Friday, April 30, 2010

handling time

I am one of those fortunate people who does not work a 9-5 job. Though I did trek off to a 35-40 hour work week for many years, at some point I realised that I do much better outside of the grind. Not financially, at least not yet, but in every other way, I thrive in a self-directed environment. I suppose many creative people do. As great as it sounds, managing your own schedule can be much more challenging than the 9 - 5 scene. The possibilities are endless, but in direct proportion, so are the opportunities to squander your precious resources, especially time.

This lifestyle is not for everyone, but here are a few things I have found helpful over the years. I don't get it right every day, but I am getting better at it.

1. Know your values. At the end of the day or the week, what use of your time will leave you content and satisfied, filled with a sense of purpose and gratitude? Make sure those things find priority on your schedule, along with all the necessary tasks of life.

2. Think like a boss. Be an employee. The employee in me and the boss in me have regular meetings. The boss decides what projects or accomplishments are important. Together we set reasonable goals for each day that will lead to their completion. If something unexpected comes up, the employee is free to juggle her schedule as long as she assures the boss that all tasks will still get done by the end of the week. The boss is flexible, but firm. She agrees to let the employee take the afternoon off to play in the park on a sunny day because the employee has negotiated to complete her work after sundown, even if it means staying up a little late. The boss and the employee work together to create situations where both of them are happy with the results.

3. Last minute is bad. Leaving things till the last minute invites disaster. I usually schedule tasks to be completed a week or so before they are due. That way I am seldom rushed, stressed, or caught off-guard. My creativity does not flourish under pressure and many things take longer than I think they will. This breathing room leaves time for me to double-check things, embrace unexpected situations, and avoid freaking out if I get stuck.

4. Don't multi-task. It is counter-productive. Some people may be good at this, but I am not one of them. Trying to multi-task just compromises the quality of everything I am trying to do. When I concentrate on one thing at a time, I can give it all my energy and focus; I am, in fact, more efficient and generous with my resources when I am fully present, even if only for a short time. One of the worst things I have done is try to mix people encounters with administrative tasks (like typing an email while talking to someone on the phone). The person can tell that my attention is divided and our interaction suffers greatly, even if I am not aware of it. Multi-tasking can, in fact, be rude and unloving sometimes. My desire is to be the best single-tasker ever, being fully present and engaged in whatever I find myself involved in.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. - Ecclesiastes 9 (Amplified)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. - Colossians 3 (Today's NIV)

This is a picture of my friend making apple pear crisp. Mmmmmmm.

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