Lack of time — perception or reality

Managing time means more than managing life’s race against the clock. It means taking time to examine the importance of your priorities.

Managing time means more than managing life’s race against the clock. It means taking time to examine the importance of your priorities.

by Diane Randall — 

One day you are going to college, studying and having fun; the next thing you know you are working long hours, eating on the run, rushing home to take care of your kids, spouse or significant other. Where does the time go?

Managing time means more than managing life’s race against the clock. It means taking time to examine the importance of your priorities. How many times do you say, “I do not have time”? Could it be that you really are saying, “That is not my priority”? Think about it. We are always telling others and ourselves, “I would do that, if only I had the time.”

We often think we have no choice about how we spend our time. Technology that was supposed to make life easier has actually done the opposite and is eating away at our personal time. Personal digital assistants (PDAs), computers, e-mail, cell phones and pagers all compete for our attention. Electronic organizers and communication devices create an on-call work mentality that takes priority over personal responsibilities.

However, lack of time is more perception than reality. The problem is the lack of commitment to your priorities once you have set them. People overwork, watch television and surf the Internet, but many people do not take time to do the things they say are important to them. Examples include exercise, interacting with family, or simply spending time to clear your mind by doing something you enjoy.

It is important to take a closer look at how we spend our time in an average day. Write down your daily activities, and you will find opportunities you might not have known existed to include other activities, priorities or self-care time.

Perhaps recording your favorite TV shows will help you free up some time — and when you play them back, you can fast-forward through the commercials. This will give you 12 minutes of personal time for every hour of TV you normally watch. You don’t have to be forced to follow programming schedules. Watch fewer shows, but take the time to enjoy the ones you do see.

Other ideas include limiting your time surfing the Internet to one hour per day. Analyze the total number of hours you spend at work versus how productive you really are on an average day.

Time is finite: 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week. You cannot save it, but you can waste it. The amount of time we have is irrelevant; what matters is the way we use it.

Life can change in an instant, so it is important to make the most of what we have. Make time for what is important to you: connecting with others, working in a career you are passionate about, being proactive about your health by being physically active. Here are five steps you can take right now to get started.

1. Establish priorities that are truly important to you. What do you do if your life is already full of things to do and you have no more time to add anything else? Well, you definitely do not want to add anything to an already full plate. In fact, you must take some things away in order to free up time.

If someone examined your life right now, would they be able to see what is really important to you? Ask yourself what’s working, what is not working and what could be better.

2. Reevaluate your priorities to use your time the way you really want to. As a mom, I have an ongoing struggle to get my children to realize that, as they get older, they need to be accountable for the things they can handle, so I can have more time for my own tasks and priorities. This particular area can be challenging. You may need to work consistently to determine what you really want in this area of your life.

Take an inventory of your life. Are there areas of your life that need your attention, energy or resources? Look at the people in your life and assess why they are there. Do they fuel you or drain you?

3. Make time for yourself. Make yourself your own first priority. Spend your time and energy on people and things that bring you joy. Make decisions based on what you want, rather than on what others want.

Practice excellent self-care. Focus on yourself in order to strengthen your balance, well-being and quality of life.

4. Set boundaries in your life. Say no with respect when you already have a full plate; do not allow guilt to talk you into saying yes. Explain to others that in order to honor your priorities, you cannot add anything new right now. You can reschedule or simply decide that the new opportunity does not contribute to your overall priorities.

Learn your limits. We do not say no frequently enough, and often end up paying a price. For example, your best friend has invited you to go shopping today, your son has soccer practice, your daughter has violin lessons and your partner is working late. What do you do? You can tell your best friend that you will have to reschedule the mall trip for another day in order to honor your priorities.

5. Time is a gift. If you found out today that you had 30 days left to live, what would become important to you? Why should we wait for a message like that to live our lives to the fullest? Spend your precious time being alive right now, enjoying life and fulfilling your purpose on this earth every day.

Now that you have freed up some time, create an action plan and set goals to achieve the things that are important to you at this very moment.


Diane Randall is a certified wellness coach and president of Life Accelerated, Inc. She helps adults regain their energy, increase vitality and enjoy unparalleled levels of peak performance through her customized approach to wellness and well-being., or 708-686-2132.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 4, August/September 2005.

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