend to customers and send out orders. They also wanted to get the inventory completed (as long as we had everything laid out). They were also juggling doctors appointment because they were still managing their cold and other health problems. They were also working on new products and ideas for their business. They also had to finalize travel plans.
As important as all of these priorities were, all they really wanted to do was lay down and rest because they were stressed and tired and sick. BUT THEY JUST DIDN’T HAVE THE TIME!
I completely empathized with their situation and thinking about it one night, I realized they reminded me of someone buried in credit card debt. They were constantly putting money towards the multiple balances, but because of the damn interest, they never could get into the black.
I remember reading a book called Rich Dad’s Cash Flow Quadrant by Robert T. Kayosaki. The author explains how to (painstakingly) climb your way out of credit card debt. It goes something like this: Organized the credit card accounts from lowest balance to highest balance. Then pay as big a chunk as you can towards the lowest balance, while still paying the minimum amount due on the others. Once the first card is paid off, you put the monthly chunk towards the second lowest balance. And so on and so forth until your credit card debt is paid off.
I have a theory that you can use the same process to get back all that time you don’t have. Bear with me. I think I’m on to something.
Make a list of the areas of your life, where you feel like you just don’t have time or that suck time from other places. (Keeping up with bills and paperwork, taking care of your health, organizing your home…)
Prioritize the list based from easiest (I can streamline it with a little focus) to hardest (Chaos. It’s complete chaos.)
Starting with the easy challenge on your list, start investing as much time as you can in getting this area of your life in order. Continue to tread water in the other areas. Do just enough to get through the week.
Once you feel that you have brought order to the first area, start investing that extra time and energy in the second area on your list.
Return to Step 3.
Keep two things in mind. First, make sure any changes or habits you create are sustainable. You don’t want to spend a week building order only to have it fall apart when you move on to your next challenge. Second, invest as much time as you have and know that even 20 minutes a day can make a big different in the long run.
It will likely feel daunting initially and almost impossible, which is where a lot of people get hung up. However, if you stay focused on the challenge at hand, I posit that the results will grow exponentially. For example, once you have gone through all your paperwork and filed it away, you can invest that time in organizing your house, room by room or even closet by closet. Once you have organized your house, you can you reinvest that 20 minutes you currently waste every morning looking for your keys/wallet/phone/charger. Maybe you’ll eat breakfast and make a bagged lunch. If that habit works out, you may find yourself less hangry at work and more productive. At the end of the day, instead of shuffling home, you may decide to try an exercise class or join a running group. With all that extra spending money you’ve save by bringing your lunch, maybe you’ll invest in a gym membership. When your house is in order, your happy at work, and you are getting exercise, you might discover you are sleeping better at night, which means you’re less tire and have more energy…
Oh, the things you will do! Oh, the time you will have!
While I would like to claim full credit for this beautiful theory, it is actually based on ideas from two other books in addition to Cash Flow. The first is Seven Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey, and I specifically draw from his Time Matrix. The second is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. If nothing else, borrow the book from the library or a friend and read the opening chapter about “cornerstone habits.” It will be time (that you currently don’t have) well spent.
So, in what area of your life are you going to start reclaiming your time?