Laura Vanderkam is an author of several time-management and productivity books.
A few years ago, she did a time diary project examining 1,001 days in the lives of busy women and uncovered a profound insight about time management which is narrated below in her own words.
"They (the women mentioned above) had demanding jobs, sometimes their own businesses, kids to care for, maybe parents to care for, community commitments — busy, busy people.
One of the women whose time log I studied, she goes out on a Wednesday night for something. She comes home to find that her water heater has broken, and there is now water all over her basement.
Next day she’s got plumbers coming in, day after that, professional cleaning crew dealing with the ruined carpet. And it winds up taking seven hours of her week. Seven hours! That’s like finding an extra hour in the day.
But I’m sure if you had asked her at the start of the week, “Could you find 7 hours to train for a triathlon?” “Could you find 7 hours to mentor 7 worthy people?” I’m sure she would’ve said what most of us would’ve said, which is, “No. Can’t you see how busy I am?
Yet when she had to find 7 hours because there is water all over her basement, she found 7 hours. And what this shows us is that time is highly elastic. We cannot make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we choose to put into it.
And so the key to time management is treating our priorities as the equivalent of that broken water heater.
I don’t have time,” often means “It’s not a priority.”
If you think about it, that’s really more accurate language. I mean I could tell you I don’t have time to dust my blinds, but that’s not true.
If you offered to pay me $100,000 to go dust my blinds, I would get to it pretty quickly. Since that is not going to happen, I can acknowledge this is not a matter of lacking time; it’s that I don’t want to do it.
Using this language reminds us that time is a choice. And granted, there may be horrible consequences for making different choices, I will give you that. But we are smart people, and certainly over the long run, we have the power to fill our lives with the things that deserve to be there.
So how do we do that? How do we treat our priorities as the equivalent of that broken water heater? Well, first we need to figure out what they are."
We don’t often think of time as a limited resource, and as a result, we often end up wasting it. Our life is made up of time. When you waste time, you are wasting a bit of your life.
As the cliché goes “time that is lost is something you can never get back.”
In today’s world, it’s easy to get stuck in the cycle of instant gratification with social media, YouTube, Netflix and spend our time on trivial matters instead of spending it on what’s important.
In an earlier article I had talked about the importance of identifying your top three priorities. Knowing what your priorities are can discipline your mind to focus on what matters.
To quote Laura again, when we focus on what matters, we can build the lives we want in the time we’ve got.
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