There are not enough hours in the day to do it all. Is there a way to lengthen my day short of not sleeping so that I can have more time?
Sounds like the chorus from the Jim Croce song “Time in a Bottle” - “but there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them.” You can’t save time in a bottle and pour it out to use another day, nor can you turn 24 hours into 30. The good news is that you are the one person who has control over your time. Sure, you’ve heard this before, and probably find it hard to believe, but the only way to put yourself in control of your time is to, well, put yourself in control of your time. It actually is as simple as it sounds, though admittedly not easy to do.
So, where do you start?
• First, be honest with yourself about how you spend your time. Copy a week’s worth of pages from your day planner with 15-minute intervals throughout the day.
• Then for one week keep track of all of your activities and the time you spend in each one, starting from the minute you get out of bed until your head hits the pillow in the evening.
• At the end of the week place each of your activities into one of the categories in the chart below (as designed by Steven Covey).
So, how much time are you spending in each quadrant? What does this mean for you? If you often live in Quadrant I and put out fires and fight deadlines, I imagine that your stress level is very high. That is a sure-fire route to exhaustion. Quadrant III can also drain your energy, and I admit I have some favorite TV programs, but spending too much time in Quadrant IV does little to improve your lot in life.
Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, says that your most productive and meaningful time is spent in the Important and Non-Urgent Quadrant II. This is the space where your activities reflect your values and are moving you forward toward reaching your goals and living a life of purpose. Quadrant II activities can include:
• Family time (this does not mean racing from one extracurricular activity to another)
• Relationship building with friends, team members, and patients
• Exercise, learning, and reflection time if health of mind, body, and spirit are of significance to you
You will find that Quadrant II is an exciting place to be and will make it easier for you to determine which activities you want to say “yes” to and which will be on your “no” list. The beauty of it is that you get to choose.
Sadly, the above exercise proves that we’re masters at putting too much on our plates, and then we leave it there. Oh, we move it around and pick at it and pretend we are enjoying the meal. But then we wonder why we don’t have the time to do the things we want to do. So, start with a clean plate and decide what you want on it. Get your “yes” activities front and center and put your “no’s” in the garbage disposal.
Here are some ways you can optimize your Quadrant II activities:
• Have a family powwow and decide what stays and what goes. Which extracurricular activities are a must?
• Have an office team meeting and revisit your systems so that the office runs more smoothly and fires don’t get a chance to start.
• Limit your time-wasters: watch less TV, check your email only twice a day, quit going to the grocery store every day, and give the computer a rest.
• Spend some time preplanning to avoid rushing around.
• Clear the clutter from your home and office so your energy can be empowered and not drained.
• It is not an admission of defeat if you reach out for help and support.
• Where can you delegate to free up more of your time? The 80-20 rule says that 80 percent of your success comes from 20 percent of your efforts, so what are you gaining by remaining on the treadmill? Focus on making that 20 percent meaningful.
Put everyone around you on notice that you are taking control of your time and choosing to give some of it up in order to have more. You will then find that there is “enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them.” ■
Stephanie Houseman, DMD
Dr. Houseman practiced dentistry in St. Louis, Mo., for 25 years. She is married to a dentist, has two grown children, and understands all too well the demands we place on ourselves. She now works with dentists who want to simplify their lives so that they can enjoy themselves again. She is a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute, creator of the 7 Steps 2 a Balanced Life Program", and author of "The Balance Beam," a weekly e-newsletter about balance and life. Contact Dr. Houseman at www.7steps2abalancedlife.com or (618) 639-5433.
© 2005 Stephanie Houseman, DMD