"I believe that one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself is time—taking time to be more fully present." Oprah
What are the most valuable things in life? Health? Relationships? Money? Yup, they're all important. They enrichen your life and give you options. But consider this for a moment: I've gotten ill, but I regained my health. I've lost money, but I made more. I've lost friends, but I've made new friendships. I've lost time, but I've never been able to recoup that. Time is irreplaceable, and it's my most precious resource. Every heartbeat is one closer to death...
I've learned that "time management" is more of a mindset than anything else. That's why I often ask myself: "Is this a wise use of my time?"
Where did my time sensitivity come from—my sense of urgency, and my desire to maximize my limited time on earth? Well, it's true our perspectives are shaped by our experiences, and mine has emphasized the reminder that life is fleeting. I enjoyed some of the best friendships a boy could ask for growing up. One of my fondest memories was celebrating my 18th birthday skiing in Colorado with my best buds Keith Carrigee and Jacob McMillan. Sadly, Keith Carrigee died in a car accident at 24 years of age, and Jacob McMillan was killed-in-action (KIA) while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom at 25 years of age. To add to these tragedies, my other close childhood friends: Joseph Thibodeaux was KIA in Iraq at 24 years old, and Jared Guillory suffered a heart attack at only 31 years old! Their untimely deaths remind me what I already know—tomorrow is not guaranteed.
My life is a gift from God, and I want to take full advantage of this blessing. Here is my "Top 10" for maximizing time:
1. Set boundaries. Every yes is a no to something else. Time is a coin. Don't let others spend it for you.
2. Work smarter, not harder. Legendary Coach John Wooden said, "Never mistake activity for achievement."
3. Ask yourself: "Is this a wise use of my time?" Management expert Peter Drucker said: "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all."
4. Strive to get paid for your expertise, not your time. The military has a saying: "Train to standard, not to time."
5. Delegate and/or outsource where applicable. I find myself spending a lot of time doing chores myself because I don't mind doing them. But those several hours I'm staining the concrete, cutting the grass, washing the car, or grocery shopping can be hours I'm investing in writing, learning, or something else. Today was the first time Heidi used the Walmart grocery pick-up option, and it took 10 minutes instead of an hour at the store.
6. Don't do second things first. As a pilot, I study air crashes so that I can learn from them and increase my chances of avoiding the same tragic outcome. One in particular is Eastern Airlines Flight 401 on December 29, 1972. As the passenger jet made its approach into Miami, the pilot realized the green landing gear light was not on. So, the pilot flew a circle over the Florida Everglades while the crew checked to see if the gear actually had not deployed, or if it was just a bulb malfunction. The flight engineer tried to remove the light bulb, but it wouldn't budge. The pilot became focused on this, and neglected his responsible to fly the airplane. The plane slowly lost altitude and crashed into the swamps—killing 101 people onboard! This experienced pilot concerned himself with a .75 cent lightbulb instead of doing first things first—flying the airplane.
7. Understand that spending time is not a metaphor. You're trading your life for it. Author Charles Spezzano said, "You don't really pay for things with money. You pay for them with time. In five years, I'll have enough away to buy that vacation house we want. Then I'll slow down. That means the house will cost you five years—one twelfth of your adult life."
8. Overlook frivolous things. American Psychologist William James said, "The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook." That's why you won't be able to drag me into an extended debate on Facebook.
9. Focuse on the big picture. We all have a life purpose. Is what you're doing contributing to that? Check the compass often to recalibrate the course. As a pilot, if I'm off just 2 or 3 degrees, I'll arrive at a different destination. The big picture goals determine the monthly/weekly/daily goals.
10. Combine activities: Stephen King said he likes to read a book while walking in his neighborhood, while waiting in line at the grocery store, etc. For me, I listen to audio books during my commute. For example, turning my car into a mobile library allows me to read at least 10 extra books a year. Taking a vacation on a cruise ship allows me the relaxation time I desire, while also getting to visit several different countries.
Time is the lowest common denominator. The day gives 24 hours to both the rich and to the poor, to both male and female. Master it, and you master your life.