We are heading towards the end of February. So, statistically speaking more than half of us would have broken our new year resolutions already (If you haven’t, it must be the other guy!).
It is an interesting time, the beginning of the year. For some weird reason, most of us feel that this arbitrary label on time is the best time to introspect and to zero-in upon an improvement goal. Something which is very important; something which we have been putting off for a while; something which was nagging at the back of our minds. And yet, strangely enough, 20% of us would end up dropping the goal by the end of first week and more than 50% of us would end up breaking the resolution by the end of February. Why does that happen?
There is a group of people who believe that, new year resolutions is a fad, a sort of fashion statement. And hence, when it goes out of fashion (which for some reason, is the month of February), people end up dropping it. I, however, know a lot of people who are very serious about these things. People, who like me have spent some time to identify what they really need to do; have identified a goal as a result; and have formulated a plan. It is not a fashion statement for them. It is something which is close to their heart. People, who want to lose weight, quit smoking, learn swimming, train for marathon, spend time with their family. People who are really serious about the goal; and yet a high drop out rate. Why?
I did not know. So, I asked them. And there were so many reasons. Starting from I almost forgot to I lost focus and something else came up to look at my calendar, how busy I am – the entire gamut of reasons. But when I probed a bit further, the real reason turned out to be some version of “I did not have time”. And, that was surprising. These were pretty serious people. Professionals, who were otherwise able to manage their time very well. They were able to deliver a lot of value in their careers. So, how come they were not able to manage time for resolutions? For things which were clearly very important to them.
And then I found this gem of a video on TED.
It changed my perspective on time management. Don’t get me wrong. I have gone through a lot of experiments on time management myself. And I manage my time reasonably well (Or so I think). I love the urgent important matrix, the rock-pebble-sand-water story, the top 3 rocks of the day method, and many more which I have used in one form or other. But here was something different. Here, Laura Vanderkam talks about the feeling about time and not the mathematics of it alone. For starters, she talks about time being highly elastic. A notion I think all of our minds would immediately resonate with. All of us have packed a load of activities in our day on a fun day and have struggled to finish even a single task on another. Then, there is this amazing advice – “You can use your bits of time for bits of joy”. Well, ya, that’s another way of thinking about time. Time as a source of joy.
But if I have to pinpoint one take-away from this video, then it is this. More often that not, it is not a matter of not having time, it is a matter of not wanting to do it.
In Laura’s words, “I don’t have time,” often means “It’s not a priority.”. And when I think about it, it is so true.
I was late for the meeting because it was not a priority (Well, would you have been late for an international flight paid from your own pockets?). I did not have time to learn Spanish. Really? I think, it was not your priority. It was important; but not a priority. And I think this is the crux of it. All the resolutions which break, break because they were not a priority. We don’t drop things which are our priority. We FIND time for it. Time is elastic, remember?
The moment we start thinking about time this way, either of the two things happen. Either we realize it is really not our priority and we are free from the guilt of not doing it (I do not clean the fish tank because it is not a priority – so true; so no guilt in not doing it) Or we realize it is a priority and we take it up (I do not spend enough time with my family because its not a priority – that hurts; so better find time for it). So, next time, you find yourself in a situation where you are not doing something because you don’t have time for it (or at least you think so); Ask yourself a question – Is it my priority? And may be, the answer will help you manage your activities better.
Because as Laura says towards the end, “There is time. Even if we are busy, we have time for what matters.”