My husband has a superpower - his awareness of time. He can be away from anything that would give him a clue to what time of day it is for hours, and still, if someone asked him what time it was, he’d be correct within 10 minutes. Always - I’ve never seen him fail at this - seriously. He also has an uncanny ability to estimate correctly how long it’s going to take to drive somewhere or complete a task. I’m so envious because time is my nemesis! I regularly underestimate how long it takes to do things and sometimes get lost in a task and lose track of how much time has passed. I live 5 minutes away from a different time zone, so you'd think I would have become an expert by now at converting time, but I honestly still often Google time zone conversions. And my brain nearly exploded back when Indiana adopted Daylight Savings Time. Since we "fell back" last night, my time deficiency reared it's ugly head again. I literally made a chart to figure out how it would work!
It really bothers me that I struggle with time awareness - especially since I pride myself in being organized and a planner. For the past couple of years, I have chosen a word or two to focus on for the year. This year, I chose “time.” After contemplating what I wanted to improve on and how I could do that, I realized something. My natural inability to be aware of or estimate time has actually been what has improved my organizational, planning and time management skills. I think because I crave control over time, and can’t do it naturally, I’ve had to come up with systems to do so. This allows me to complete a project by a deadline, fit a lot of tasks into one day, develop plans to assure all bases are covered when I have multiple projects going on at once.
One way I’ve started improving on time awareness is so simple - just a little mantra I’ve started saying to myself. When I see something that needs done, instead of storing it in my head, I say to myself, “take the time” and just do it right then. This clears my head, gives me a feeling of accomplishment, and helps me to be aware of how much (or little) time that task actually takes. I do this for picking up a piece of paper off the floor, putting away my jewelry as I take it off, writing down something I need from the store right when I think of it, cutting out a coupon and putting it away instead of stacking the entire ad somewhere for later, and the list goes on and on.
"Take the time."
Another tool I’ve been using is the stopwatch feature on my phone. By timing myself, I found that it takes way less time to empty the dishwasher than I thought it did (6 minutes -- who knew?!?) and way more time to empty my inbox every morning! This helped me to start fitting in tasks that only take a few minutes into the small pockets of time I have throughout the day as well as to plan better for the tasks that take longer. I used to allow only 15-30 minutes to get settled in at the office, process my email inbox, process any paper on my desk, review my tasks for the day and choose my must dos. I rarely, if ever, accomplished all of that in the allotted time because it just wasn’t possible. This would cause me to either do the tasks poorly, skip steps and/or feel like a failure every day for not meeting my goal. After I timed myself for a few days, I found that to do these things well and completely, I needed an hour, on average, each morning. Setting a realistic expectation for myself helps me not get discouraged and actually be more productive in that hour.
I now use a timer to help me stay on task and not get so consumed in one task that I forget to work on other priorities. I also use the Pomodoro technique for intense projects that might not be my favorites. That is where you set a timer and work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break and repeat until the task or project is completed. There will be a whole post about how this has worked for me coming up soon.
I used to sometimes lose track of time and be late for a meeting. It wasn’t that I was spacey, it was that I was getting some deep work done! I started setting an alarm that makes some sort of funny noise that I couldn’t ignore. The typical 15 minutes before a meeting alarm was too far in advance. I’d see that I had a FULL quarter of an hour left and would try to get just one more thing done - then I’d end up being late anyway. Now I do 10 minutes which is enough time to finish whatever thought I was on, gather my materials, go to the restroom and walk to the meeting, but not long enough to start any new tasks.
I’m still not “good” at time, but I’m becoming more aware of it and using tools to make time work for me instead of against me. I think getting a handle on our time automatically helps us feel in control of our lives and equates to a sense of order. Have you used any of these tips or have others that you could share with us?
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!