Three often-overlooked time hogs.

Bent on lowering our household water use one summer, I Googled water conservation through less toilet flushing. It seemed simple enough, but like hanging the laundry outside to dry, my results were less than optimal – so I went searching for answers. I discovered the topic being discussed at astonishing length on several forums. On one, a wise person pointed out that unless you had taken care of the big stuff – shorter showers, efficient washing machines and dishwashers, repairing leaky plumbing, appropriate landscaping – flushing a few less times a day was nearly pointless.

I think we often approach conservation of time in the same myopic way. Zoomed in on the latest technological gizmo or finding the perfect planner, we forget to step back and evaluate the big picture. No single tool will have a measurable impact if we haven’t eliminated the truly substantial time-wasters in our lives.

Recently, I have been reminded of these significant but often overlooked time hogs.

1. Not Trusting Your Intuition

You can know something without knowing why, and still act on the information.

Last year I tried a handful of new activities and in every case, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on the reasons, I knew almost immediately they weren’t a good fit. And in every case, I waited to act on that information – anywhere from days to months. For the entire time I delayed action, they remained background distractions – a white noise of hemming and hawing over something I had already decided. Eventually, push came to shove and I had to summon the oomph to withdraw myself, whether the why had percolated to the surface or not. But I could have saved so much time (and energy) if I had simply acted on my intuition the moment I felt it.

Of course, this can work the other way. Instead of delaying in saying no, we can be just as apt to put off saying yes. Either way, waiting until we have “proof” is a time-waster.

2. Not Saying No As Soon As You Want To

Could you _____? Do you have time for _____? Would you like to _____? You know the answer, you just don’t want to say so – you just don’t want to say no.

I’m all for diplomacy, but in most instances you don’t need to equivocate. You don’t need to check your calendar or talk with so-so first. Saying I’ll get back to you when you know your answer needlessly creates a new task you both have to follow up on. If you are anything like me, whatever discomfort you felt initially will grow and you’ll continue to delay replying. There it is on your to-do list day after day, nagging you: Get back to X about Y – the guilt of saying no compounded by the guilt of not saying so sooner. Wait too long and you may end up saying yes – which is an even bigger time-waster.

So do yourself and everyone else a favor – be truthful and just say no (politely). Choose to respect time over being nice – it’s the nicest thing you can do.

3. Refining a Too-Complicated System

Good for you. You recognized something in your day-to-day doings wasn’t working well, so you’re making adjustments in your systems. Except now you’re in a tangle. Because making an adjustment here is requiring adjustments there, and there, and there. Augh!

According to our friend The Universal Cycles of Change, you may be relieved to know this is a natural part of the circle. Growth leads to maturity, which eventually leads to more complexity than the system can support. The resulting turbulence – that augh! you’re feeling – is a sign that something has to be shed or dropped before the next healthy cycle of growth can continue. If you don’t respond to the turbulence, if you don’t let something go, chaos will set in.

Intricate systems require a lot of time and effort to maintain in the first place, but they are also extra-prone to chaos. So next time you find yourself in a tangle, ask yourself how you can remove the knot completely to make what you are trying to achieve as simple as possible. And stick to simple systems whenever you can.

• • • • •

Managing all three of these time hogs requires awareness, some way of staying awake to your experience. You need to be able to hear the voice of intuition, the cry of no, the sound of turbulence to be able to act on them and use your time well. Journaling, meditation, walking outdoors, yoga, painting – whatever works for you – do it. Often. You can’t be productive or efficient – at least in any meaningful way – without regular opportunities to listen.

Cultivating self-awareness is the first lesson in becoming a Time Disciple. I’d be honored if you chose to practice with us.

And this week you can register at this year’s price instead of next year’s. It’s the early-early-bird sale to celebrate the new website being very nearly ready. If becoming a Time Disciple is something you’ve been wanting to do, celebrate with me by saving some monies now and being wowed later.


3 Responses to “Three often-overlooked time hogs.”

  1. 1 Sonia Connolly November 30, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Thank you for talking about listening to my intuition, saying no, and simplifying. I appreciate the settled, supported feeling I get when reading your article!


  1. 1 Do-Overs and High-Fives… The post-Thanksgiving Gratitude Edition Trackback on December 5, 2009 at 5:43 pm

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Third Hand Works

from overwhelmed to ready for anything | organization and time management for people in their "right" minds | administrative guidance for independent creative professionals [more info]



© 2008 Cairene MacDonald, Third Hand Works. All Rights Reserved.

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