Four questions to reclaim your time

A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.
Mahatma Gandhi
1869 – 1948

On some level, we each realize that we can’t do it all; we have a limited number of hours per day and a limited amount of energy. But we still try to do as much as possible, and we tend to feel guilty or beat ourselves up when we miss an opportunity or fail to complete an impossible to-do list.

This issue seems to be particularly troublesome during the holidays; we have so many additional tasks and opportunities on top of our normal load, and we worry about offending someone if we say no to an invitation. So we soldier on, stacking up more obligations and pushing ourselves to the limit.

The problem is that you can’t do it all — and when you try, all sorts of negative consequences occur: you become overtired and overstressed; you don’t enjoy your activities; and you make mistakes or neglect key responsibilities and relationships.

The next time you’re tempted to add another task to your already full load, stop for a moment and ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Do I truly want to do this task or join this event? The key word here is “I”; be suspicious of any commitment you’re considering solely because someone else wants you to do it.
  2. Why do I want to do it? In other words, what’s motivating your decision? What benefits or results can you realistically expect if you follow through?
  3. What will it cost me to do it? Every action has a cost, whether it’s time, money, energy, or some other resource. Be sure the benefit you’re getting is worth what it costs you.
  4. What are the consequences if I don’t do it? More often than you think, you can skip a task or event with no significant consequences. Will your co-workers care if you bring store-bought treats to share instead of homemade cookies? Will that casual acquaintance be upset if you decline her party invitation? Will your siblings mind if you bring their presents in gift bags instead of hand-wrapping them? In each case, it’s unlikely you’ll cause any major rift.

Asking yourself these questions will help you determine if a commitment is really worth your limited time and energy. It might take you a minute or two to consider, but you’ll save a lot more time and energy by passing on marginal activities — and you’ll be better able to fully enjoy the activities you do pursue.

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.
Carl Sandburg
1878 – 1967

Copyright © 2017 John Chancellor and Cheryl Chancellor

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