Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Map Your Time

Keeping Dreams Alive...

Julie Morgenstern on the powerful tool of time management.

In The Midst Of Responsibility.

So far this month, I've presented several ideas for achieving all your intentions for this year and years to come. At this point, what I hope I've made clear is that you are in control and it all boils down to your choices, because your choices are the building blocks to how you deal with those aspects of life, which can't be controlled.  This way, when something blindsides you, you have a foundation set for coping with its challenges, as best you can.

The choices of how you use and view your time are the best ways to steer yourself towards the goals you are intending to manifest.  We all have to choose to spend our time doing things to provide for ourselves and our families, and here's where time management can be a huge, life changing tool.  When it comes to time management, professional organizer and life coach Julie Morgenstern has the best approach I've ever seen. Her perspective on the management of time has changed my life quite profoundly.

Finding the balance between work, family and manifesting personal goals is a dilemma that we all face. On one hand, our society touts family values as the most important facet of our culture. On the other hand, you can’t provide what your family needs without your job, and it’s difficult to keep a job if you don’t do it properly, so time is often spent at home finishing up the work day, which cuts into family time. How do yo manifest your own personal goals and intentions in the midst of all this responsibility? 

Enter organizational expert Julie Morgenstern. Best known for her ability to organize home and office space, Morgenstern has applied her organizational techniques to the concept of time management in her best selling book, Time Management from the Inside Out. The result is a model of time management, which takes  our big pile of responsibilities and personal goals, and "declutters" them.  She teaches where to place each task so that we begin to see how easy it is to create balance between our responsibilities and our dreams.

In her book, Morgenstern explains in great detail how to apply her philosophy of S.P.A.C.E. to the concept of organizing time. With each letter representing a different task involved in effective organizing, she guides the reader to Sort, Purge, Assign a home, Containerize and Equalize his or her time. Though some of these tasks don’t seem to apply to time, it is Morgenstern’s innovative approach to living a balanced life which opens the reader’s eyes to a new way of viewing how time is viewed and used.

Morgenstern first asks the reader to determine the aspects of life they feel are most important; what they value most in life. Then the reader is asked to list their life goals (intentions). This is where her system differs from traditional time management models. Morgenstern directs the reader to place life goals within the major “life categories” they consider crucial for balanced living. These categories and goals are to time management as beautiful wicker baskets and functional shelves are to clutter organization.

By using her own “life category” examples, Morgenstern creates a sample “Time Map” for the reader, with blocks of time dedicated to each category. This is the concept which changed the way I viewed my time and choices. Morgenstern uses the example of house cleaning as family time, because when the task is finished your family is left with “a warm welcoming home.” What at first appears to be a burdensome chore is transformed into a period of time spent towards the greater value of family.

The “Time Map” makes it easier to create a more balanced life by allowing you to see what “life categories” your goals and their tasks (choices), fall into. It also makes it easy to get a grip on time wasters as well as seeing where extra time might be available in your day.

 My Time Map - Each color represents a Life Category/value.
Within each Category are goals/intentions. I organize the tasks/choices
that will get me to my goal and enter them in the scheduler
on my cell phone or post them on the family calendar.

Of course following this new plan is not possible 100% of the time, which is where the final task of equalizing comes in. Morgenstern stresses that realistically you will follow your plan only 80% of the time. Some days may be higher, some days may be lower. Therefore you will need to be flexible and understand that you will have to let some things go and reschedule them for later. For example, if you scheduled alone time for Sunday morning and your child is sick, you are obviously going to have to let it go. You may find that you will be able to find some alone time later in the day by having your husband make dinner. As she says, you will be assessing and equalizing all day long, but when things calm down, you are left with a guide as to what you should be doing now that the emergency has been tended to.

As time goes on, what you value and what you're working to manifest will vary.  Consequently, how your "Time Map" reflects this will change as well. As life progresses, your Time Map will help you see where new responsibilities and goals fit in. The tasks and responsibilities that make up your daily life will now fit into a larger plan; “your activities will support your goals.”

So, get started on creating your own "Time Map"! Be sure you keep your dreams alive in the midst of your responsibilities!  I just used Microsoft Excel to create mine, but if you are a more tactile person, get out some poster board and design your own.

  • What do you value?  What life categories need to be a part of your foundation for a balanced life? These are the "Containers" you will use to organize your intentions and choices.
  • What are your intentions?  What are your dreams and desires?  What do you like about your life and what do you wish to change?  Goals in the traditional time management models.
  • What specific tasks or choices do you need to spend your time doing in order to make your dreams a reality? And what tasks and choices do you need to make to address your life categories?  The "To Do" list in the traditional time management models.
  • Be realistic.  This is a guide.  Life will always send things your way that you did not choose or schedule.  When things settle down, you'll have a "Map" to refer to, instead of a "To Do" list, giving you the room to make the best choice for your time, right now.

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