Archive for April, 2011

The time of our lives

April 26, 2011

Time for life

 

Time

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way

And then one day you find, ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

Every year is getting shorter , never seem to find the time

Pink Floyd – The dark side of the moon

The time of our life

Over the next few weeks I will post a series of articles on time; what it means, how it affects us and how we can best use it as a resource for success. A reoccurring theme with many people, especially those of us approaching middle age, is one of managing our busy lives and ‘finding the time’ to pursue our life’s purpose. This series of posts will demystify time and show you the way to make it work for you.

Finding our purpose with time to spare

If you had the chance would you really want to live forever?

To live with purpose we must accept two fundamentals of life. The first is we have a limited and undefined amount of time on the planet. The second that we have an almost unlimited number of choices of how to use our time – the things we choose to focus on. It’s these choices that define our lives.

Ultimately it’s limited time that makes discovering our purpose in life so important. If we had forever we could just get around to it whenever. But the luxury of eternity eludes us; mortality gives life a sense of urgency and purpose.

In this series of blog posts we’ll discuss what time is and understand why it is such an important issue to many of us.  We’ll look at how we can prioritise our time such that we feel we have more of it.

Is it too late?

As we grow older and face our mortality we feel the pressure of time on our desire to be successful and happy. When we’re young the world’s our oyster; life lies ahead as an exciting adventure into the unknown, brimming with potential and excitement, a challenge that we embrace with enthusiasm. We’ve a spring in our step and nothing will get in our way. We dream big and aspire for great things.

Before we know it decades pass. We still have time; after all we were busy with our career, paying a mortgage and raising children. Again we walk the path of the expected, the accepted and the usual. More time passes; has life passed us by? We promised ourselves that we’ll leave this life without regrets.

We want more but can’t move beyond the immediate need for money, having a bearable job, paying the bills and perhaps having some time left over for family and friends. Are we really trapped? Our priorities keep hitting the limit of time. The most important tasks fall at the end of the line and time is pressure, no time to follow our purpose, no release on the valve.

Even in middle age we find ourselves wondering what we’re going to do when we grow up. ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to do in this life; I just know that this isn’t it’. Our disillusionment is amplified by the outside world:  subject to the expectations of what and who we should be; conforming to another’s rules. If only I had the time for ‘my’ life.

We describe ourselves as cash rich but time poor. We don’t have enough time for the important things of life. Work consumes more, sleep and family less. Our dreams and aspirations are consigned to a box marked ‘someday’. As the years pass we feel the pressure of time ticking away.

Life will be good after I get the promotion, when the kids are at school, we save some money, the kids leave school, work slows down, the kids leave home, I retire … time, if only I could find the time. Each year feels shorter than the last; the pace of time accelerates with each passing year.

Whew. Does that sound like you?

It doesn’t have to be this way and it’s not too late. Whether you are 18 or 80 and as long as you draw breath you have the ability to pursue your personal meaning in life. You have the time to find acceptance and contentment, happiness and peace. This series of posts will show you the way.

Making white space in your life

April 17, 2011

Simplicity through white space

In my last post we discussed the importance of ridding yourself of life’s clutter, to be left with only valued elements, which leads to focus and simplicity. This is about understanding what is really important to you and creating the time and space to pursue it.

Let’s look at a few key points to help you achieve this:

– Understand what‘s important to you. In our busy lives it‘s easy to create an impressive list of things we would like to do – work, home, sport, hobbies and personal pursuits such as writing a book, learning a language, restoring a car, teaching the kids to surf, recording a CD or creating a garden – a list as long as your imagination.

This can be overwhelming, with nothing achieved other than confusion.  Make a list of the things you value the most. This will provide clarity. Think about the top four or five most important things you want to pursue. Rank them and allocate time to number one; it may only be 30 minutes a day but it will bring you peace. These priorities simplify your life.

– Evaluate your time and understand how you spend your day. Record the things that you do from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. You will be surprised by the amount of wasted time. This is the busyness of being.

– Take your list of daily activates and put a red line through the non essential. How much time, on average per day, do these take up? Non essential does not mean all the things you don’t enjoy doing; you still need to work, pick up the kids, pay the bills and buy groceries. It means the many tasks in a day that don’t matter at all; eliminate the unnecessary things so you focus on what’s important.

– Having removed the non essential you can now allow a few minutes between tasks, the white space of life, to relax, take a breath and consider what to do next. Hectically running from one task to another, always being behind, doesn’t allow for your best performance.

– How much time did you ‘create’ by crossing stuff off your list? Can you block it and allocate it to your priority task? Schedule it in like any appointment – make it non-negotiable – and be on time for yourself, like you would for anyone else. If you don’t schedule it, other tasks will expand to fill the space.

– To start, an easy one is to swap an hour of TV for an hour of your number one priority. I get to work at 7.00am when the commute is 15 minutes rather than an hour, so I can swap 45 minutes of sitting in traffic for quiet writing time before the work day commences.

– Do one thing at a time. This rule is very important. The basic step is to keep it simple: single-task, rather than multi-tasking, in thought and deed.  

Learn to say no. If you want to simplify your live you need to be able to say no. Other people’s priorities should not automatically supersede yours.  If you take on too much your priority tasks will fall down the list into oblivion.

Make some simple changes to your life and you will feel better, take control, make progress and achieve your goals. That’s a happier place – a white space place. Enjoy.

The Zen of white space

April 11, 2011

Finding the white space in our lives

Have you heard the expression ‘less is more’? It means having less in your life but enjoying it more. It’s the brief gap between the busyness of life, a moment to take a breath. It’s white space.

In advertising the use of white space is designed to focus and highlight the important without cluttering the page. Clean and clear.

We often receive advice about simplifying life, finding calm and living in the now. It’s a common theme in the self help literature. I believe there’s merit in finding Zen in the spaces between the activities of our lives; our own personal white space. Most of us want to find the elusive simplicity that resides on the other side of complexity.

Simplicity has a different meaning for everyone. For some it means eliminating all but the essential in their lives. For others, it’s a new way of living – the peace and calm they find in their days, mindfulness and concentration in every activity.

This is the Zen way of living. Rid yourself of the clutter and you’re left with valued elements. But what does that mean in modern day life?

Well, it doesn’t mean renouncing all that you have to spend your days in quiet contemplation. We all need to work, live and interact with the world. It certainly doesn’t mean turning your back on your responsibilities. You may not even be less busy that you are now, but you will be focused; action rather than reaction.

There is an old management philosophy that says we should focus on the important rather than the urgent. It’s easy to fill our days with white noise rather than white space; that moment between tasks to take a breath and reflect on what we are achieving.

Busy and focused, in the moment, and applying your attention to what you are doing now is good. Filling your day, or your life, with busyness for its own sake, clutter and distraction only serves to divert and drain your energy. You end up deferring the most important things, and just getting through the day rather than being inspired by it.

In my next post we’ll look at a few strategies for making white space in your life.

What really matters to you … and are you doing it?

April 6, 2011

The ebb and flow of life

It’s my contention that for advancement, success and peace of mind we need a purpose greater than ourselves.

When we’re young it’s easy to be self-focused. We’re young and energetic , and all we know is ourselves. As we grow into middle age we find ourselves asking ‘Is this it? Is this my life? What else is there?’ We move from a physical to intellectual and then spiritual focus as we seek to understand our place and value in the world.

Life’s a journey and asking these questions shows a progression beyond ourselves. We see people who are still struggling to cover the basics and some will never get to this point of self-reflection. As we grow personally so does our desire to achieve more. Sometimes life gets in the way of our most honourable intentions and not having done what really matters can feel like failure.  This post discusses ways around this.

Ebb and flow

 Sometimes we go through periods of intense, driven productivity where everything falls into place and our goals feel like they’re accomplishing themselves. We surf the wave of momentum, feeling good about the world and what we are achieving. We feel powerful.

At the other extreme, there are times where we feel overwhelmed, weighed down by our projects and responsibilities.  We feel frustrated when the ones that should be fun aren’t – they feel like a chore – and we beat ourselves up about the lack of progress and achievement.

What truly matters?

Some of our projects are extremely important to us, some matter a little and some really don’t matter that much at all. We need to define and focus on what projects truly matters and allocate time for them.

So how do we focus on what truly matters? We can’t do everything. We can’t even do everything that we consider important. We need to prioritise. Completing a project gives us power, a sense of accomplishment and builds our confidence. It makes us happy.

Starting 10 projects and having them all partially done only serves to create confusion and frustration. Select one or two and shelve the rest. Work on these, while attending to your day-to-day responsibilities, and feel the excitement of achievement. Here are a few ideas on how to get this done.

Where do you want to be in 10 years?

More than just a predictable question in job interviews, this question has merit in helping us find clarity.

We are the product of our past; the sum of our actions, thoughts, relationships and experiences has shaped us into the person we are today. By design, chance or circumstances our choices have led us to this point. And today’s choices will lead to our future self. What do you want that to be?

Looking a decade into the future and imagining how we want our life to be helps us focus our energies today to make it happen tomorrow. If you see yourself as a successful musician, what do you need to focus on today? If you see yourself as wealthy and retired on a tropical beach, perhaps starting a business or gaining a promotion should be your top priority.

What you want for tomorrow directs your focus for today. We can’t wait 10 years doing nothing differently today and hope to wake up one morning with several million dollars in the bank unless we plan to win or inherit it. Most of us have to work for it so we had better start today.

What’s my reality?

We all want to love what we do. We can work out our life’s mission by listening to our heart and following what excites us.  That provides the basis for where we should be spending our time.

But following our bliss can be a problem when we have a mortgage to pay, kids to feed and responsibilities to discharge.  The reality is our life’s purpose may not always be in line with our ‘practical’ career.

For those that can make it a source of income then doing what we love is a brilliant choice. For others this may not be possible. This doesn’t mean you abandon your dreams; you adapt, engage them in your own time and provide balance to your life. There are many things you can do part time and they may, over time, become a viable source of income or just stay a fun hobby. Either way they will enrich your life and provide you with balance.

What excites me?

Sometimes we’re afraid to admit to ourselves what we really want to do, and who we really want to be, because it’s not popular, or because it’s not as secure as the job we have.

It’s not an all or nothing proposition. If your passion is to play music then do that – but you may also have a day job to pay the bills. That’s reality. Set your priority, understand your reality and make them work in harmony.

Everyone is different, and because others don’t see value in your dream is no reason not to do it. I bet they’ll all get on board if you make a raging success of it, so don’t be discouraged!

What can I let go?

There are never enough hours in the day for all the things we want to do. There is, however, enough time to do the things that we’re really interested in. Many people have lots of things on the go – far too many to make any meaningful progress or to get a result. Prioritise and decide what you can let go, even temporarily, and do it.

In some cases we may have initially pursued a goal, but our interests and purpose changed. If something doesn’t mean anything to you, then regardless of how important it is to others, how impressive it may be or how important it may have been in the past, it’s time to let it go.

 Making time

When you are clear on what you want you can make time for it.

And then do it first. Once you find what truly matters, try to do that before spending time on tasks that matter less. It’s easy to get bogged down. You may have heard of paying yourself first; this also works with time.

We of course must attend to our commitments but we also waste time and energy on things that don’t matter. Don’t do it. Busyness for its own sake is a modern phenomenon. Get clever and simplify your life. You will gain clarity and the time to do the things you love. This way, every day brings happiness and you enjoy the journey towards your goal. It also makes the other stuff you have to do more enjoyable too.

Schedule it

Life fills very quickly and tasks rapidly expand to fill the available time. You need to schedule in time for your greater purpose. It’s about priorities. Remember to cut out something you are currently doing (such as watching TV) of low value and replace it with a high value activity.

If you had to make an appointment with your doctor you would schedule it in and work around it. The same should apply with your goals. Treat that appointment with the same seriousness as anything else and make the commitment.

What matters, matters

We all know there are different things that drive us – hobbies that excite us, passions that we wish we had more time to explore, people we wish could spend more time with. I believe that identifying, focusing on and spending time on what matters to us is a fundamental strategy for success. What are you going to focus on today?