Schedule what is important to you
In getting ready for this month’s webinar on Managing Your Own Performance, I recalled a small epiphany I had many years ago: Time management is the key to happiness.
What I mean by this is simply that:
I have way more fun, when I make time on purpose to have fun.
The on-purpose part is important because the annoying things and the non-optional responsibilities in life have a way using up all your time if you don’t fight back.
The big aha is this: The annoying stuff and the responsibilities assert themselves. They demand to be done — The things that make you happy do not — they sit back and wait for you to do something.
So if you want more happy time in your life — schedule it.
Happiness & long term accomplishments
The same thing is true for long-term accomplishments. The urgent, busy stuff always asserts itself. The long term, life-improving stuff does not — it also sits back waits patiently for you to do something.
There are many long term accomplishments that can impact your happiness. You probably have a few of these things on your mind already. Being more fit and healtly, improving your career, learning a new craft/skill/sport/language, contributing something to the community…
These kinds of accomplishments can create a big boost in your ongoing happiness. But if you want to spend time on a long term effort that will improve your life, you need to schedule stuff, consistenly, every day, week or month.
If it’s on your schedule, you have a much better chance of actually doing it.
OK, for some of us, working off a list or a schedule is a perfectly fine way to live.
I known there are others out there who hate lists and scheduling, and the thought of scheduling happy time sounds overly organizied, OCD, and totally distasteful.
But here is my point.
If you say that the only way you can have fun is to do something spontaneous, my question to you is: how is that working for you? Are you having enough fun?
I don’t disagree that when spontaneous things come up, they can be super-fun, and the element of surprise and newness is part of the magic.
I’m just suggesting that I think it’s risky to count only on spontaneity, to make enough happiness in your life.
When the pressures and responsibilities of work and life pile up, spontaneous opportunties tend to disappear. They don’t assert themselves.
So why not schedule something as a back-up?
You could say “Twice a month I am going to schedule time to do something fun with a friend”.
Once it’s on your schedule you have a better chance to protect that time and acutally do it. You don’t need plan every minute of what you will do, so there is still an opportunity for something spontaneous to happen within your scheduled time.
But at least the scheduling will make you available, and present for something different (and potentially great) than would ordinarily happen.
For me putting some effort into being aware of the kinds of things that make me feel good and happy, and scheduling time to make sure I do them, is a huge factor in my happiness.
Sometimes it’s spending time with people on purpose, sometimes it’s spending time alone on purpose. Regularly it’s about being fit, sometimes it’s about art, regularly it’s about learning something new, or helping others. Sometimes it’s about nature, or a physical challenge, and often it’s about making sure I laugh.
But I make sure to think about what makes me happy, and then I schedule time to do it on purpose.
That’s what I mean by, “the key to happiness is time management”.
Impossible! I’m too busy for this…
If you are reading this thinking, “Well that sounds great, I just don’t have the luxury of scheduling time for myself”, I would encourage you to think twice.
It’s not a sustainable way to live.
And you more than ever, need to think about doing something on purpose to claim a sliver of time for yourself. Reclaiming some time for you will make you better at your family and at your work. That’s just the way it works.
I recently had a lovely conversation with a busy executive who told me” “My family does not expect to have me at all during the week, but I try really hard not to work on the weekends, that is their time. But my wife recently said to me, but when is your time just for you?”
My advice to him was to thank your wife for being wonderful, and to schedule time once or twice a month, for a few hours, that is just for you.
It feels absolutly awful to walk through life for months and years at a time feeling like you have no time for anything that is important just for you. So don’t do that!
Even if you start with 30 minutes per month. Find something that makes you happy and schedule and protect the time to do it.
Just remember, it’s not easy for anyone to do, but we are all the funding source of our own time. You get to choose how you invest.
What do you think?
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)