Time Management: The Misperception of Your Time

Have you ever been frustrated because you just can’t do what you want to do?  That here’s just not enough time, or it always gets interrupted?  First, congrats.  You are an adult.  Second, consider changing the way you think because the problem is probably you.

My time had always been mine.  As selfish as it was, everything I had spent my time doing was for me: job, exercise, reading, hobbies, friends, etc.  I had no responsibilities except for a cat and a dog.  All of all changed  when I met my husband and it especially changed last year when my then 15-year-old step daughter came to live us.  Suddenly “my” time was out, and family time was in.  Insert whiney voice here: but, how was I going to get my (2 hour) workout in, fix dinner (I’m from the south, y’all), help with homework, spend time with my husband, and blah, blah, blah?  Other women do this stuff, so why was I having such a hard time?  It’s not that I was so selfish (intentionally), but I didn’t know how to change my perception of time since it wasn’t all mine anymore.

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Obvious solution: time management.  Obvious resource:  None.  Have you googled time management itself, tips, or books?   It seems that everyone’s got a need for it and just as many have a solution.  Luckily, I work for a leadership consulting firm and I asked my boss for a resource.  She gave me “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”  This oldie goldie proved that said obvious solution is NOT time management.  It’s about living on principles, not a schedule.  There are so many take-aways from this book one couldn’t possibly cover them in one article, but I will tell you what changed my life (too cheesy) perception.

I see many parents, especially mothers with small children, often frustrated in their desire to accomplish a lot because all they seem to do is meet the needs of little children all day.  Remember, frustration is a function of our expectations, and our expectations are often a reflection of the social mirror, rather than our own values and priorities.

The deal is, my role as a wife and step mother currently takes precedence over becoming a gladiator or winning the cleanest house award.  Many decent time management books  will tell you to blend activities like exercise with the kids, which is all well and good.   But a book I’m reading to advance my career comes second to a child on the edge of an emotional breakdown because her English teacher is a witch. In short, when I’m on my deathbed, I won’t remember that book.  I probably won’t remember this isolated event of coaching her off the ledge either, but I will remember building a relationship with her over the years.  And that’s what matters.

The Seven Habits…” goes on to help you explore your values, define what your center is (money, spouse, pleasure, work, etc.), and many other useful exercises and tools.  I’m currently working on how to listen effectively.  Turns out, like most people, I listen to advise rather than to listen to understand.

So if, like me, you are frustrated with how you perceive your time or just feel like you need more of it, I highly recommend this, and other Stephen Covey books.

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