Practical Tips for Time Management Part I

28 Feb

I admit that I’m not a big fan of spring cleaning. I appreciate the results (in my case, marginally organized chaos), but I don’t particularly enjoy all of the sorting and decision-making that’s involved. The result is that I often leave questions like: “When was the last time I wore this?”, “Does the sentimental value I’ve assigned to this random block of wood outweigh my need for more closet space?”, and “What exactly is this sticky thing, anyway?” to a two-day whirlwind blitz designed to numb my brain and cause me to forget that the “cleaning” ever took place. (The exhaustion which accompanies this numbness proves quite helpful when I begin to question whether that block of wood really did have sentimental value and begin to contemplate making a dumpster dive in order to retrieve it. Without enough energy to get up off the couch, I can almost always guarantee that the “trash” will stay where it belongs!)

Recently, I found myself forced to undergo a similar “cleaning” procedure with my time. The situation was not entirely unanticipated: a new job, a 16 credit school schedule, and a pressing need to spend more time with my fiancé had backed me into a corner. I was running from well before dawn until long after dusk and the physical effects of my marathon life were taking their toll. Something needed to go.

The question, of course, was, “What?” Being a relatively resourceful human being, I had managed to pack my every waking minute with things which I considered more or less “useful” – tasks which could be justified (at least marginally) as “educational” or “developmental”. These activities ranged from semi-regular exercise and the manufacture of my own beauty products to the “historical research” I did every time I re-watched an episode of “Downton Abbey”. (The latter could clearly go, since its designation as “research” was just a bit contrived.)

A quick assessment of my schedule yielded a few good candidates for the chopping block, but not every decision was as easy as I had hoped. To begin with, I found myself incapable of answering even simple questions about my routine. How long was each task taking? Did I really need just thirty minutes to clean my aquariums? How many hours was I actually awake each day? Truthfully, I didn’t know. And without knowledge, there was no way to make educated decisions.

It was at this point that my mother gifted me with a beautiful red book which organized each day into easy-to-manage fifteen minute increments. Photocopying several pages (the volume is for 2014), I began filling in each blank, color-coding the task “category” with highlighters as I charted my day. The pages quickly filled up with bright orange (for study) and neon pink (for business-related tasks). Bits of yellow (for health-centered activities) and fluorescent green (for housework) dotted the columns. Every now and then a subdued purple would appear, indicating that I’d taken some time for “recreation” and nearly as infrequently, bright blue for “relationship building”. That something was out of balance was evident as was the fact that this lack of balance was limiting my ability to listen to God and hear his responses. The off-center schedule could be fixed, but I would have to begin with cutting the time I wasted on unproductive activities. (To Be Continued…)

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