Earlier this month, I fell seriously behind schedule. And I was okay with that.
I’m not okay with it on a regular basis, but two weeks ago, my daughter was home. My twenty year-old daughter who lives away from home for the better part of nine months was eating our food, sharing our living space, and sleeping under our roof.
And I was willing to make adjustments.
Time management and efficiency are important parts of organization, but there are times that we need to let go a bit and let a thing or two slide because something else is more important. Maybe it’s not efficient, but it’s the kind of time management that makes us happier in the long run.
Here are three keys to managing your time your way.
Keep your priorities in mind. Sometimes efficiency, meeting deadlines, and checking things off our lists will be the priorities. Other times, watching a movie with your spouse, reading a bedtime story to your child, or having a late-night chat with your teenager will be the priority. When in doubt, zoom out and take in the big picture. A week from now, a month from now, ten years from now, which choice will lead you to look back and smile? Which will make you grateful about how you chose to spend your time?
The way you’ve always done it isn’t the only way to do it. On Wednesday of the week she was home, my daughter and I went shopping. As a result, I didn’t finish grading the exams I’d administered on Tuesday so I could get them back to my students on Thursday. I always return exams in the next class period. It gets them out of my to-do pile and puts my students’ minds at ease by allaying their uncertainty. But there’s no rule that says I must return exams in the next class period; that’s a random rule of my own creation. And spending the time on the exams would have meant giving up time with my daughter. The exams would be there the next week. My daughter wouldn’t. Decision made.
You don’t have to say yes. One of my New Year’s resolutions was “just say no.” I have a tendency to take on too many things and, while this interest in a wide variety of things is a good thing in general, it interferes with my ability to get things done in a timely fashion. In addition, it limits how often I can say “yes” to cool things that pop up unexpectedly. Then, instead of doing the cool thing, I’m doing the thing I said yes to that I perhaps wasn’t so excited about in the first place. In the long run, overcommitting doesn’t make me feel good; it makes me feel resentful, especially when there’s not enough time to do the things that really matter to me. The best way to short-circuit this is to think before I commit in the first place: is this something I really want to commit time and energy to? If not, it’s easier to say no in the first place than to let it throw everything off-kilter down the road.
My daughter’s visit was wonderful. It was nothing extraordinary, nor was every minute packed with family fun or even family togetherness. She slept late, I had to go to work, she had appointments, I had appointments … but, at the end of the day, we were in the same place and, as long as she was here, I was willing to set aside whatever I was working on in order to give her my attention.
And that is exactly how I wanted things to be. Efficient? Maybe not. But definitely satisfying.
Copyright 2018 Lisa Hess