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A Better Approach to Time Management

replace time management with energy management

“You get to decide where your time goes. You can either spend it moving forward, or you can spend it putting out fires. You decide. And if you don’t decide, others will decide for you.” ― Tony Morgan

How can effective time management help us support ourselves? Many of us are great supporters of other people. But, we have never thought about what it means to support ourselves. We are great supporters of our family and friends. Great advocates for the social issues we care about. We take pride in the myriad of ways we help  others achieve their goals. So what does it mean to support yourself?

Supporting yourself involves the same activities we engage in to support others. Supporting yourself means developing your capacity to live your best life. It means directing your attention and resources in developing your potential to the fullest. This involves investing the time to needed to identify your life purpose. Then, focusing with laser like precision on expressing that purpose in your life. Effective time management enables you to create a life that supports you.

Problem with Time Management

I have been obsessed with time management ever since I can remember. As a child I loved the book Cheaper By The Dozen. I was enthralled by the father who sought to do everything in the most efficient manner possible. This made sense to me because I knew that time was a limited resource.

Time is the great equalizer, in that we all are given the same 24 hrs in a day. How we spend those 24 hours determines how many days and how fulfilling the future days will be.  I remember my father explaining to me that if our entire lives were compressed into a day, we would only be in school for a few hours. But, those few hours of the day would make the rest of the day more enjoyable. I’d have resources and freedom to pursue my inner desires. That seemed like a fair trade to me and I decided that suffering through a little bit of pain or boredom was a reasonable exchange for my future enjoyment.

I spent much of my time trying to find the most efficient way to manage my obligations. This would enable me to have the most enjoyment of the rest of my life. This approach to time management was limited in its effectiveness. As the tasks I had to do became longer and more complicated, the dreaded tasks still took many hours, weeks, months or years. Worse yet, I was setting myself up to live my life “later”, after I had completed X, Y, or Z tasks.

I know that I am not the only one who struggles with this approach to work and life. Many people are waiting for “the summer”, “the next promotion”, “retirement”, “marriage”, “children”, “an empty-nest”, ect until you feel free to “live your life”.  Stop waiting. Now is the only time you have. Now is the perfect time to support yourself.

Energy Management is Superior to Time Management

Completing the tasks in front of you and enjoying your life need not be mutually exclusive activities. You do not have to wait for “your turn” after you have finished all the tasks on everyone else’s list. You can structure your daily activities, and your life, so that you are productive AND filled with excitement and joy. The secret is learning how to manage your energy.

Many people mistakenly think that enhancing your capacity to be creative and productive is only about managing your time. While time management is important, managing your energy is a more effective means to enhancing your creativity and productivity. Managing your energy requires becoming more aware of your moment by moment energy levels and the life factors that influence them. As you become more aware of what influences your energy level, you can delegate energy draining activities and limit your exposure to energy draining people.

Like time, your energy is a valuable and limited resource. If you do not manage it well, you will find that there is no energy left for you to do the things that you want to do. You don’t have the energy left to write your book, exercise, socialize, ect. Even though these activities are important to you, you can’t find time to do them. At the end of the day, all you have energy for is vegging out on tv and dreaming about your future life. The future is when you believe that you will have the opportunity to live out your desires.

Unlike time, you can actually “create” more energy. By managing your activities well, you can plant seeds that will “grow” your energy levels. You do not have to settle for your current amount of energy. You can expand your energy reservoir by intentionally choosing energy expanding activities. This approach to life will enable you to get more done and feel better about yourself and your life in the process.

Time Management Doesn’t Expand Time, Energy Management Does Expand Your Energy

Below I discuss two actions will substantially expand your energy levels while improving your productivity and creativity.  Implementing these actions, will help you to go to bed happier, having accomplished more in your day, sleep better, and wake up feeling more refreshed and excited about your day. This is how you support yourself. This is giving yourself what you need to live your best life now, not “someday when…”

I encourage you to practice these two actions daily. Make sure to track the changes you observe in yourself and your life as you do.

  1. Identify tangible things that increase your energy level and incorporate them regularly throughout your day.

The definition of energy expanding activities is any thought or action that fills you with energy and joy as you take part. For obvious reasons, what counts as an energy expanding activity varies from person to person.

To identify your energy expanding activities, you can track your energy levels throughout the day. On a hourly basis, asses you energy level on a scale of 1-10. Notice, how the level increases or decreases throughout the day. Write down recent activities that you think might be associated with the changes in your energy level.

Try to identify at least 20 energy expanding activities of various forms. Some you can do with others, some you do alone, some cost money, so are free. You get the point. The goal is to have a variety of energy expanding activities that you can add to your day on a regular basis. You also want to have some that you can add “as needed” to help pull you up after an unexpected energy draining activity. Think of this as your emergency self-care kit.

  1. Distinguish must from should.

Too often we blur the lines between these two types of activities. That is a serious drain on our energy level and a damage to our quality of life. But, when you distinguish the must list from the should list, you can manage your energy more effectively.

“Must list” is important because it helps you achieve what you truly want. It is connected to your life purpose and allows you to fulfill the personal goals you’ve set for yourself. If your goal is to be an Olympic swimmer, you must practice on a regular basis. But if it is your mother’s goal for you to be an Olympic swimmer (or get married, or move closer to home, ect), then the activities associated with this goal does not belong on your “must list.” These activities are examples of “shoulds”.

Shoulds are only important because they help you to conform to what others want you to do. When you find yourself saying “I should do…..” what you are actually communicating is that someone else wants this for you more than you want it for yourself. “I should exercise… study… go out more”. All these activities are things you think others expect from you. That is why doing them feels draining.

The best way to expand your energy and live a productive and creative life is to eliminate everything on your should list.  Once you stop doing the things on your should list, you will have more time and energy for your musts. What?! Am I suggesting that you don’t exercise, study, or get out of your comfort zone? If you can not connect these activities to goals you find personally meaningful, your attempts to do them will be unsuccessful and draining.

Manage Your Energy, Manage Your Life

Respect what creates energy for you and focus on deleting the things that drain your energy. Connect your regular activities to things that give you personal meaning. This produces a magical multiplication of hours in the day.  You will get more accomplished in a day and feel happier doing it.

You do not have to wait for the future to start living the life you desire. Support yourself today. Restructure your activities around your purpose and watch your energy and joy grow!

 

 

Change Your Environment, Change Your Life

Woman seeking positive life change.

Your life deserves a perfectly, stunning change for the best.

Your environment has a tremendous impact on how you feel and what you are able to accomplish in your life. Your environment is an external reflection of your internal state. What does your environment say about you? Is your desk cluttered and disorganized? Is your house filled with projects left undone? These environmental cues suggest a difficulty with prioritization and focus. To achieve your goals, you must structure your environment to support your efforts.

Your current environment supports your current life. To create new possibilities for yourself, you must create a new environment. The good news is that you have the ability to recreate your environment. You can choose to create an environment that supports your life purpose and goals. Discover valuable tools to help your restructure your environment to support your goals.

Restructure Your Physical Environment to Support Your Life Goals

There is a strong connection between our external environment and our internal state. Here are some improvements you can make to your physical environment to improve your productivity.

1.     Broadcast your goals. Create a vision board.

Companies spend such much money on marketing and advertising because they know it works. We respond to subtle cues in our environment that bypass our conscious mind. Yet these sub-concious cues still influence our behavior.

You can use this information to your advantage by programming your subconscious mind through visual cues. These visual cues are a constant reminder to focus on your goals. They speak directly to your subconscious and motivate your behavior. Broadcasting intentional messages to yourself, engages your unconscious mind in producing your goals.

A vision board is a great way to communicate your life goals to your subconscious mind. When you have a clear picture of what you want in life, then you can start to attract it. A vision board is a collection of images, words and photos that represent the things you want to have, be, or do in life.

If you don’t already have a vision board, create one immediately. It’s quite simple. Grab a poster board, glue, pictures, old magazines, cut-out pictures, drawings, writing, and any arts & craft supplies you enjoy. Paste them to your board in any order that is appealing to you. It’s fun to do this activity with friends, so invite a few over and create your vision boards together.

Once you have your vision board, make sure to prominently display it where you will see it often. I display my vision board on my bedroom wall. It is the first thing that I see in the morning and the last thing that I see at night. When these images enter your mind regularly, you’ll be amazed how quickly they will become your reality. Our dreams and goals change often, so update your board often!

2.     Breathe life into your environment. Add plants.

Affirming our connection to nature is an easy way to improve our health, well-being, and productivity. As I “city girl” , I enjoy the fast-paced energy of densely packed streets with tall concrete buildings. Yet, I know that we all need some greenery to promote reconnection and restoration.

The physical and emotional benefits of spending time in nature are well documented. In my article on sensory walks, I review some of the cutting edge research on nature’s impact on our health. Spending time in nature increases our immune functioning, productivity, and creativity. You can bring these benefits into your home by adding potted plants to your home and office spaces.

Make life easier for yourself, add greenery to your work environment and watch your performance improve.

Besides providing us with clean, fresh air, potted plants also help us to be more motivated and productive. Research in the UK and Netherlands showed that adding potted plants to offices increased workers’ productivity by fifteen percent. Other research shows that working around potted plants helps to improve concentration and memory by twenty percent.  Thus, adding potted plants to your regular working locations improves the quantity and quality of your work. Also, consider working outside in nature as much as possible.

 

3.     Give your mind (and your eyes) a place to rest. Clean your desktop.

Can clearing off your desk, really clear your mind? Yes. My mind can not rest when I am bombarded with all the visual reminders of everything that need to be completed. Productivity author and coach, David Allen refers to these as “open loops” and suggests that they are major source of stress in our life.

An open loop is “anything pulling at your attention that doesn’t belong where it is, the way it is”. This could be an unfinished craft project covering the dining room table. It could be a pile of papers on the desk because they are important and you don’t want to forget. Stress comes from having too many of these open loops and not having an effective system to capture and manage them. Clutter is a crude way of reminding ourselves because we don’t have an effective system that we trust.

The secret to managing our energy and productivity is to eradicate the unfinished loops. We either commit to completing the task right then or we plan a time when we will complete the task. This allows us to put the visual reminder away and removes the stress and energy drain. If you need help creating an effective system of capturing and planning all the personal and work tasks you have, I recommend reading David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. It’s a comprehensive system that will allow your mind to rest because you now can manage all your necessary tasks. It will also help you make and keep your environment clutter free.

Change Your Human Environment

Environment is not limited to our physical environment. It also includes our human environment, the people we interact with on a regular basis as well. Your human environment plays a huge role in your behavior and expectations for yourself.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said that we are a product of the five people we spend the most time with. Our weight is the average of these five close friends. Our level of happiness is the average o these five close friends. Daniel Goleman’s book Social Intelligence presents research documenting people’s influence on us. The people we are emotionally closest to and interact with on a regular basis have a tremendous impact on our neurological wiring and health.

Consider your current human environment and assess how well it supports your life purpose and goals?

Here are two simple steps you can take to improve your human environment.

 

Expand your circle. Invite a new person to lunch

One easy way to improve your life, is to become closer to people who reflect the kind of life you want to live. If you value travel and see yourself traveling all over the world, you need friends with an active passport as well. They will reinforce and support your goal of international travel.

As you mature, you will develop new goals and dreams for yourself. You may notice that some of those values and habits are not in your current circle of friends. By being open to making new friends, you increase your stream of new information and habits.

Of course, you need to be selective of who you invite into your friendship circle. Make sure they are congruent with your life purpose and core values. But, they do not need to be like your current group of friends. In fact, they may be quite different. This is great because interacting with them will allow you to develop new parts of yourself and see yourself in new ways.

Upgrade your conversations. Ask new questions.

Improving your human environment does not mean totally replacing the current people you spend time with. You can improve the quality of your current relationships by upgrading the quality of your conversations.

What do you and your friends spend most of your time talking about? Your problems? Other people? Celebrities? It’s fine to spend some time discussing these topics, but they shouldn’t be the mainstay of your conversations. Remember, what you focus on gets magnified.

Reshape your human environment to better support your dreams, by changing your conversations with close friends and family. Use these times to talk about your life purpose and how you are putting that into action in your daily life. Ask them about their goals and how they are fulfilling their life purpose. Ask how you might be able to support them in the process.

The quality of your conversations determines the quality of your relationships. By upgrading your conversations with your close friends and family, it’s easier for you (and them) to take action on your life goals.

How are you going to restructure your environment to support your dreams? Share your thoughts below as well as other strategies that have worked for you. Support yourself and your dreams today!

 

Sensory Walk: A free gift from nature

Sensory walks improve your physical and emotional wellbeing.

A sensory walk improves your physical and emotional wellbeing.

A sensory walk optimizes one of the best forms of exercise: walking. Walking lowers blood pressure, improves blood circulation, strengthens bones and muscles, and improves sleep. Walking in nature has even more positive physical and emotional health benefits.

 

Research comparing walking in nature versus walking in urban areas showed that individuals who walked in nature experienced lower levels of stressincreased attention span, as well as improved creativity and problem solving. An easy way to optimize the physiological and psychological health benefits associated with walking is to take sensory walks.

 

Sensory walks are a mindfulness practice that enables you to have a whole body experience with nature while walking. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of University of Massachusetts Medical Center’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Sensory walks are an easy way to integrate mindfulness into your daily health and wellness routine.

 

How To Do A Sensory Walk

 

Sensory walks, like many other mindfulness practices, encourage you to use all five of your senses to connect with the natural world. It can be helpful at some points in the walk to stand still and close your eyes. Ending your reliance on sight can heighten your awareness of the other senses. Whether you are walking or standing still, the goal is to notice as much as possible the beauty of the world surrounding you.

 

Here are some questions to ask yourself that can guide your focus as you practice your sensory walk.

 

What are you hearing?

Sound is a powerful sense that activates our emotions, promotes visual imaginations, and strengthens our memory recall. As you engage in your sensory walk, pay attention to the distinctive types of sounds that you hear.

 

Can you hear your footsteps? Are there birds chirping? Can you hear running water? It’s important to take the time to really notice the sounds of your external environment rather than drowning them out with your internal dialogue.

 

What are you feeling?

No, I don’t mean identifying your emotional state. I mean paying attention to the largest organ in your body: your skin. Skin is a primary vehicle through which we experience the world, both sensations of pleasure and pain. Our skin has the most nerve endings that provide us with a fine tuned gradient measure of our environment. We can even sense very subtle changes in the environment with our skin and respond quickly with goose-bumps or having the hair on our necks stand up.

 

As you engage in your sensory walk, pay attention to your skin and the sensations it communicates to you. Depending on the weather, there may not be a lot of your skin exposed to the outside elements. However, even when covered with clothing and shoes your skin is still communicating important sensory information about your environment.

 

Can you feel the sun on your skin? What does the ground feel like under your feet? Is it firm, mushy, rocky? What does the temperature feel like on your skin? Again, stopping to closely your eyes briefly will help you better tune into all this lovely information your body is experiencing.

What can you smell?

Smell is often thought of as one of our most potent senses. It is closely connected to our memory and can quickly recreate feelings associated with a past experience. We are usually aware of smells at the extreme of the spectrum, either very pleasant or very offensive. But as we practice mindfulness we can become aware of all the varieties of smell around us.

 

Practice using your sense of smell to create a “map” of your sensory walk. What smells are associated with the various areas of your map? What smells can you identify? Can you distinguish the distinctive smells among the various flowers? What about the trees?

 

It’s useful to stop and get up close the the objects you are smelling. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Yes, I do want you to stop and smell the roses…and the daffodils….and the pine trees. Allow yourself to fully savor the sensations of the smells of nature.

What can you taste?

Our taste sensations are closely connected to our sense of smell. As you allow yourself to experience more fully the smells associated with nature, you may notice an activation of your taste buds. You may even begin to salivate. Great! Enjoy these tastes of nature.

 

Those of you who are more knowledgeable about the various edible flowers, nuts, and berries that grow freely in nature may want to partake in enjoying these delicious gifts during your sensory walk. My children and I love the smell and taste of wild growing honeysuckle and often snack on these sweet treats. Nature provides us with so many gifts and fully experiencing and enjoying these gifts is one way to say thank you.

How are you moving through space?

This is known as our proprioceptive sense and is often overlooked in our discussions of our sensory experiences. However, proprioception is responsible for our perceptions of our body position, motion, and balance.

 

Without proprioception we wouldn’t experience the excitement of our stomachs dropping when we ride on a roller coaster or the relaxation we feel when sitting in a swing or a rocking chair. Proprioception allows us to know where our body is positioned in space even when our eyes are closed. Our proprioceptive sense also helps us to be more alert when on an unstable or elevated surface.

 

As you practice your sensory walk, vary the surfaces you walk on and notice the changes in your body. Do you feel different walking on a gravel path than walking across a fallen tree? How does it feel when you cross a stream using the river rocks as your bridge? Vary the pace of your walk (fast then slow) and notice the differences in your body.

What do you see?

Sight can be a very pleasurable part of our experience of nature. Just looking at a beautiful nature scene can bring feelings of peace and relaxation. As you engage in your sensory walk, imagine that you are a cinematographer trying to capture footage for National Geographic.

 

Take the time to see what is likely a familiar environment for you with fresh new eyes. What are the “postcard moments” of your walk? What images bring you feelings of warmth, pleasure, relaxation, excitement, or awe?

 

As you notice these sights, stop and focus on them to intensify your experience of the moment. For at least 20 seconds, pause and focus on the image, breathing deeply and enjoying the feelings that are evoked by this sight within you.

 

Remember, what you focus on becomes magnified. As you focus on the pleasure of nature and wonderful feelings you are having at this moment, your joy and gratitude will be magnified. Moreover, these feelings will stay with you and can be brought back to mind long after you are physically removed from this experience.

 

Capture Your Sensory Walk

 

As you complete your sensory walk, reserve time at the end to sit quietly and capture the beauty of these moments. You may want to bring a sketchbook or a journal to record your reflections. Regardless of your artistic skill level, draw at least three items that you noticed on your sensory walk.

 

Although the drawing activity is visual, you do not want to rely only on the sights of your sensory walk. How might you be able to visually represent the smells or physical sensations that you experienced on the walk? What about the tastes and movement sensations?

 

After you’ve captured at least three sensory memories of this walk, write 1-2 sentences of gratitude for what you have just experienced.

 

As you focus on the sensations and emotions produced from the sensory walk, your awareness of the gifts of nature will abound. These gifts of nature are free and always available to you whenever you need them. Even when you can not physically return to the site of this walk, you can review your journal reflections and activate a full sensory recall of the memories of this experience.

 

As we celebrate the beginning of spring and Earth Day, I encourage you to add a 10-15min sensory walk into your routine. You will find that this practice greatly reduces your level of stress, expands your sense of joy and connection to a larger world, as well as increases your energy and feelings of well-being.

 

Today, give yourself a gift of vitality and joy! Take a sensory walk.

 

What are the benefits you received from your sensory walk? Leave a comment below or you can email me directly at [email protected]. If you have pictures from your walk, please share so we can expand the joy!

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