Written by: Emily Aborn, Guest Writer Brainz Magazine
“Time flies…but the good news is, you’re the pilot” – Michael Altshuler.
With all of the lessons that the pandemic brought, I’ve started looking at my life through the lens of BC (before COVID) and AC (after COVID). Before COVID, time felt very linear and certain. While there were occasions when it went flying by too fast or oozed along slowly, for the most part… it made rational sense. During COVID, every day sort of started to blur into the next and it was hard to tell the weekends from weekdays. It was during this COVID time vortex that I learned so much about time itself and what it means to make the most of it each and every day.
Your Time Matters.
You don’t need me to tell you how important your time is. It’s a limited resource and each and every day, we get a fresh chance to decide how to spend it. An opportunity to maximize it to the best of our ability.
Whatever that means for YOU individually.
We should all be spending more of our time on what we want. This article is not about putting yourself into a box of what anyone else says productivity or time well-spent “should” look like.
It’s about making friends with time, rather than simply managing it.
One productive hour can be spent on work that lights you up and makes you feel good inside, something that impacts others around you. Or that equally productive hour can be spent loathing the task, mumbling under your breath about having to do it, and sending negative thoughts to the client that you’re doing it for.
Managing time does very little in and of itself. Instead, it’s important for us to be asking ourselves how we feel about the time we have and what we’re doing with it.
How to Make Time Your Friend
The place I like to begin is to make a list of what I’m spending my time doing. I encourage you to sit down and write out all of your commitments. I tend to get extremely granular with this activity: Every client I’m committed to, all of my family commitments, self-care time, speaking club meetings, monthly workshops, date nights with my spouse. All of it.
Go through each thing and ask yourself why you’re doing it. Take a good hard look and be honest with yourself in considering what on that list you really love and value. There might be items you can delegate to someone else and things that you might be able to part ways with altogether. It might surprise you some of the things on there that you “think” you need to be doing but can really let them go.
Now, let’s assume that everything else on your list need to stay. Here are my three tips for befriending your time with all that you’ve chosen to keep, in order to get these things that matter most to you, done:
1. Keep Small Promises to Yourself
Once you’ve decided what’s important to you, make time for the important stuff. It’s so easy to fill the time we should be spending on our own businesses with client work, or give away our self-care hour for a meeting. Keep promises to yourself when it comes to your time commitments and trust yourself to manage it well. I used to break a lot of promises to myself when it came to my time. I’d block out a day to work on my own business, or for vacation, and then I would fill it with something that was less important and satisfactory to me, just because I thought I “should”.
One of the very best ways I’ve discovered to keep promises to myself - large and small - is to employ the method of “streaking”. No, I’m not talking about running around your college campus in the nude, though that could be fun too. I’m talking about creating a “streak” with any given activity.
Imagine you wrote a part of that book you’ve been working on every day for a year straight? What could change for you if you committed to running or walking every day for just even ten minutes? Have you been wanting to journal but just can’t seem to get the habit to stick?
I highly recommend trying streaking. I first learned of it in Jami and Jeffrey Downs’ book Streaking Mastery and since reading it, I’ve implemented four streaks that I haven’t broken since! It’s an extremely powerful (and super easy) way to hold a promise to yourself about what is most important to you, build confidence, and make huge strides toward your goals over time.
Befriending time starts with befriending yourself and holding yourself to what you set out to do. Remember, you choose what to do with your time because your time matters.
2. Time-Block Your Day
You’ve probably heard this technique recommended ad nauseum, but it’s also one of the most effective ways to set out what you intend to do in a day. When I sit down to plan a day, I look at all the tasks I need to get done and then designate an exact time I will do them. When working with multiple clients, it’s a great way to create boundaries when they cannot always access you AND it helps keep you focused, rather than constantly multitasking and chasing shiny objects.
I also find that when time-blocking, it begins with the setup. At the beginning of my day, or a given time block, I pull out everything I need to work on that project. All the tabs I need open are ready to go, the books and resources I need are in front of me, any music I want to be listening to while I work, and of course, I pour a giant glass of water. If you’re able to, I also recommend turning off notifications on your phone and closing Facebook. You don’t need that red bell (or pings and dings) veering you off course. You don’t need to sit on your inbox and answer every email right away. Set aside specific time to check and reply to emails.
Setting myself up at the beginning helps ensure that I can stay in flow and work in these uninterrupted time chunks.
3. Overcoming Everyday Overwhelm
Even when you’re committed to choosing what you do with your time and mapping it out to stay on track, stuff happens and comes up. Weeks are chaotic. You get swamped with last minute meetings because clients are all going out of town at the same time. Everyone needs everything. Now. Things go wrong and it can feel overwhelming.
Overwhelm is one of those things that most of us have experienced time and time again, yet it feels new each and every time we find ourselves there. Like we’ll never dig our way out.
When I start to feel overwhelmed, I begin by stepping away from my computer and make a massive brain dump. You might do yours electronically, and that’s fine too. But sometimes the computer can feel like a vortex in and of itself, and I find it helpful to get out an old-fashioned paper and pencil and get it all out. Everything that’s overwhelming me at the moment.
Then… and this might seem counterintuitive, I take a break.
It’s really hard to actually be productive and creative from a place of stress and overwhelm, so stepping out of that drowning feeling can be exactly what you need.
I put it all down for a little while and go for a walk, in nature, with lots of deep breaths.
I often find that while this appears to be procrastination, it’s actually anti-procrastination because I come back from a place of calm, flow, and a greater desire to do what I need to do.
Then, I tell myself, “The only way through is through!” and get started.
Focus on just one thing at a time, and start with something small that feels easy. Give yourself a quick win, then move onto another quick win. Ease into the hard stuff. Often the motivation, passion, and energy we need come from getting started (it doesn’t usually work the other way around). So just choose one small thing, rinse, and repeat until you start getting closer to where you want to be.
Lastly, don’t forget to CELEBRATE!
Reflect, take stock, celebrate your wins, give gratitude for yourself and others. You chose yourself today! You kept those promises to yourself! Look at everything you accomplished and achieved!
Making friends with time is about making friends with yourself and recognizing that you get to choose to design a life focusing on what YOU want to spend your time on.
When you decide to become friends with your time, celebrate your decision. Your life is worth soaking up every glorious moment of.
Emily Aborn, Guest Writer Brainz Magazine
Emily Aborn is a Content Writer and the owner of She Built This, an entrepreneurship organization that helps women with resources and education to build and create whatever dream is inside of them.
She has over ten years of experience working with executives and entrepreneurs in marketing, administrative, and customer service positions. She has owned her own business since 2014 and loves helping others discover how to share their stories through compelling content, creative social media, and copy throughout their branding!
She lives in Temple, NH with her husband Jason and their dog, Clyde. When she is not working, she can be found outdoors hiking or walking. She loves cooking, reading, listening to music, and writing.