Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: What's My Priority Today?

The June issue of More Magazine carried an interview with Laura Vanderkam who writes about time and productivity, particularly in relation to professional people. Vanderkam had a number of interesting things to say.

  • She provides still more support for the unit system, saying, for instance, "Not taking breaks during the workday is a big mistake, because if you don't take intentional breaks, you'll take unintentional ones." Remember, will power is finite, strongest in the morning and wears out during the day. The breaks you take every 45 minutes, or after whatever unit of time you want to work, help to replenish will power so you're able to work at a higher level.
  • She suggests that people decide what they're going to do for downtime on weekends early in the week before they're too worn out from work to do any planning. Writers with day jobs could do something similar, plan what writing tasks they're going to do with their free time at a point when they're rested and feeling positive about getting some writing done.

Priorities Vs. Not Having Time


Here is the thing I liked best in this interview: Rather than say, "I don't have time," say, "This isn't a priority."  Vanderkam goes on to say, "That language is more accurate." She means that we have time to do a great many things but choose not to. It's not that we really don't have time. We're choosing not to do the things we say we don't have time for.

Some people might find that judgmental. But to me, choosing to think in terms of priorities instead of "not having time" is situational. Priorities change. Your situation one week can mean you can make writing a priority. A couple of weeks later, marketing knocks writing from the top of the work list. A few months after that, your personal life shoves things around for a while.

I like thinking in terms of "This isn't a priority" instead of "I don't have time" because what that really says to me is "This isn't a priority now." I can make it a priority another time.


Jen Robinson said...

I like "this isn't a priority" too. I've been feeling like I don't have time to read lately. But if I am honest with myself, it's because I'm not prioritizing reading sufficiently (as with anything). I think it's helpful in taking personal control of one's choices about time. I also think "this isn't a priority" can be helpful in saying no to things (though it may need to be stated more delicately, you can know that in your heart when you refuse something).

Dawn said...

I am going to start using these words. This isn't a priority right now is so much more honest.

Gail Gauthier said...

It is more honest, Dawn. Especially if you find and read Vanderkam's interview. She's worked out how many hours are left each week after subtracting a traditional work schedule and x hours of sleep. It's something like 70. So "I don't have time" really does mean "I'm using my time a different way."

Jen--"This isn't a priority right now" may be more helpful than "I don't have time," especially if you're talking volunteer work. I think people who are experienced running volunteer activities are well aware that everyone has SOME time. It's their job to try to get it from us. But if we're talking priorities, we're making it clear that we've already divided up our time and assigned it elsewhere.