40 Ways to Use Time Wisely

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” 

Time. It is arguably our most valuable commodity.

Unlike treasured gems, precious metals, and any other prized possessions, time can’t be hoarded, collected, earned, or bought with hard work, money, dignity, or our soul. It slips away whether or not we choose to pack meaning into it. Use it or lose it, so goes the saying.

Though we all know how limited our lives are in the time-space continuum, we sometimes act like we don’t know the value of time. We use words like spendkill, or waste when we speak of how we while away the finite number of hours in each day.

Time management systems abound and still, we flounder and falter at making the most of every sunrise. We plan for the future and neglect to cherish the present. We’d rather look back wistfully even though the future is full of hope.

And yet, for many of us, it seems there are not enough hours in a day. We cram all that goes with living into twenty-four hours of ticking, bargaining with Father Time, naively expecting him to budge to our willful and resolute intentions to produce more, accomplish more, be more.

We paddle in paradox, limbs flailing, trading in the quality of our lives while doggedly pursuing an idealized quality of life.
Time. Like all the treasures in the world, we can’t take it with us when we reach our final stop. Some among us may never be willing to embrace happiness in and with the time that we do have.

For the rest of us, here are ways to improve our relationship with time. (Some things may appear to be contradictory. This is a testament to the complex nature of our relationship with time.)

Live It Up

  • Live in the moment.
  • Practice love-in-action.
  • Resist the urge to rush.
  • Single-task.
  • Do things that bring joy and require little to no effort.
  • Say yes when you mean it.
  • Do nothing. Instead, play.

Steal It

  • Block out a chunk of time only for yourself.
  • Make an appearance but don’t linger.
  • Take a vacation day.
  • Wake up earlier/go to bed later. (Habitual lack of sleep not recommended. Better sleep is.)
  • Delegate a task to your child (i.e. put toys away, make his or her bed, etc.).
  • Push back a deadline.
  • Double-task (i.e. go for a hike with a friend, an activity that takes care of two—social and physical—facets of your life).

Be Fierce

  • Do only those things that matter.
  • Limit (not cut out completely) dawdle time.
  • End a conversation/relationship that isn’t going anywhere.
  • Stop doing things that don’t bring joy or results.
  • Cancel a commitment.
  • Skip a task.
  • Silence all distractions.
  • Choose a task or a path. Don’t relent. Focus.
  • Say no.

Call Up Your Inner Sage

  • Take a minute to list what you’d like to accomplish while being realistic about how long each item will take to complete.
  • Arrive late/leave early (aka swoop in/swoop out—not recommended for one-on-one meetings).
  • Show up for things that matter.
  • Keep doing things that work.
  • Multi-task (laundry, dishes, Crockpot and Roomba/iRobot work well simultaneously with little drama).
  • Take advantage of in-between times (i.e. sneak an important two-minute call between appointments, take a few minutes for micro-meditation moments).
  • Respond/engage only when you’re ready.
  • Let efficiency increase naturally (don’t force it).
  • Do only those things that have an urgent deadline.
  • Screen calls/scan e-mails.
  • Partner with another taskmaster and take turns doing each other favors.
  • Make chores fun (crank up Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, dance around and get some exercise in).

Succumb To Its Might

  • Ask for help (hire a professional or an intern or enlist a volunteer).
  • Let chores slide (relax on the definition/expectation of clean).
  • Let things be (wrinkles, jiggles, warts and all).
  • Let go of guilt and enjoy every second.
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