I am a fan of TED talks. Recently I was inspired by Laura Venderkam’s “How to Gain Control of Your Free Time”, in which she shifts the “I’m too busy” Sisyphean mindset to an “I have the time” perspective. The talk wasn’t about random tips or tricks claiming they would magically solve our struggles with time. She wisely suggested that instead of being stuck in the mindset that we are just too busy to find the time, we decide what is important and create the time in our lives to do it.
Ms. Venderkam gave the example of a “very busy woman” who had to put her broken water heater before anything else. Despite her busyness, she found the 6 hours required to get it replaced. Therefore, if we are able to find the time to deal with things like emergencies or distractions, we can find the time for that which has value to us. Similarly, I recently had a leak in my washing machine. I had to schedule two mornings for repairmen to diagnose and repair the problem. Before that happened, I felt I had lots to do and little time to do it, yet I opened up a total of 4 hours for this project. The point being, we can control how we spend our time, if we treat our priorities like I did getting the washing machine fixed. In fact saying, “I don’t have the time” means that it is not a priority.
So often we list the things in front of us that need to get done, but lose sight of the big picture, of our goals, our aspirations. We keep saying, "I’ll get to that in my spare time." Well if we do have spare time, the likelihood is that we are going to relax! For years I had the goal of exercising regularly, however never found the time. After much soul searching and experimentation, I have realized that I can find the time and I can adjust my schedule accordingly and my world doesn’t fall into chaos. I shifted from the “I don’t have the time” mindset to “I am making the time.”
To create the time for what we need or want, Ms. Venderkam suggests to identify 2-3 priorities in each of these categories – career, relationships, self – by thinking ahead to next year’s performance review and next year’s holiday letter. What amazing things do you want to say you accomplished? What actions become priority in order to succeed? Once identified, honor them by putting them into your schedule first. Pick the same time each week to plan that out, to make room for the good stuff.
I can no longer claim, “I don’t have the time”. I do and you do, if we want something bad enough. “We have power to fill our lives with the things that need to be there”, Ms. Venderkam reminds us.