What is the value of your personal time?
When we're working, we pretty much get that time equals money. If we have any concept of time management, we will regularly ask: "what is the most productive and valuable use of my time?"
But what about after hours, our personal time, when we don't have to account to a boss or a bottom line? Is time any less valuable? Most of us would probably answer that is time is MORE valuable, more precious when it is our own. And yet, a lot of it is frittered away. There is a reason the phrase "time suck" has entered our vernacular.
I'm neither proposing that every minute needs an accounting, nor that it must be so "amazing" that it's social media fodder. It's more about knowing what the big picture is, whatever that big picture is to each of us. It's the marrow of life, what we'll regret or be satisfied with at the end of the day, the year, or at the end of life. Even more so, it's not only about knowing what the big picture is, but living accordingly. Why? Because in the world as we know it, time is a finite and limited commodity. There are only so many personal hours we're going to get in a lifetime, and the clock is ticking . . . faithfully . . . relentlessly on.
So how do you live the life you want? Let's look at Bill.
He's a single father, and after some consideration he says his priorities are Career Advancement, Family and Health. Eventually he would like to remarry, but not until he reaches his professional goals and his family life is more settled. He exercises regularly and watches his diet. He does well at his job but probably will not get a promotion until he finishes his Masters. His relationship with his kids is good but stressful at times, and the kids are asking for more attention . . . . attention that he cant seem to find between chores, meal preparation and general household hubbub. With all this on his mind, he looks forward to each evening to when he can shake off the day to play his favorite video game - sometimes until he collapses into bed for the night.
What Bill is going through is normal, and so is his response. He's overwhelmed and he turns to entertainment to forget about things for while. So while there is nothing wrong with video games (or doing absolutely nothing), his current actions don't line up with what he believes his priorities to be. Gaming makes him feel in control. It's a means of escaping the pressures and chaos of the day, and helps him forget he is not exactly where he wants to be in his career, family life or potential relationship. So gaming for Bill is a Band-aid, not a solution. Does Bill want to add Gaming as one of his priorities (because the time he devotes to it qualifies it as a Priority.) Not really. Bill truly wants his Masters, and he wants a more fulfilling family and professional life. He just doesn't know how to go about it with so few hours in the day.
What can Bill do? He can examine how he currently spends his time. He does not have to give up gaming. But the amount of time he dedicates to it must change until he achieves the balance he wants. Also, he can tweak activities so that they support two more of his priorities at the same time (multi-purposing.) Simplified, his activities might look something like this:
PRIORITIES: Family and Health.
ACTIVITIES: Menu plan with kids. Take kids to farmers market and grocery store. Make meals and clean up with kids. Plan and participate in physical activities with kids. Purchase the roller blades kids have asked for (and get a pair for himself). Sign up for locally sponsored family run at the end of summer. Go for a walk around the block or toss a ball with kids after supper/clean up.
PRIORITY: Career and Education
ACTIVITIES: Prepare better for meetings. Re-enroll in one 3 credit online class. Attend classes/do homework after kids go to bed or on mornings he doesn't jog. Listen to 1 CD/month regarding his trade on the commute to work. Read two pertinent articles a week regarding his work or education. Try to incorporate work into homework.
ACTIVITIES: Slowly replace screen time with healthier with quality activities. Strive to be in the moment with kids. Read up on developmental stage of each child. Research suggestions of how to introduce chores to kids (Bill originally thought about hiring a cleaning service, but he has decided to try to tackle this as a family.) Discuss together with ex-wife, then kids, how many extra-curricular activities the kids should be involved in at one time, perhaps cutting back.
ACTIVITY: Use gaming as a reward for completed tasks. Look into new (and more effective) forms of relaxation. Invite kids to participate if appropriate.
Bill may not be able to make all of these suggestions work, nor will he be able to incorporate them all at the same time. But he has a plan of action of his own choosing that fits what he currently wants out of life. For the first time in a while, he's excited about the challenges ahead.
The absolute beauty of adjusting our activities to line up with our goals, is that our lives tend to go from stagnant and middle-of-the-road, to exciting and purpose-driven. With a little bit of self-examination and effort, we can meet a challenge head on, or make a much anticipated dream a reality. In addition, it keeps things flexible as wants and needs change - and they always do!
So . . . what deserves your time? Tick . . .tick . . . tick . . .