How can I fix my relationship to time? | Handel Group

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How I Fixed My Sloppy Relationship to Time Management

Seems, when it comes to time, I’m a hopeless romantic! How about you?

Sounds so pretty and harmless, right? Not so much. 

Here’s why.  

It’s 7:30 AM on a Thursday. I have 90 minutes until my first call of the day, which kicks off at 9:00 AM sharp. After that, I’ve got a marathon series of calls, many of which I’m leading…plus, one or two client calls throughout the day. (Yes, I’m busy…but I do thrive in busyness!)

So, here I am. I have a chunk of free time until my work day begins. The morning feels quiet and lovely. I’ve planned to meditate and go for a run. But out of the corner of my eye I notice the line of cucumbers on the counter. I’d picked them from the greenhouse a few days ago, planning to make refrigerator pickles for the small gathering (outdoors, of course!) we planned to host the upcoming weekend.

I’ve got to get those in vinegar, I think to myself. I glance at my watch. Eighty-eight minutes until my call. I begin negotiating with myself.

Let’s see…Making the pickles will take about 20 minutes, right? I’ve got to get these going or they won’t be crispy by Saturday.

I can cut back my morning run a bit and make it work.

I don’t need to shower this morning, I’ll just use dry shampoo and throw on my purple top before the call.

Yep. I have plenty of time!

You can see where this is going. Yes – I successfully make the pickles, but it takes 30 minutes instead of my mind’s gamble of 20. Then I rush to throw on my clothes, load the dog in the truck, and get to the trailhead. 

By the time I get there, it’s 8:10. Meaning: I have exactly 50 minutes to run, get back home, use dry shampoo, maybe eat, and get out of my sweaty clothes. So, instead of the 60-minute loop I was hoping to do, I cut it back to 35 minutes, get back in the car, speed down my country road (almost sideswiping a neighbor out on her walk), and, YUCK, all of a sudden there’s a utility truck in my way. 

I’m stuck here, waiting, for a full 3 minutes (hmmm, time Karma?). 

I walk in the front door at 8:54, feed the dog, try to make my hair look manageable, throw on a shirt on top of my sweaty workout gear, grab more coffee (who has time to eat?), and sit down to kick off my 9 AM call. (Note that I have neglected meditation).

Fast forward to 11 AM. I’m now two calls in, freezing (still in sweaty clothes), starving, feeling way behind, and am starting to grumble.      

How did this all begin? 

Answer: With a little voice in my head that told me, “You have plenty of time to get those pickles done.”

That voice? It was lying to me.

And it was wreaking havoc on my life. It sounds potentially harmless, but this voice was always in my head, constantly negotiating with me on the ways I could do more, more, more. And the impact of several days running with this voice running the show (with no breakfast, no meditation, and no shower) would leave me frazzled and depleted. 

And even deeper (and more dark) – the impact of being frazzled and depleted made room for another predictable (or predickable) trait to emerge! At this point, my “Poor Me” trait would start its own special brand of chatter. 

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The Poor Me Trait  kicks off with a whine. Saying things like:

Why am I so busy?

I hate this. 

Why does this happen to me? Why are my days so packed? 

I never have time to do anything. This sucks.

I might even cry.

If left unchecked, Poor Me then justifies all sorts of actions: Being mean to my husband. Blaming him that “I have to do everything,” when really it’s me, not designing time to do the things I love. Blaming my job and all of the people who “need me.” 

When really, if I’d have just dealt directly with that very first voice that said, “You have plenty of time to make the pickles!” I’d have had a nice, gracious, easy feeling to start my day, with plenty of space to eat, shower, and meditate (i.e. feel proud) before starting work.

Once my coach helped me identify my “hopelessly optimistic trait” (which, let’s face it, is really the voice of the brat who wants what she wants when she wants it), I was able to take it down and insert a few dealbreaker promises about time that have literally changed my life. 

Here they are:

  1. Only 1 snooze hit in AM. That’s 1, period. No more snoozing for three rounds in the AM. I get 1 blissful slap of the snooze, and then I MUST get up (or I can’t have cream in my coffee). Works every time.
  2. Workout before work (or at a minimum, take a walk). I’m a very active person and if I don’t have morning movement, my Poor Me will go to town in my head…quickly.
  3. Meditate for 10 minutes each morning. (After all, we have to upgrade our hardware (the physical structure of the brain) alongside the software (the inner dialogue!).) I use Ziva meditation from our partner Emily Fletcher. 
  4. Must eat breakfast before work.
  5. Must shower (if sweaty) before work.
  6. Must make bed before work. (OK – this one really has nothing to do with time, but it makes me feel so good, it’s become a dealbreaker).

I also design my day, every day. Using Google Calendar, I plug in activities like meditation and running into real time. I follow my schedule (see below), and have consequences if I don’t.

Timer Management

You know what that means?

I can put everything (even the cucumbers) into real time, too. If I know the pickles are alive and well on my counter and in my Google Calendar, I don’t have to squeeze them in willy-nilly…so lo and behold, all of a sudden I have plenty of time for my planned morning of meditation, run, shower…and breakfast.

Imagine that. I got myself out of the pickle… 

You can too.