In the time and personal management workshops that I run, I often use this quote by Thomas Edison: “There is time for everything.” It doesn’t seem possible, does it? Doesn’t every day seem to end long before we need it to? I have friends who are down to 4 or 5 hours of sleep every night because that seems to be the only way to get everything done that needs to be done. People work longer hours, and have so many more personal commitments. My parents never had to be at school for me when I was a kid, and I seem to go there for my three kids at least a few times a month!
So, how can there be “time for everything”? I think the sentence needs to be modified just a bit – “there is time for everything that matters.” The problem is that we don’t take the time to think about what really matters. Sometimes we are operating in fire drill mentality, just trying to keep it all down to a smolder instead of a full, blazing forest fire!
In order to make time work for us, instead of the other way around, we need to know what’s really important in the first place. What really matters? We all know someone – or at least a story of someone – who became terminally ill, or lost a family member or something tragic, and then found they had been living their life doing things that really didn’t matter. We know these stories and yet we don’t pretend that it is us, so we can make the adjustments before tragedy has to strike.
One of my favorite Tim McGraw songs, “Live Like You Were Dying” written for his father who was diagnosed with a terminal cancer at a young age, talks about this phenomenon. The point of his song is that we can decide to make a chance, today. We can decide we will take back our lives and focus on those things that are most important to us.
How do we do this? First we have to start by determining what we really care about. What goals do we have? What dreams are unfulfilled? What are our life priorities? It’s important to take the time to list these – write them down – so we can keep a focus on them at all times. If we know our priorities, deciding where we will spend our precious time becomes much easier.
For a personal example, if I decide that a priority of mine is to deepen my relationship with my teenage daughter, the next time she asks me to drive her to CVS I will stop what I am doing and take her, just so we can spend the time driving together and talking. In the past, I might have said, “I’m too busy working right now, can’t you go by yourself?” Or, in another example, if I decide that speaking to groups of students to share information that will help them in their careers and get jobs is important, I might accept an invitation at a college to speak, but maybe not at a corporate site because it takes me away from my family. If I know my priorities, I am always filtering requests and determining which are most important to my overall goals.
Finding time for everything also means finding time for me. It means doing things that fuel me and that I enjoy; I might want to volunteer, or take a class, or exercise more often. I will prioritize my own needs, knowing that whatever fuels me also gives me energy to do what I need to do, and want to do.
This week, take some time to sit down and think about your goals for your life. Think about the corresponding priorities. What’s most important to you? How can you order your to-do lists, or laundry lists, so that they are in concert with what matters most to you? Become more jealous of your time and choose to spend it on what you really care about, and what you absolutely need to do. Once you do this, you will have time for everything.