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Of course, it isn’t possible to tame time. No one, no matter how bright, efficient, or important has been able to slow the sun or add any more hours to her life than the standard issue. But it is possible to tame the demands on our time.

I cannot imagine my grandmother opining about the need for more time, despite the fact that she always had a lot of very hard work to do. But my grandmother didn’t have the number of choices for how to spend her time that I do.

I used to get a homeschooling newsletter that averaged over 75 8.5×11 pages of things I could do with my kids. I would literally tremble with the anxiety of having to make hundreds of decisions about how to spend my time. The best decision I made was to quit reading the newsletter. I depend on my friends to tell me about can’t-miss opportunities.

Sticking your fingers in your ears to say nananana isn’t a good long-term strategy for managing all the demands on your time. What is? I don’t pretend to have all the answers to that question, but I do use some general principles to guide me.

The first principle is TO as in what to do?

When what to do is up to me (as in I don’t already have a structure imposed on my day), my first focus is TODAY. What must I or could I do to make today a great day? If I have to have something ready for a meeting in the afternoon, it makes sense to prepare for that before I work on a long-term project. Asking myself this question helps me to focus. This is the question that enables me to plan dinner and my kids’ school and evening activities.

The second question is what can I do to make TOMORROW great? This question reminds me that the kids have activities to go to and I better put gas in the car, for example. It gets me to put my materials together for the presentation I am doing the next afternoon. But tomorrow doesn’t just refer to the next day. I look ahead to the next day and the next, then to next week, and next month. I might do something small like ordering a birthday card to be sent to a friend in advance of her birthday next month or as big as outlining a talk I will be giving in two months. You can have fun seeing how far ahead you can get. Of course, the demands of today will determine how much time you can spend on tomorrow.

The third TO is TOWARD. What can you do now that is working toward your goals and dreams? After all, I never have to work on my tennis serve or practice piano for today or tomorrow, but it is something I want to work toward. If all I do is just what needs to be done, I will miss the real joy in living. Working toward gives me the motivation to work on today and tomorrow’s more mundane tasks.

It’s tempting to seek all kinds of rules for using these guidelines, like assigning x number of hours to each category or being legalistic about when you can work on each area. You won’t get that from me! I wrote this post as part of TOWARD even though I still have things to do for TODAY and TOMORROW, but I will cycle back. Somehow I don’t think the world will end if I work out of order. Do you? Next time you have no idea what to do first, think in terms of TO and see if you have more clarity. Next time I will share the second principle I use to tame my time.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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