Productivity

Two Life Changing Tips To Manage Your Time Better

Everybody’s busy. Everyone needs more time. But apart from Dr. Who, none of us can control how fast it passes.

We do control how we spend the time we have. But even when we ADDers have time – we often fail to use it effectively. For several reasons: we don’t have a firm concept of how it passes, we aren’t realistic about what we can do with it, and we struggle to make the most of it.

There are plenty of great Internet resources that will teach you some techniques to manage these challenges. But I am more interested in experience than how-to’s. It makes no difference how well you spend your time if you don’t enjoy it while you are spending it.

Most people have too much on their plate. In yesteryears, families resorted to two incomes as a way to make ends meet. As wealth increased, we used the superfluous earnings we had improving our quality of life. But as a society seduced by consumerism, we’ve lost track of the difference between needs and wants. Often, we work for our things rather than our needs, sacrificing time for money.

No one needs an extra bedroom or a cottage at the lake. Granted, they are nice to have. A room for company to sleep in and a cottage for respite certainly improve quality of life. But only if you’ve made the conscious decision that they are worth the time and money they require. The point isn’t whether or not you should have these things, it is whether or not you value them enough to sacrifice your time.

The challenge for everyday tasks is no different. In order to get a firm grip on how you spend your time, it is important to clarify between your needs and your wants. More importantly, you need to clarify your values. Knowing why you are doing what you are doing, and whether the thing you are doing is something you value, helps you make more conscious choices over how you spend your time.

Which brings me to the next challenge we so often face: competing values. I value being a good mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, employee, coach, housekeeper, philanthropist… but I can’t be all of those things, all of the time. The sad truth is that when we spend time doing one thing we value, we unavoidably fail to spend time doing something else we value.

In Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness, Tal Ben-Shahar shares an anecdotal study that was done on women and happiness. He explains that women frequently report their least satisfying part of the day was the time that they were spending with their children. Not because they didn’t love their children or enjoy their company, but because the time they spent with them was often punctuated by multitasking and doing other things like chores, emailing, or talking on the phone. Quite simply, they were with their children in body but not in mind. Being with their kids simply highlighted the nagging sense that they weren’t really giving themselves over to their kids, but coping the best they could stretched out on life’s wooden horse.

Multitasking rarely makes life more enjoyable. But we do it, because it seems we have to. When was the last time you ate a meal and did nothing else? I mean – nothing else. No talking, driving, texting, opening emails, watching TV – only eating? Few of us sit down and just eat. Interestingly, unconscious eating is partially responsible for today’s obesity problem.  In his hugely successful series “I Can Make You Thin”, British hypnotist and neurolingistic programmer Paul McKenna advises that slow and deliberate eating, done in isolation of any other activity, is one key way to eat less and lose weight.

We don’t just need more time or less to do. We need to experience the time we have more fully, no matter how we are spending it. Stress doesn’t come from infinite to-do lists so much as it comes from the loss of seconds, minutes, hours or even days of your life. Doing five things at once is not time well spent. It’s the passing of a moment without ever really experiencing it.

This is one of the biggest challenges ADDers have with time. We are never really here, but a millions places at once. It’s hard to feel like you have any time when you’re never fully there to experience it.

If you want to make the most of your precious hours on this earth, you only need to focus on two things.

1. Quality

Increase the quality of the time you are spending (no matter what you are doing) by being as present as possible, whether it is through use of medication, mindfulness, single-tasking, or any other means. It may seem counterintuitive, but most people enjoy things more when they are present.

There is a way to slow time down. It’s called Mindfulness. Mindfulness can be extraordinarily hard to achieve at the best of times, let alone when you have ADD. Yet, it can be very simple at the same time. In the Joy of Living, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche makes it very accessible for amateurs. In its simplest form, it only requires you to notice and observe all that you are experiencing and doing in the present moment. And when you notice your mind slip out the back door and on to other things, you gently bring it back to the moment. You don’t even have to give up daydreaming (which I secretly love, when it is not interfering with other things in my life). You simply notice yourself daydreaming. And by doing so, you are present.

Slowing down and doing one thing at a time is another way to capture the moment, especially if you practice mindfulness at the same time. The idea of it may sound like nails on a chalkboard to us ADDers who thrive on momentum, velocity and multiple sources of stimulation. But a bit of slowing down once in awhile can actually make us more efficient, and even more fulfilled. I feel like a better mother when I am fully present during playtime with the kids, as hard as it is to do when Barbie vs Batman has had its third spontaneous plot change, directed by a 5 year old who demands perfection from the performance.

But feeling like a better mom lets me focus more clearly by removing any source of guilt when I shift my attention to other things later on. Sometimes, you have to pay attention in “installments” by bringing your mind back, over and over and over again.

You won’t be able to slow down and be mindful all of the time, but any time you do will add a great deal of quality to your life.

2. Quantity:

Increase the quantity of time you spend doing things you value by clarifying your values and differentiating your needs from wants. Some things need to be done, but not nearly as many things as we think. Thinking about the “why” behind your activity can make it more rewarding for you, if it is in line with your values. I don’t value cooking and would happily eat out everyday – but I do value providing a nutritious meal for the family and reserving our finances for other things. Being conscious of the “why” can make certain tasks less frustrating, even if they aren’t that enjoyable.

You may be irritated right now that I haven’t highlight ways for you to get more done. But I can almost guarantee that when you spend more time on things you truly value or conversely, find value in the things you are already doing, your time will be better spent. And when you stop and pay attention to those things, the roller coaster slows down.

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2 comments on “Two Life Changing Tips To Manage Your Time Better

  1. The mindfulness meditation has helped my level of contentment with my life. Acceptance doesn’t come easy for me but I cannot refute the positive influence that my mindfulness practices make for me.
    Drew

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