Giving Away Your Time

We spend so much of our lives getting compensated for our time, that it’s important to remember to give it away once in a while. Even though our schedules already feel packed to their fullest, finding room to volunteer our time to a worthy cause is extremely rewarding and worthwhile.

On Friday, I had an opportunity to witness volunteer work at its finest. The PTO at the school where I work sponsored a Fall Festival to help raise money for classroom supplies. Parents and teachers donated candy, decorations, money, and most importantly, their time, to put the whole thing together.

However, the coolest part of the whole event was the Haunted House. Parents and teachers worked tirelessly to transform the school library into a ghostly maze for kids to explore…if they dared! Volunteers worked from 1:00pm to 9:00pm to design, build, staff and then tear down this popular attraction that raised hundreds of dollars for the school.

As I was watched all the students run screaming and giggling from the exit, only to run around the building and get in line again, I realized that I don’t make nearly enough time in my schedule to volunteer. There were so many people giving up their time to make this happen.

One dad works all day selling ad space in a newspaper, but that night he was a zombie. One volunteer was a high school student on the honors track and heavily involved in sports, but that night she was a mad scientist. Watching all of these people come together to help the school was incredible. They could have just donated 20 dollars and stayed home, but this was far more special.

If you haven’t found the time or opportunity to volunteer recently, I urge you to try it. You’ll be glad you did.

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Technorati Keywords Time Management, Efficiency,

Photo Credit: Stuart Miles

But It Doesn’t Look Finished

Have you ever noticed that it’s really difficult to motivate yourself to complete a task that doesn’t produce an immediate, visible result? It can be a real challenge to your time management.

For example, if you have a paper to write for school, you might spend all day researching your topic in the library. You may emerge feeling much more knowledgeable about your topic and more prepared to write your paper, but if someone asked what you did all day, you wouldn’t have much tangible work to show for it.

My frustration this week came from cleaning. We are moving into a new place next month and have started the packing/cleaning/organizing process. I spent all morning reorganizing the garage. I went through all the shelves, threw things away, consolidated boxes, and sorted things into a “give away” and “throw away” pile.

When I was done, I stepped back to admire my work…and realized it looked pretty much the same as when I started. Wow. Had I just wasted my whole morning?

Looks Can Be Deceiving

The most satisfying tasks to complete are ones that produce an immediate and visible result, but unfortunately, those aren’t the only kinds of things we need to do. Sure, I could have spent my morning putting all of my books into boxes. That is a much easier task to do and my room would have looked much more empty. However, looks can be deceiving.

Working in the garage was a much more valuable use of my Saturday, even if it didn’t necessarily look like it.

When deciding how to spend your day, be careful not to put off difficult things just because they aren’t very satisfying to complete. Remember, “later” always gets here eventually and you won’t be any more thrilled about the work. Better to just do it now!

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Technorati Keywords Time Management, Efficiency,

Photo Credit: Master Isolated Images

Passing vs Spending Time

Usually, I am a huge advocate of finding ways to spend time, not pass time. When you are spending time you are looking for meaningful and purposeful ways to use your precious hours. When you are passing time, you’re just looking for ways to fill your day. Spending time leads to productivity or enjoyment. Passing time leads to….minutes ticking by on the clock.

However, during my flight to Florida last week, I realized that there are some situations when you do want to simply “pass time” in an effort to make it go by as fast as possible. Our 5-hour flight in to Orlando was one of those instances.

In this case, I was so excited to touch down at our destination and get out of my airline-seat prison that I was simply looking to pass the time as quickly as possible. (Coach airline travel is never particularly comfortable, and when you’re 6-feet tall it’s especially tight.)

This experience reminded me that finding things to do that pass the time quickly isn’t always easy. Here are a few tips:

 1) Keep it enjoyable

At first I tried to be productive on the plane, but that wasn’t working. The work I needed to do was un-enjoyable and made the time pass ridiculously slowly. If you want to make time pass quickly, do something you enjoy such as reading a book or listening to music. The phrase “time flies when you’re having fun” is cliché for a reason.

 2) Make it interactive

If you can make your enjoyable task interactive, such as doing a puzzle or playing a game, that’s even better. I like to see how quickly I can finish the crossword puzzle in the back of the in-flight magazine. Doing a puzzle like this keeps your brain engaged and makes the minutes fly by.

 3) Don’t look at your watch

If you’re trying to pass time quickly, resist the temptation to look at your watch. Doing so just reminds you how much time you have left to go. I like to just take mine off and put it in my pocket.

What is your favorite way to pass the time quickly? Please share!

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Time Management, Efficiency,

Photo Credit: Salvatore Vuono

The Vacation Dilemma

Time off from work or school is great. No one is going to argue with that. However, deciding how to spend this rare chunk of free time can prove difficult.

I’ve found that people usually have one of two reactions at the beginning of a break:

1. “It will be so nice to finally catch up on my work!” or

2. “I can’t wait to just relax and have fun!”

Therein lies the dilemma: Do you use these days off to get work done? Or do you take advantage of an opportunity to relax and go take a trip or do something fun?

This week is my fall break from teaching. I am so excited to finally have some time to breathe, but I’ve had difficulty deciding how best to spend these few precious days.

On the one hand, I could get caught up on a lot of work. It wouldn’t really feel like a vacation, but I’d be far less stressed when I went back to work. On the other hand, I could sleep in every day, go shopping, go on a trip, and other fun things that I never have time for otherwise.

 My Day of Nothing

I thought I had found a good balance. I was going to work hard for the first three days of break, and then go on a vacation to Florida to see some family. However, yesterday threw that plan out the window- in a good way.

I woke up feeling a little sick yesterday. I tried to just work through it, but I kept feeling worse. I ended up spending the whole day lazing around the house. You know what? It was wonderful. Anyone who knows me knows that I never ever spend a whole day doing nothing, but it was exactly what I needed to start my break.

I’m certainly not advocating that we all sit around and be lazy all the time, but I think there is something to be said for allowing yourself to do nothing once in a while. My vacation will be fun, even though I won’t be sleeping in or really “relaxing.” Then, it will be nice to get work done and finally feel as though I’m crawling out from my pile of “to dos.” However, my yesterday of “nothing” was blissful.

What is your favorite way to spend your break?

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Photo Credit: Michal Marcol

The ABC’s of Time Management

I frequently hear time management advice that tells us to prioritize our days based on the “ABC” system. A’s are things we have to do, B’s are things we’d like to do and C’s are things it’d be nice to do if we had time left over. I’m sure this system works for some people. Here is why The Time Diet works better for me.

Most of my things end up being A’s! I try not to waste my time doing unessential things, so everything ends up being a “have to do.”

I could easily spend my entire day doing “have to dos” and never have time for anything else. This leaves me stressed out because all of a sudden “everything” has become a priority. It also seems like anything fun or enjoyable in your day will become a “C.” It isn’t fair to ourselves to always place our own enjoyment as a last priority. That’s how we get burned out.

I prefer to think of my day in The Time Diet food groups of Meats, Vegetables and Desserts.

Meats: Thinking-intensive things that are difficult to accomplish

Vegetables:  Less thinking-intensive things that are easier to accomplish

Desserts: Enjoyable things

When planning your day, it’s important to plan a balanced diet of tasks so you balance out your difficult work with easier and more enjoyable things.

In The Time Diet, everything you have to do is “important” otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it! By balancing your work according to difficulty, you’re less likely to become overwhelmed and more likely to finish more work than if you’d simply tried to tackle all of your deadlines at once.

Is prioritizing important? Of course it is! However, trying to prioritize without taking difficulty into account is not being fair to ourselves.

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Technorati Keywords Time Management, Efficiency,

Photo Credit: Digital Art