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Time Management is Choice Management

By Christine Palen

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Tick…tock…tick…tock…  The clock hands move forward and another day begins.  A popular poem shares, “Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  Today is a gift.  That’s why it’s called the “present.”

But how many of us feel that we’ve been given the gift of another day?  Do we stop to smell the roses or rush by them ignoring their vibrant colors and fragrance?  Do we acknowledge the red tones in the sky as the sun sets, or instead are our faces buried into the computer screen frantically trying to answer one last email?

Time is essentially about choice.  We cannot manage or control time.  The clock ticks away at the same twenty-four hours a day for each one of us.  If someone has a twenty-fifth hour out there, please share the secret formula!  David Allen of Getting Things Done® says, “You don’t manage five minutes and wind up with six…The key to managing all of your ‘stuff’ is managing your actions.”  In essence, we can only manage ourselves - our activities, events, actions and choices.

The phrase “Time Management,” I believe, is a misnomer.  In its place, I use “Choice Management” because life is all about the choices we make.  It’s about the people, places and things that we say yes and no to and our attitude as we walk down the path of life.  Our choices are what define us.  Being at choice is the key for having a fulfilling life.

Choice is proactive not reactive.  Choice denotes responsibility.  Choice involves planning, commitment & action.  When we have intention and can see the benefits, we can schedule the calendar accordingly and make permanent changes or habits.  We can choose how we want to spend our day – what goals we want to accomplish and what priorities matter most to us.  

When we clarify our choices, we can then focus on those things - projects, actions, environments and relationships -that move us forward.  Much of my client work involves setting up customized systems to handle this.

The pace of daily life has rapidly increased since the invention of the computer and all the handheld devices; thus it requires stronger tactics to stay focused and relaxed.  The calendar and to do systems that you had in place last year or even last month may no longer be working for you.  It might be time for a change.  iCal or paper calendar?  Android or iPhone?  Yellow pads or sticky notes? 

Any of these are fine as long as they support you 100% with managing your choices.  When you look at your To Do systems, the goal is to know exactly what your priorities are for the day, week, month and even the year ahead.

There is a dark side to choice.  Let’s compare it to the Vegas-style all-you-can-eat buffets.  You’ve just loaded your plate from the first table, then cross the room and find yet three more tables laden with food.  The choices seem endless. 

Just as our society provides us with so many opportunities about how to spend our time, energy and money, so do we need to sharpen our choice mindset and say yes to what we want and no to what we don’t want.  Yes to the savory brie crepe, no to the fresh tomato tarte.  Both are wonderful choices, yet our plate is full.  By piling more on, we feel worse not better. 

Constant interruptions also present a challenge when it comes to choices. Our strength is our ability to respond proactively.  Surprises can be opportunities and spontaneity is a leadership attribute for the 21st century.  With the abundance of information coming at us daily, it is imperative for us to have clear choices and be able to handle the unexpected. 

We ask ourselves, is this interruption or surprise more important than what we were doing at the time?  Do we say yes and switch directions from the task at hand or do we say no?  This is strategic thinking.  Different outcomes await your answer.  Stephen Covey nicely stated, “To ignore the unexpected (even if it were possible) would be to live without opportunity, spontaneity, and the rich moments of which life is made.”

With clarity of choice comes clarity of mind.  When we’re at choice, we are human beings rather than human doings.  We are present in the moment.  We can stop and plant the roses.  We can watch the sun set…slowly.

Tick...tock…tick…tock…what choices are you making today?

© 2008-2013 Christine R. Palen. All rights reserved.