4 Ways To Own Your Time

Ever heard these ones?: 

Clock (photo courtesy of 123rf.com)I’m so busy, I don’t have time to exercise. 

I think about starting my own business, but when would I fit that in?   

I’d love to be able to cook healthier meals, but life is so hectic, who has the time? 

Excuses.  We’ve both heard ’em.  Heck, I’ve even made ’em myself.  What they really are though are just lame reasons we come up with to explain why we ‘can’t’ do the things we say we want to do.    

We busy ourselves with all the things we feel like we ‘should’ be doing, or even with things that we genuinely WANT to do.  But if your life is leaving you so crunched for time that you can barely manage a comatose hour in front of the TV at the end of the night, it’s time to take back ownership of your time.  (And if you’re like me, thinking ‘who has TIME for a comatose hour in front of the TV at night?!’, then you too might want to keep reading!) 

The excuses above all have one thing in common:  a victim mentality.  (Ouch!  Did I just call myself a victim?!  Sister, if the shoe fits…Wait, am I talking to myself now?).  But those statements are all expressed as though our schedule was something beyond our control.  If we – consciously or more often, unconsciously – structure a life that doesn’t leave us time for the things we say are important to us, whose responsibility is that?   

IMPORTANT NOTE:  I said ‘whose responsibility?’, not ‘whose fault?’.  Laying blame on someone or something else is a popular game many of us play to excuse ourself of the responsibility for taking charge of our own life.  ‘My job/my kids/my spouse/my pets demand so much of my time, I don’t have time for those other things…’ 

The reality is that everything is a choice, and YOU decide who and what and when you’ll make time for in your life.  From a medium- to long-term perspective, we all have choices we make every single day that create and define the life we live in.  You may not be able to make the decision to create a different reality one day, and then wake up dwelling in that new reality the very next morning, but you can wake up and take a step every single day to move toward that new reality.  Consciously and purposefully. 

Here’s how: 

1.  ‘Stoplight’ it before you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  So many of us spit out an automatic ‘yes’ when something is asked of us.  Instead, try “let me check my schedule/my other commitments/with my partner and get back to you”.  Give yourself time to assess whether the thing requested is really something you want and are able to do, at the time requested.  If so, great: give yourself the green light.  If it’s something you want to do but the timing just isn’t right, ‘yellow light’ it and say “not now, but can we do it later?”.  (One caveat on the ‘yellow light’ items: don’t put things that are important to you off indefinitely, because eventually the invitations will stop coming.)  Finally, at risk of stating the obvious, if you don’t want to do it, JUST SAY NO.  Red light it.  Period.   

2.  Block time for your ‘yes’s, and keep that time sacred.  Turn off the phones and email if they distract you; close the door.  Emergencies aside (real ones, that is), the time you allot for your priorities must be respected if you want your life to reflect what you say you want it to reflect, and if you want to live in integrity with yourself.   This goes for everything from friends and family to creative expression to business acumen to clean laundry.  If it matters to you, make it matter. 

3.  Make time for down time.  All this talk about scheduling and making time for things is not about jamming every moment of your calendar with to-do’s.  Creating space and time off every day, every week, every year is equally important, to allow yourself time to recharge for the things you’ve deemed as priority.   

4.  Do it or Drop it.  But either way, decide.  That includes energetically: don’t leave a reminder note about that ‘someday’ idea on your to-do list or on your bathroom mirror; you’ll just be looking at it and leaking energy to it every day.  Instead, if it’s really important, put a reminder on your calendar for three months from now (or six months; or a year; or whenever) and be realistic about when you will revisit the idea.  Until then, put it out of your mind.  Completely. 

The ability to say ‘no’ and to commit to your decisions about how you intend to use your time is critical if you want to own your life.  Plus, the more you fill your time with people and activities that you truly enjoy rather than things that drain you, the more your life will naturally refuel you.  Like the battery in your car, you actually have to run your energy using it for what it’s intended for, in order to keep it fully charged. 

Own your time, own your life.

5 thoughts on “4 Ways To Own Your Time

  1. Another great thoughtful post, Kelly.

    I particularly like your distinction between “responsibility” and “fault.” Our cultures, (and I know you’re Canadian and I’m US-ian) as shown on any TV newscast, are full of references to blame. We spend entirely too much time trying to find whose “fault” it was that nearly anything negative happened to us – making victims of us all.

    But we’re ready to take responsibility for the good things that happen to us – even if it’s buying a winning lottery ticket, based 100 percent on chance. We need to swing that pendulum back to taking more responsibility for all our actions – both positive AND negative.

    Your list of four solutions is a great start, and I might add just one more (which I think you’ve mentioned elsewhere). That’s thinking about WHY you want to take responsibility. The exercise and cooking healthier that you mentioned first relate directly to your health. Even if you don’t value it for yourself feeling better, it will help you to better support your family. If you can link your responsibility to someone or some thing beyond yourself, you may be more willing to take it.

    • Great reflections Kate, and yes I totally agree about the importance of taking responsibility for both our positive and our negative actions – and our reactions.

      The longer I live, the more I realize how decisions that I made ten, fifteen, even twenty years ago have influenced my life, in ways that I didn’t even consider at the time. Perhaps I couldn’t even consider how they’d impact things, at least not fully – youth renders us blissfully ignorant sometimes about the domino effect of our decisions – but the more we can take time to consider the short-, medium- and long-term vision we have for our lives, the better we’re able to line up today’s actions with the future we envision for ourselves.

      And when we use our time wisely, with our envisioned future always top of mind, the greater our chances of being able to look back on our life with a sense of deep satisfaction and fulfillment.

      So yes, before making a decision on how to use your time, definitely start with WHY. Your future self will thank you 🙂

  2. Wow… do I struggle with time. It’s on my “Top 5 things that need continuous improvement list” 🙂

    Is there no room for just accepting what is ? I totally dig taking responsibility but as a busy guy in this currently reality, I must provide for my family. All my life (up to a year or two ago) I thought I was doing everything right. Very traditional.

    I know differently now but is it fair to look at the family and say, “Sorry guys, I’ve looked after you for 25 years but I’m in for me now. You’re on your own. Good luck to ya!” ?

    I personally don’t think so. Just saying “no” would be a very painful option.

    However, I have learned (struggled with this one a long time too) that it’s sometimes OK to accept what is. Although my free time is at a premium, it’s a matter of looking for good things in this moment. Enjoying my time as it is instead of wishing I had more time for something else. Effectively making lemonade out of lemons.

    Does that make sense?

    BTW… Saturday mornings I’m usually out trail riding. Today it’s raining. Rainy days are AWESOME. It gives me break and “time” to take in more of this goodness!

  3. Hi Paul – yes I definitely believe there is space for ‘just accepting what is’, ESPECIALLY when that means looking for the good things in this moment. ‘Making lemonade out of lemons’, as you refer to it, can be a good practice, at least in the short term.

    For the long term, I think it’s wise for people to look at what they really want from their life, and then make decisions to move in that direction. That said, I generally don’t agree with looking at the family you’ve taken care of for 25 years and saying ‘sorry, you’re on your own now!’ Not at all.

    Sometimes, if given the opportunity to go back in time and make different choices, we may decide we would in fact choose to do things differently. But we all start every single day from exactly where we are now, which includes the current circumstances we’ve created in our lives.

    For anything in life – whether it’s family or your career or the home you choose to live in or whatever – think about why you chose it the first place, and what you value about it. About what you’re striving for, long term. About the kind of person you want to be, and about how you’ll look back on your decisions when you’re old and wise. Will you be proud of the decisions you made and about how you handled them?

    An exercise I’ve been part of a couple of times is to think of yourself as an invisible witness to your own funeral service. What will you want people to be saying and feeling about you? Then choose your actions accordingly.

  4. 🙂 Whew… great answer and advice.

    There is such a big difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. Especially if you really buggered up something in the past. It took me a long time to forgive myself for poor choices and just move forward. Looking back, those bad decisions seemed intelligent and rational at that time… and I have to ask myself if I am using the same bad logic now?

    Don’t get me wrong, today I don’t regret the poor choices, after all they were a great life lesson (University of Hard Knocks…. a very expensive education).

    Thanks again Kelly.. keep rock’n the posts.

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