Monday, October 3, 2011

A new perspective on time management

After spending the summer eating frogs, being a total slave to a stack of arduous to-do lists, I am trying a new approach, which seems to be working for the always brilliant Danielle LaPorte. I recommend that you click HERE and read every word of this recent blog post of hers. Here is my favorite part.

Time management systems are tricky beasts. They may help us be more productive, but not necessarily less stressed, or more fulfilled, or more in touch with our true nature. We may look freer with our priorities all tidy, but too often, time remains the master and we get "given" time for obeying the system.

I'd rather be fulfilled than obedient. And it turns out that when I'm fulfilled, I'm...fulfilled--whether I'm productive or not. And that gives me plenty of energy to be more focused on what matters most, which makes me truly productive.

My way isn't working. My daily to-do list is physically impossible to achieve, so I wake up every morning stressed and anxious, knowing that I am going to fail before I even get started. Is this any way to go through life? Obviously, the answer is no.

I love Danielle's suggestions for putting time management in its place. I already "batch and chunk," so that one is a no-brainer. I am super excited about trying some of the others. Like NOT keeping a detailed  to-do list. Asking myself every morning what it is I really feel like doing. And, arguably most important for me, focusing on the one or two vocational pursuits that really excite me.

Here is my breaking news: I am finally ready to admit that I cannot do it all: teach piano lessons to 40 students each week--a full-time job--while simultaneously building both a handcrafted jewelry business and a writing career AND taking care of my family. Something has got to give. And over a tear-filled breakfast a couple of weeks ago, my friend Denise helped me realize what that needs to be.

Her question went something like this: "If you designed a piece of jewelry that became so popular that making jewelry could be your sole means of support--if it went viral and you could no longer meet the demand for it by yourself and you got to run a factory to manufacture it--would you be happy doing nothing but that?"

I didn't even hesitate. The answer was easy. "No."

Music and writing are my passions. I enjoy making jewelry and hoped that my Etsy store would provide me with some extra income during this slump in the economy and buy me time to hone my skills as a writer, but the truth is that every penny I earn selling jewelry goes right back into supplies to make more jewelry. And sales haven't been great the past few weeks. I expect that will change as the holidays approach, so it makes sense to stay in business through the first of the year, but after that I plan to liquidate my remaining stock. I still enjoy making jewelry; I will probably keep my store open with a handful of select signature and seasonal items, and do special orders upon request. But I will keep my focus where it needs to be. On my personal development as a musician. On teaching my students every week. On honing my skills as a writer, both of fiction and nonfiction.

The relief I have felt as a result of this decision tells me that it is a step in the right direction. Wish me luck.

Are you a slave to your to-do list? Are you fully engaged in the one or two pursuits that bring you sheer delight? Would you be happy doing nothing but what you are doing for the rest of your life? If you don't like your answers to these questions, what are you going to do about it?

Author: Pam Asberry


Denise said...

I keep going back to the question myself. I'm really trying to be mindful of where I'm putting my energy. No day is perfect and there is lots to do. I'm just trying to clear the decks so I can focus on what's important. I'm glad I asked you the question. I wished I had asked it of myself years ago.

Lindy said...

I like to make time for everything, especially self. If you don't take care of yourself, then who can you take care of, right? I like your plan and wish you luck and no you will live a life fulflled. Smooches. Lindy

Pam Asberry said...

It's never too late, Denise. It's going to be exciting to see where we are ten years from now, don't you think?

Pam Asberry said...

But Lindy, it's hard to make time for everything, ESPECIALLY oneself. But I am convinced that focusing on the things that I am truly passionate about, and not allowing myself to get distracted by the rest, will help. You are a good example for me to follow!

Jennifer said...

Good advice! I cannot, however, live without my to do list, because even if it IS important, I WILL forget it. It almost seems that the more important it is, and I am so sure I won't forget it, that I must put it at the back of my mind (because I couldn't possibly forget it!) and then I do forget it. It's appalling. That being said, it doesn't mean I have to be a complete slave to the to do list. I just have to look at it occasionally and (as Flylady says) "let go of the perfection".

Lindy said...

Thanks Pam. And you are right, EVERYTHING is subject to change. It's a matter of priority and passion. Once you figure that out, mastering everything is no problem. P.S. thanks for the good example comment. I wish I could live up to it. :-)

Pam Asberry said...

Jennifer, I didn't mean to suggest that I am ditching a to-do list altogether. I still have my little daily checklist - marking each item off gives me a real sense of accomplishment! - as week as a weekly list I write every Monday in my day planner. What I had before was a daily schedule that was overbooked and allowed me no flexibility. I thought I would be more efficient that way, but it completely backfired. I think we are really on the same page - writing the important things down so we won't forget them, but allowing ourselves permission to veer off-course if inspiration strikes, and to be less than perfect. That Flylady is one smart cookie!

Julee J. Adams said...

*whew!* I'm grateful you've finally come to this point, because I was kind of afraid of where you were going. How many times have I posted that you need to cut yourself some slack and take care of yourself?
I do need a list too, otherwise things get "lost" or forgotten. But, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Jane Friedman posted on her blog about how she will only allow what fits on a Post-It note for her To Do list--5-6 things per day max. That makes sense to me.
Besides, you can make earrings and other pretties for Christmas gifts, right? That's what I'm doing. Take care and take care of yourself.

Pam Asberry said...

I love the idea of limiting one's to-do list to what can be squeezed onto a Post-It note, Julee! And yes, I will continue to make jewelry for those I love, and it's definitely time to start thinking about Christmas!

Tami Brothers said...

I agree with everyone. This is great advice. Like Jennifer, I can't live without my lists. If I didn't make lists I would probably forget to pick The Kid up from swim practice (yes, I'm that bad).

Good for you in coming to such a tough decision. I know how hard it can be especially when you like something that you ultimately give up.

Keep at it. You'll feel that balance one day. :)


Pam Asberry said...

I know what you mean, Tami. I keep track of errands on the calendar app on my iPhone; nothing stays in my head for long any more!