One of the most commonly mentioned challenges with living balanced is the challenge of time management.
During my journey, I had the hardest time believing psychology experts that said positive change, like improving my time management, could be as easy as doing what I'm going to share with you today.
But first, I need to share a story that I really didn't want to share.
Part of me was embarrassed to share this because it happened so recently. But the reality is living a balanced life, just like a gymnast that needs to stay balanced on a beam, takes consistent adjustments and ongoing effort. So here I am imperfect, always learning, and sharing a story I'd rather not share.
You see it was only a few weeks prior to recording this, that I allowed myself to worship the business god of “Just One More Thing.”
The time had come for me to stop working and to go and join my family for the evening. But I was so close to finishing my action items for that day, I had momentum and to start over tomorrow was going to waste time.
It was just one more thing. And then I would be done.
Yes, I kept thinking to stop… that I know better… that I should go be with my kids. But I ignored all that until I finished the one more thing.
Now, this shouldn't come as a shocker to any of you who have done this before, but… once I finished that one more thing, guess what, there was still one more tiny task that I saw at the end of that first task. And it fit the same M.O. I could either do it now or waste time in the morning, trying to get back on track.
That little voice that knows better told me to go be with my kids.
But it was a quiet voice and I only needed to ignore it for another 30 seconds, and then I'd be done. But wouldn't you know it once I finished that there was one more thing. Okay, seriously, this will be the last one.
And I started to do that third tiny task, that third one more thing, but I didn't get to finish it. My wife yelled my name in a tone and at a volume that I knew something was wrong. And I jumped up and ran out of my office. And I heard my four-year-old son crying. And my wife continued to call out to me in that panicked tone and loud volume.
I jumped down the stairs and when my wife and my son came into view – my wife was holding my son's deformed arm in her hands. His forearm was bent near the wrist, to a degree that it looked like he had a second elbow.
And my mind started to race. What happened? What was going on? What had I done by trying to do one more thing?
Well, it turns out that he and his six-year-old sister were playing and she attempted to launch him off her feet while she was laying on her back on the ground. But his feet went higher than his head. And when he came down, he extended his arm and snap.
I then spent the next five hours with him in the ER – getting x rays… learning they needed to reset the bones… holding him while they took two attempts to put a line in his good arm so they could give him some drugs to help him why they had to reset and yank on his arm… waiting for those drugs to wear off… cleaning up the vomit that was caused by the drugs… and then taking my sweet boy home.
Two days later, he got a cast that he wore for four weeks.
And as I'm recording this, yes, his cast is off. But he still has to wear a brace for another four weeks. And the doctor said it will be about four months until he's fully healed.
I would be lying to you. If I said, I didn't blame myself. Look, I know that kids play and they do things and they get hurt. But if I’d been down there, maybe I could have stopped it.
With experiences like these there are stories we can create. There are messages and meaning we can give to those stories that can influence how we see ourselves, how we feel about ourselves, and the choices we make moving forward.
The stories we create can either help build us up or break down the paths we seek to walk.
So what does this have to do with time management? Let me explain.
Do you ever feel like you're always late, or others are always waiting for you? Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you work you barely put a dent in your to-do list?
Do you ever feel like you're always putting out fires and never getting to do the things you really want to do? Does it ever feel like people around you are advancing at a lightning pace where your progress barely moves the needle?
Or maybe just maybe you feel like however much time you devote to your business or to your family, neither one is ever enough.
Now, here's the truth, your perspective, your feelings, they are valid. But that doesn't mean they're healthy. And it doesn't mean they're going to lead you to where you want to go.
What it does mean is that you experienced something that created a story which gives a basis or that serves as a foundation for your perspective.
And guess what, here's the best part, since you're the one that chose the original meaning, you can choose a new one, you can update your story, to hold the meaning that you desire.
So let's go back to the story of my son breaking his arm, my instinctual response was, it was my fault. I failed my son because I ignored the promptings to go be with my kids. And that meant I am a bad dad, because I ignored my cut off time. The facts are, I ignored the prompting, and I ignored the cut off time.
Everything else – this idea that that meant I failed my son, or that it meant I am a bad dad. Those are perspectives and meanings that I can either choose to accept or reject. I can choose to shame myself and act accordingly. Or I can choose a different perspective that will produce different results.
The truth is, I made a mistake.
I am a dedicated father, who knows better than to give into one more thing. And I can use the heart wrenching image of seeing my wife holding my son's arm as I came down the stairs to remind me that there is no email… no post… no business matter that is more important than being there for my family and keeping my commitments. And because I understand that, I choose to strengthen my resolve and my commitment to living balanced.
Which meaning do you think will serve me better?
Which story which meaning which message? The one that I failed my son, it was my fault, and I'm a bad dad? Or the one that says I made a mistake, I know who I am at my core, and this experience can serve to strengthen my resolve moving forward.
Which meaning will serve me better? Which perspective and which story will serve my family better?
Now, if you are not where you want to be with your time management, then it is most likely because you are holding on to a story or a perspective that is not serving you.
I don't know if that goes back to your mom or dad saying they were going to leave you behind if you don't hurry up. And then you get in the car and the whole drive to church or to school or the store. They're just lecturing you on why are we always waiting on you? Why are you always the last one? Why are you always so late? Maybe you had an experience like that.
Or maybe it was an old teacher or a previous boss, that would give you that dirty look. And they'd shake their head in disappointment anytime you were not perfectly focused on your task at hand. Look, it could be a lot of things.
But there's one thing you can do right now to fix how you manage your time.
And it's super simple.
So listen close.
You may have had a memory come to mind as we've been talking. Or you may have no idea. But either way, the solution is as easy as updating the meaning of your story, or write a new story if you can't think of one from your past.
It's as easy as updating your perspective to one that will serve you.
So how do we do that?
First, what message about how you manage your time do you want to update? What does the new message say?
If your old message says, I'm always the last one, I always take the longest to do things. If that's your old message. What do you want the new message to say? What do you want your new identity to be?
Second, how can you update your story to fit this new perspective – to fit this updated message that you want to have?
Now if you have a story for your past, even as recent as the one that I shared from a few weeks prior to recording this – does something need to change in the story?
Do you need to tell your old teacher you understand you were tardy three days in a row but that doesn't make you a bad student? Do you need to tell your teacher that you're continually learning how to strengthen your morning routine to be punctual?
Sometimes you can create this ideal version of what you would like to have happen. Our brains are so powerful that when we recreate the ideal story, we can rewire ourselves to have that need met.
That doesn't mean it changes reality.
I can't suddenly say, “oh, in my ideal version, I would have got up right away when I knew it was time to keep that commitment. And in my new story, I did go downstairs and nothing happened.”
Look, we're not changing reality. But what we are changing is we're meeting a need.
And the need I had was to keep my commitment and be with my family when I said I was going to be with them. In my mind, I can create what's gonna happen next time, or if I'm in that situation again.
And I can picture myself keeping the commitment that is in line with the message and meaning I want to have about myself and my ability to manage my time.
This also works if you have no idea what past story needs to be updated, cool, pick something that could happen in your present day that will reinforce the updated meaning that you want to carry.
This is as simple as two steps.
Step number one, choose the message meaning or story that will best support your goals.
And step two, update your story to reflect your ideal self, and the new message and meaning that will support your goals.
In summary of what we talked about, if you ever want to manage or apply your time in a way that supports a balanced life, then you must update your stories. Otherwise, the faulty stories you carry are chains that hold you down and keep you from making progress with how you manage your time.
Choose the message that is in line with your goals on time management, then update your story to meet that need.
Your mind is powerful. It can create new neuron pathways simply by offering that old version of yourself what it needs to know that it's okay to move on.
This is not whoo, whoo. It's science. It's psychology. It is proven that the brain works this way.
So go update your stories to reflect your new perspective on how you can effectively manage your time to live a balanced life.
And, as always, keep moving forward.