Thursday, October 4, 2012

Are we really THAT busy?

Things have been pretty busy around the Five Town CTC offices.  Things at home have been stacking up, too.  When I talk to others, it seems that they have the same story to tell.  Too much to do, too little time to do it all.  How did we get here?

I suppose some of it has to do with the ability of technology to increase the realm of what is feasible.  But some of of it has to do with our American, fiercely competitive nature.  I can get caught up in this, especially at work.  But when I stop to really think about how I spend my time, I often wonder why I choose to do some things rather than others.

My hope for my children (who are all adults now) is that they will do a better job than I have at balancing time spent working, relaxing, and volunteering.  So many adults run from one thing to the next and tend to schedule their children's time the same way.  I am not sure that a lack "down time" is a good thing...are we creating a generation that has to be constantly stimulated to function?  What does this mean for those people who need more time to reflect and process?

How about YOU?  Are you focusing your time and energy on things that are important to you?  On things that you have a decent hope of doing well?  I find that this type of reflection on a regular basis helps me to avoid the creep of things that I feel I should do, but don't devote enough time to.  Being on another committee when I know that I really can't make most of the meetings or devote enough time to the project is probably not going to help either me OR the organization holding the meetings.  Skipping exercise or skimping on sleep compromises my health and makes me less productive overall.

In the spirit of being helpful (and to encourage me to use the process again!) I have decided to share a simple technique that I use when things get really hectic.  Anyone can use it, even youngsters.  Peter Drucker was a champion of this technique, which he called organized abandonment.  In theory, all it takes is an honest inventory of your commitments and the time that it really takes to pay sufficient attention to them.  In practice, it takes having the courage to say, I am not going to do "x" anymore.

I encourage you to try this for yourself, and then if you have children, to examine their lives in the same way.  It can be quite enlightening.

First step is to list all of the activities, clubs, groups, jobs, and relationships that you are a part of.  (Go ahead....make a list.)

Once the list is finished, put down the number of hours per month you actually spend on each thing. Be honest.  (You may have to keep a log for a week or two to get an accurate look at where your time goes, as Laura Vanderkam of the Wall Street Journal pointed out in her recent article.)  Next to that column, put the number of hours you would need to spend on each to give them the attention that they really need. (Not to get by, but to really feel good about what will come of them.)

Next, add things to the list that you know should be there but aren't.  Add in the hours per month that you would need to spend to do them justice.  (Did you add exercise or some type of creative outlet? Cleaning your home or office?)

Once this is filled in, order the items in the list according to their importance to you.  (I hope that time spent with family or friends would make it to the top of the list, as should "you" time and sleep!)

Finally add up your total hours.  Is it more than 720 (including sleep)?  If so, start crossing off things from the bottom of the list until you get to a total that is 720 or less.  Those things that you crossed off are candidates for abandonment.  (To make the process easier, it is important to note that you ARE already cutting things if your list is longer than that many hours.)

I would love to hear back from you if you try this, especially if you took a look at your children's lives!

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