Manage your life not your time

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Much has been written about proper time management, but sometimes the advice focuses merely on making more efficient use of time: do two tasks at once, get up earlier, delegate. Such advice does not effectively address the problem of too many tasks. In fact, too much emphasis on time management makes one obsessive, always watching the clock and thinking about what task is scheduled next. So perhaps the stress over time management should give way to a more thoughtful care about choice management. Manage your life, not your time. Our modern society suffers from an unwillingness to say, "No." Faced with too many options and too much pressure, we respond with too many yesses. We are afraid to deny to others, or to ourselves, the many opportunities, the many options, we face daily. For some people the fear of their lives is merely focused on the idea of not missing a single opportunity. Our top Egyptian obsession now might be focused on shall we emigrate or stay in Egypt, shall we take this job or not, how much money can we make if we take this additional side job? Shall we buy the north coast villa or the south Sinai one? This can lead to extreme loss of time money and effort by going on parallel routs of life. We spend more time thinking about those things than actually enjoying them. There is an old proverb somewhere that says, "To accomplish more, do less."

On the other hand others tend to miss use free time by simply doing things they don’t actually enjoy or benefit from, just for the sake of spending or rather wasting time. Our modern way of life might have missed the concept of enjoyment; people spend fortunes just by sitting in a fancy cafe or doing a very unique thing, while totally not enjoying it.

Getting full value from time is an essential skill for top performance people, always watching those little tasks you can’t get motivated to perform will make them accumulate and become stressful if you neglect them . Be honest, how often are you distracted during the day by relatively unimportant, but seemingly urgent, situations? If you find you are constantly diverted from priority tasks to answer questions or resolve conflicts, solve problems on minor issues, think about the consequences. If you’re devoting major time to minor issues, how much productive or quality time can possibly be left for the really important issues you have pending?

We rush through things, learn them partially, and spend more time showing off our shallow knowledge than actually learning. Or what was learned gets pushed out by too much other new information. We have yet to accommodate our ideas of education to the information age. With the aggregate of knowledge doubling annually (Assumption), we can no longer expect to cover everything. Yet we try. The fabric of learning that is a hundred miles wide and about as deep as a sheet of paper is not going to be useful any more. Slow down, and learn a few lasting things.

Rather than having more leisure time, we have less because we expect to do more and others expect us to do more. We try to match the pace of a fast society. This is related to poor choice management, since we want it all and want to do everything, thus raising our expectations for activity. "Ah, tomorrow is Friday, a day for leisure. Let’s play sports in the morning, a movie in the afternoon, and out to dinner with friends in the evening. Then we will still have time for a late Felouka on the Nile, check our mail, and watch some TV before bed."

We are so overloaded and tired that we get less done. We waste time distracted and un focused, because we are too tired (mentally, physically, or both) to get ourselves working. Our choices are like an open buffet at a wedding reception, so many, that we try to take a little of each and thus overload our plates. We need to return to the restaurant model, where we make a deliberate choice, and then enjoy a fixed amount of food. It has been noted by someone that we are often afraid of making deliberate choices because we realize that every choice precludes others. So some people put off making a decision (like getting married) just to keep their options open. Others simply try to say "Yes" to everything. "Yes, I’ll have some of this and some of that and some of that, and, oh look; I must have some of that, too." We should start learning how to enjoy what we do: and, do our best to, do what we enjoy

So let’s begin now, identifying time wasters. Pull out a pencil and paper and begin writing your own list of non-productive items that chew up your time. Learn to calm your mind and thought processes, think things through – then take massive action. Also, learn to say "no" when that’s the appropriate answer. Balance is everything, it is about doing the right things, versus doing things right, so let’s manage our balanced life by setting goals and targets, always remember that the hours we burn up today, can’t be replaced, replicated or refreshed with more hours tomorrow.

Let’s end by this famous story of a philosophy professor who stood before his class with some items in front of him. When the class began, he picked up a large empty jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks that were about 5 cm in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled up everything else. "Now," said the professor, "I want you to recognize that this is your life. The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, and your children – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car.

The sand is everything else, the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical check-ups. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

But then a student took the jar which the other students and the professor agreed was full, and proceeded to pour in a glass of beer. Of course the beer filled the remaining spaces within the jar making the jar truly full.

Set your priorities, focus on what’s important and above all do not forget to ENJOY!

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