For Shakespeare: Time's a Wastin'

>> Sunday, April 5, 2009

time.JPGShakespeare asks: What can I do to get more TIME? I make lists, try to stay organized, but I have so much housework, so much other stuff, and I feel as if I don’t get to half the stuff I want to each day. What can I do to eke a little more time from each day?

Ah, Shakespeare. I understand what you mean…except you won’t like the quick but definitive answer: Nothing.

To date, even the Rocket Scientist can’t make time out of nothing. Despite her best efforts, time marches on. Nor are they marketing Hermione’s little trinket. Truth is, we each have just the time that’s dealt and that’s probably for the best. If we had more time, we’d fill that up too and be just as harried.

See time management is much like money management or weight management. You can exercise daily, for instance, but, unless you’re an Olympic athlete working out 14 hours a day or living on the artic tundra (Hi, Bob!), you still have to limit your food intake to lose weight. Ditto for money management. You can scrape and claw to make as much money as you can, but (unless you’re an executive working for AIG), there will always be a limit to your income. Exceed it, and you go broke.

If you have more tasks than time, you have three options:

1) Allocate more time to tasks. That’s great if you’re not already booked solid. However, if you are, this it the option you wish you had.

2) Perform the tasks you have more efficiently.

3) Trim the tasks down to a workable level.

I’ll assume you already know 1 is not an option for you or you likely wouldn’t be asking me. For many (and I tend toward this myself), 2 is where you start. If you have to run errands, you find the most efficient route, you bring lists to preclude distraction. If you do housework, you likely have a system so that you can clean most efficiently. But the truth is, I can’t give you the keys to how to work more efficiently. I like to think I’m rather more efficient than average, but what works for one person fails horribly for another.

Take, for example, my friend, flit . She’s going back to school at a university some 2.5 hours from her house, can’t drive, teaches at a completely different university and still enjoys her weekends on Lake Ontario (I think it’s Lake Ontario). Her method seems to be spreading herself a few atoms thin and taking on seventeen tasks at once bouncing from one to another until the plop out, complete, just in time. What she accomplishes absolutely wows the snot out of me, but I can’t quite work like she does.

Other folks I know become completely focused on one task at a time, do it thoroughly and well, not stopping until it’s complete and then moving on to the next one. My own personal method is probably somewhere in between. But, if you force the wrong method on someone against their nature, you won’t get success, you’ll get standstill. Nail flit’s feet to the floor and force her to focus on one thing and one thing only, chances are the paper she’s writing will either stay blank or be started and discarded a dozen times. Provide a little mood music to our focusing friend, and they’ll be unable to work.

So, if you want to work more efficiently, I’d say two things. First, work with your strength. If you need focus and quiet and you’re getting distracted, work your schedule to do your most challenging tasks when the kids are out or asleep, for instance. If you need the opposite, turn on some music or something else that will keep you from locking up.

Secondly, and I think this is really the issue, don’t stress. Some people thrive under pressure. Others don’t. If you feel like you never have a free minute, if you’re buried under tasks, that you never get to enjoy any of your time because you’re always harassed, efficiency isn’t your only problem. You need method 3, because, as long as you’re so stressed, you will never work with your best efficiency.

And that leaves 3. Bottom line, if every waking moment is double and triple booked, there’s only one way to address it. Drop some tasks.

What’s that you say? You can’t? Of course you can. If your overload is affecting your wellbeing, it’s time to take a good look at all these things you have to do. Prioritize. Cull what you don’t have to do. Dishes are required, for example, vacuuming can wait. And move things you enjoy, things that make you and your family happy up at the top of the list. It’s alright to be swamped once in a while, but if you feel each day is filled to bursting with tasks that are tedious or irksome, especially if you find you don’t even enjoy the time you spend doing things you normally enjoy.

Take a breath and remember you ought to enjoy the life you’re living. You’d be surprised how many things can wait.

5 Responses to “Ah, Shakespeare’s Time”

  1. fliton 26 Mar 2009 at 5:00 pm edit this

    Georgian Bay, not Lake Ontario… but close :)

    I drive Ross nuts… he’s a one thing at a time guy…and doesn’t see how I can possibly be accomplishing anything when I’m all over the place.

    It works for me, though.

    Of course, part of the whole time thing is letting some stuff go. I don’t do much housework, for example… and what I do do tends to be also multi-tasking…I’ll wash dishes while I cook dinner and watch Judge Judy through the nifty cut out window Ross made me :)

  2. shakespeareon 27 Mar 2009 at 8:04 am edit this

    I tend to be the multitasker… I write more efficiently on a deadline, and I can write pages and pages while my kids are doing stuff all around me. I tend to focus on one project, but also thrive on having several open at once.

    I think I’m just adapting to not having a class to teach right now. I have more time, but that means I’m intentionally devoting it to my kids, since the last few weeks of class made me pretty neglectful (I cannot grade papers with kids whining at me–grading demands my total concentration).

    However, though I panicked yesterday, I managed to get a lot done. I’ve sewn two blouses this week (almost–I still have buttons to put on one), I’ve gotten my workout routine back to normal, my house is (finally!) clean, and now the only piece of the puzzle not filled in is my writing. Yet I’ve actually written a bunch–only it’s mainly cover letters and business-related stuff, not the stuff that really feeds my soul.

    I just need to place my LOVE higher on the list…

    Thanks for the advice… it was more helpful than you might guess.

  3. Musingon 27 Mar 2009 at 3:21 pm edit this

    >>vacuuming can wait

    I concur. :)

  4. oldwestmomon 27 Mar 2009 at 9:00 pm edit this

    I was gonna suggest you bribe Superman to fly around the earth and start a backwards rotation. If he can do it to save Lois Lane, then surely he can do it for you.

    However, Stephanie’s advice makes far more sense. Go with that.

    And I just realized I’ve now used that Superman/time shift analogy twice now in 2 different comments. I really need to get some new material.

  5. DrBurston 28 Mar 2009 at 12:01 am edit this

    One of the things I found that saves time is to sleep. That way one doesn’t blank out in the middle of the day; You also more focused with more sleep, memories come to you much easier, Insight is increased.

    Anyway, I have a question. I joined the AIAA, now I want to become an active member and use my membership to the fullest. How do I do this? Does being an undergrad change things?


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