52 Intentional Affirmations:

#11. I take intentional control of my time!

This week I will finish by intentionally planning for my next week.

Each week I’m reporting here on my personal experience in implementing my 52 Intentional Affirmations. These are designed to help us be more intentionally mindful of the impact our intentions have on living a happy, flourishing and prosperous life. (Click Here to start work on your own 52 Intentional Affirmations).

How are you at controlling time?

The ‘time-management movement’ makes millions of dollars annually because of this problem that people from all walks of life seem to need or want to fix.

In his landmark best-selling book First Things First, the late Stephen Covey reminds us that “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

There are 24 hours in every day and if we were to generously take 8 hours off for sleep, that leaves us with 16 hours in every day to live happy, flourishing and prosperous lives.

What did you pack into your 16 hours yesterday?

Over the past week, having this intentional affirmation on my phone simply reminded me of the reality that I don’t, nor can I ever, control time – what I can do however, is to intentionally control my time.

Our intentional affirmation suggests that we finish the week by intentionally planning what we want to achieve next week.

Here’s what I can report.

As I reflect back over what I had planned to do, I certainly achieved what I planned… to a point. My week however was filled with distractions (some welcomed and some unwelcomed).

For years now I have been using Covey’s four quadrant approach to dealing with what he refers to as the ‘Urgency Addiction’ – that we get confused and lose control of our time because either we, or others, want everything now.

This is part of the problem with the constantly ‘on now’  life in which many of us are trapped. We allow our mobile phones to dictate when we answer. We allow our computers or mobile phones to tell us that we’ve just received another email to respond to. Our customers have higher expectations of immediate answers when they contact us. Managers have been taught to have an ‘open door’ leadership style which causes their staff to constantly interrupt.

Covey suggests we categorise the ‘tasks’ in our lives into the four quadrants of:

  • Q1: Urgent/Important
  • Q2: Not Urgent/Important
  • Q3: Urgent/Not Important
  • Q4: Not Urgent/Not Important

… and while I do use this as a guide to help me stay focused on ‘intentional action’ (ie. Keeping the main things the main things in my life), what has been an even more liberating guide to me taking intentional control of my time (again, knowing that I can’t control time, only my time), is this quote from M. Scott Peck in his book The Road Less Traveled:

“Once we know that life is difficult – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Dr Henry Cloud in his book Integrity paraphrases it this way “Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult.  Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters“.

Stuff happens!

Knowing this, while I am aware of my intentions for what I want to achieve on a daily and weekly basis, I have stopped ‘belting myself up’ for being distracted every now and then by things that I certainly didn’t plan, that maybe weren’t on my Urgent/Important list.

You see, sometimes what I’ve realised is that although it may not be Urgent/Important for me, these ‘distractions’ are often Urgent/Important for others.

The simplest example during the week was when my youngest son who lives squarely in the ‘on now’ world (especially when it comes to deadlines for university assignments), dropped an essay on my table with the request for me to proof read it for him.

When do you need it by?” I asked.

Now… I’m off to Uni and need to hand it in!” he replied.

On my list of Urgent/Important it would be easy for me to adopt the ‘teach him a lesson’ and say I’m busy with what I was doing… but the reality was (at least in this case), he was more urgent/important for me than the tasks I was doing… and it was only 15 minutes – I’ve got 16 hours a day remember.

And while being careful not to just give, give, give to the point of me not achieving my own intentional aspirational goals, to continuously say no, no, no because someone else would like me to help them with their own Urgent/Important list would in the long run be a sad and lonely life to live.

Footnote – on my son’s return from Uni I handed him the book “First Things First”.