Month: January 2012

‘The Good Old Days’

As I grow older, and hopefully wiser, I find myself thinking more about certain aspects of life and how my perspective of it has gradually changed over time.   For example, when I was young, I remember hearing adults as they reminisced about how things used to be.  They called it ‘The Good Old Days’.  Back then, I either didn’t understand it or was too preoccupied with the new discoveries of youth and the challenges of learning about family, friends, going to school, and what I wanted to be when I grew up.

At this junction of my life, however, with this fragile world seemingly poised to exhaust its natural resources (which would adversely affect the billions of humans inhabiting it), coupled with the threat of global warming, pollution, disruption of the balance of nature, nuclear war, endless military conflicts, greed, corruption, and an increasing attitude of indifference from all quarters, I now fully understand what my predecessors meant when they referred to ‘the good old days’.

Was the air really cleaner or the sky bluer back then?  Did the welfare of others influence how we treated one another in our daily business and personal interactions?  Are we now less tolerant, more aggressive, or so self-centered that the only thing that matters is ‘what’s in it for me?’  I would like to think that I’m an optimist, but while this is so, I’m also a realist who not only sees things for what they could be, but I’m also one who has the capacity to recognize things for what they are.   

When one thinks of the good old days, everything is relative.  My mother purchased the house I grew up in for $4,800 in 1956; that same house sold for $490,000 in 2004. As a kid, I can remember buying penny-candy at a neighborhood store where you’d get a bagful of sugary treats for a dime.  Penny candy now costs a buck.  A gallon of gasoline cost twenty-six cents, now it’s about $3.39.  My stepfather used to send me to the store to buy him a package of cigarettes for twenty-eight cents (yes, back then a child could purchase them), now they’re creeping up to ten dollars a pack. 

It seems that as time goes on, consumers get less and less products or services for more and more of their hard-earned money.  Savvy marketers will attempt to appeal to the psychological aspects of human nature by either claiming that less is actually more, it’s healthier, or simply in-vogue.  As clever as it might appear, I would hope that we are not that gullible.

I do understand that things will never be as they once were, for the only constant in this life is change.  And for that reason, I appreciate it when I hear someone talk about ‘The Good Old Days’ because it takes me back to a time when life seemed to be simpler—a time when things might not have actually been better, but for me, they certainly were no worse.

 

What do the ‘Good Old Days’ mean to you, if anything?

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How to Manage Time (and how to keep it from managing you)

Time has many characteristics, some of which appear to be contradictory.  Time is both limited, and limitless.  Have you ever considered the fact that every living thing has a certain lifespan, but that time itself marches on into eternity?  Although time is a constant that stops for no one, it can be managed. 

Time is also like money—it has value, it’s difficult to come by, it’s easy to waste, and there never seems to be enough of it.  Conversely, time can be nothing like money because unlike money, each of us is allocated the same amount of it every day—24 hours.

Here’s my point:

It’s not so much a matter of how much time you have, but what you do with it.  The key to effective time management is developing a mindset.  It’s making a conscious decision to approach tasks in an organized fashion.  You need to know what you want to do and create a realistic plan to get it done. 

Before undertaking any task, I always consider the following:

  1. What task needs to be done?
  2. Who else, if anyone, is involved?
  3. When does the task need to be completed?
  4. Where do I have to go to accomplish it?
  5. How long will it take to complete the task?

 I’d like to share a few thoughts about managing time that has worked for me; hopefully, they can help you too:

 

  • Prioritize Tasks

Make a list of everything you want to accomplish on a given day and arrange them in order of importance.  Things that MUST be done are placed at the top of the list.  Tasks of lesser importance follow.

 

  • Create a Timeline

Look at your list and estimate a specific amount of time for each task.  This is where many people run into difficulty because they either under-estimate or over-estimate the time it’s going to take to complete a task.  It’s always preferable to over-estimate rather than under-estimate because any extra time can be used to review your plan, make adjustments, or take a short break.  Under-estimating adversely affects all of the other tasks on the list—in other words; you might not get to them!

 

  •  Execute

Decide on a specific time to begin and stick to it.  One of the biggest time-wasters is the attitude of indifference, which can prevent you from starting on time.  If you decide to begin at 9:00AM, then see that you start at 9:00AM.  Remember that you made a commitment to yourself—a personal contract—so be sure to keep it!  Don’t allow anyone or anything to distract you; do not procrastinate or get sidetracked.

 

  • Manage Your Progress

One of the greatest things about this life is that we develop habits (good ones, hopefully) out of necessity.  Whether we realize it or not, we are creatures of habit, and as such, we have an innate desire to achieve order and a sense of balance in our lives.

Having a process in place requires an action to be repeated over and over again.  Each time this happens, you can compare it to how well it was previously done.  Did you do it better?  Was it worse? Did it take too long?

This is how progress is measured.  It allows you to take note of what works, what doesn’t, and to make adjustments.  After adjusting your process, you’ll notice the improvements and you’ll see that you’re gradually becoming more efficient. 

 

  • Apply This New Mindset to Everyday Life

Once you’ve adopted this new method of thinking, you can easily incorporate it into every aspect of your life.  Gradually, you’ll find that you’re not only more timely, but you will have mastered one of the most important attributes a person can have.  You’ll have the ability to accomplish tasks more efficiently and in the least amount of time, with minimum effort and maximum results!

Employing good time-management skills is liberating.  It allows you to take more control of your life.  And when you control your life, you can control your destiny!

I wish you well in your time-management pursuits…give it a try because it works—you can do it!