Your Outcome: Learn how to use time to your advantage rather than allowing it to rule your levels of satisfaction and stress.
If you’ve ever felt stress —and who hasn’t?—chances are excellent that it’s because you felt you just didn’t have enough time to do what you wanted to at the level of quality to which you were committed. You could be feeling this frustration, for example, because you’re focusing exclusively on the demands of the moment: present requests, present challenges, present events. In this stressed and overloaded state, your effectiveness is rapidly diminished. The solution is simple: Take control of the time frame you’re focusing upon. It the present is stressful, then become more resourceful in dealing with your challenges by focusing on the future and the successful completion or resolution of the tasks before you. This new focus will instantly change your state and give you the very resources you need to turn things around in the present.
Stress is so often the result of feeling “stuck” in a particular time frame. One example of this is when a person keeps thinking of their future in disempowering ways. You can help this person or yourself by getting them to refocus on what they can control in the present. Or some people, when they’re called upon to take on a challenge, begin to focus exclusively on their past poor performance. As they remain in the past, their stress increases. A shift to the present, or an anticipation of a positive future, could instantly change their emotional state. Our emotions, then, are powerfully impacted by the time frame in which we’re operating at the moment.
So often we forget that time is a mental construct, that it is completely relative, and that our experience of time is almost exclusively the result of our mental focus. How long is a long time, for example? It all depends upon the situation, doesn’t it? Standing in line for more than 10 minutes can seem like an eternity, while an hour of making love can pass all too quickly.
Our beliefs also filter our perception of time. For some people, regardless of the situation, twenty minutes is a lifetime. For others, a long time is a century. Can you imagine how these people walk differently talk differently, look at their goals differently, and how stressed they might be if they were trying to deal with one another while operating out of completely different frames of reference? This is why time mastery is a life skill. The ability to flex your experience of time is the ability to shape your experience of life.
For today’s exercises, let’s briefly review and apply three “time-saving” tips.
I. THE ABILITY TO DISTORT TIME
After you’ve mastered the ability to change time frames by changing your focus, you’re ready to move on to the second major skill of time mastery, and that is the ability to distort time so that a minute feels like an hour, or an hour like a minute. Haven’t you noticed that when you become totally engrossed in something, you lose track of time? Why? Because you no longer focus upon it. You make fewer measurements of it. You’re focused on something enjoyable and, therefore, time passes more rapidly. Remember that you’re in control. Direct your focus and consciously choose how to measure your time. If you are constantly checking your watch, then time seems to crawl. Once again, your experience of time is controlled by your focus. How do you define your use of time? Are you spending it, wasting it, or killing it? It’s been said that “killing time is not murder; it’s suicide.”
II. A MATTER OF IMPORTANCE
The third, and perhaps the most critical distinction of all, is an understanding of how urgency and importance control your decisions about what to do with your time, and therefore your level of personal fulfillment. What do I mean? Let me ask you this: Have you ever worked your tail off, completed every single thing on your “to do” list, but at the end of the day still felt unfulfilled? That’s because you did everything that was urgent and demanded your attention in the moment, but you didn’t do what was important—the things that would make a difference long-term. Conversely, have you ever had days when you got only a few things done but at the end felt that this was a day that had really mattered? These are the days when you’ve focused on what’s important rather than what urgently needed your attention. Urgency seems to control our lives. The phone rings, and we’re doing something important, but we “have to” pick it up. After all, what if we missed out on something? This is a classic example of handling what’s urgent—after all, you might miss out on a high-powered phone conversation with a computerized surveyor! On the other hand, we buy a book that we know can make a difference in our lives, yet put off reading it time and again because we “just can’t squeeze it in” between opening the mail, filling the gas tank, and watching the news on TV. The only way to truly master your time is to organize your schedule each day to spend the majority of it doing things that are important rather than urgent.
III. SAVE YOURSELF YEARS
The most powerful way I’ve learned to compress time is to learn through other people’s experience. We can never truly master time as long as our primary strategy for learning and mastering our world is based upon trial and error. Modeling those who’ve already succeeded can save you years of pain. This is why I’m a voracious reader and a committed student of tapes and seminars. I’ve always seen these experiences as necessities, not accessories, and they have given me the wisdom of decades of experience and the success that results from it. I challenge you to learn from other people’s experiences as often as you can, and to utilize whatever you learn.
“We have time enough if we will but use it aright.” JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE
1. Throughout this day, begin to explore changing time frames. Whenever you’re feeling the pressures of the present, stop and think about the future in ways that are empowering. For example, think of goals that compel you, and become fully associated to them. Visualize the image, listen to it, step into it and notice how it feels. Put yourself back into the midst of a treasured memory: your first kiss, the birth of your child, a special moment with a friend. The more you develop your capability to quickly change time frames, the greater your level of freedom and the range of emotions you will be able to create within your at a moment’s notice. Do this enough until you truly know you can this change in focus to instantly change your state.
2. Learn to deliberately distort time. For something that normally seems to take a long time to complete, add another component that will not only speed up your perception of time, but allow you to accomplish two things at once. For example, when I’m running, I’ll don a pair of headphones and listen to my favorite music. Or I’ll watch the news or make phone calls while I’m on my StairMaster. This means I’ll never have an excuse not to exercise, not to do what’s important: working out and I returning my calls.
3. Write a “to do” list that prioritizes according to importance instead of urgency. Instead of writing down zillions of things to do and feeling like a failure at the end of the day, focus on what’s most important for you to accomplish. If you do this, I can promise you that you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment few experience. Of course, we must always take time to …
REST AND PLAY: EVEN GOD TOOK ONE DAY OFF! DAY SEVEN
Your Outcome: Achieve some balance.
You’ve worked hard and you’ve played hard. Take a day off to have some fun! Be spontaneous, be outrageous, do something that takes you outside yourself. What would create the most excitement for you?
“The great man is he that does not lose his child’s-heart.” MENCIUS
1. Either plan something fun and stick to it, or do something on the spur of the moment. Whatever it is, enjoy it!
Tomorrow, you’ll be ready to explore . . .
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