How Do We Spend Our Time?

My Happy Place

Summer is passing quickly, and you may have a lot left that you want to do before fall arrives. Whether you have children who will be back in school soon or whether you are back working physically at an office, most likely you have enjoyed the different pace of the summer. Once fall comes, the holidays are upon us, and our ability to take things slow and easy disappears. It is sometimes easier in the summer to do those things that we put off at busier times of the year. I did one of those yesterday, something I have rarely, if ever, done.

I stripped and painted a cabinet. Well, I stripped the cabinet and my cousin painted it. I planned to finish it today, which would include painting a little more, but my plan changed. More about that later. This physical labor was needed, not because the cabinet needed the stripping and painting, although it did, but it has needed that for quite a while. I needed the physical work to get my mind off the sadness I felt because our daughter and granddaughters left after having been with us for almost a week. It is always so hard when they have been here and leave. The sadness I felt while doing the laundry and putting the house back in order was more than I could handle when they left. I had to get outside and do something physical other than laundry. While the physical labor did not make the sadness go away, it did help.

There are usually more things that we need to get done than there is time available. I know that you know what I mean. How do we choose what to do with our time? While there are some obvious priorities, a lot of what we spend our time doing are not really priorities, but things that just need to get done. But do they need to get done more than those things that are our priorities? And how do we differentiate between the things that are really priorities and things that aren’t? My best answer to this is that we should spend our time on things that matter, based upon our values and goals.

Our values should determine how we spend our time. I had no difficulty prioritizing time with family this  week. Everything else took a back seat when our daughter and granddaughters who live in Georgia were in town. Our daughter who lives in Raleigh and her family were also with us a lot this week, as were other family who live in Raleigh. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, and since that is my happy place, that was fine with me. Since spending time with family is a core value of mine, my priorities were in clear focus. There was nothing else that I needed to do that was more important.

How do goals affect how we spend our time? To me, goals are priorities. We should have written long-term and short-term goals. When focusing on the short-term, we should have monthly, weekly, and daily goals. The focus of goal setting does not need to be complicated. It can be as simple as setting three goals for each day. Think of these goals as priorities. The number three does not need to be thought of as a concrete number. But many more than three goals per day is difficult to manage. And less than three is probably not a sufficient number of priorities. So, three goals per day is a manageable number. If we consistently set and meet three goals/priorities per day, we will accomplish much of what is important to us.  

Our short-term goals should be directly related to our long-term goals. We should set our long-term goals first, then make sure our short-term goals are consistent with those. A quick example. If one of our long-term goals is to be debt free, one of our short-term goals may be to reduce spending. We should quantify the “reduce spending” goal, such as “eliminate all unnecessary spending.” To be successful with this goal, it will be helpful to be even more specific, such as qualify what is “unnecessary spending.”

Back to the cabinet that I planned to finish painting today. That plan changed. Our son-in-law mentioned the possibility of lead-based paint on the cabinet. Sure enough, when I tested it for lead, it was positive. So, there is no need to paint anymore.  And yesterday’s work was wasted effort. Well, not really, since I did accomplish doing something physical to free my mind from the sadness of family leaving.  

But I am not happy about my cabinet, although I did learn a valuable lesson. Before doing work on an old piece of furniture, test for lead.

Now, what should I do with the cabinet?

About Patti Fralix

Patti Fralix inspires positive change in work, life, and family through Speaking, Consulting, and Coaching in three specialty areas: Leadership, Managing Differences, and Customer Service. Her leadership firm, The Fralix Group, Inc., has been helping clients achieve practical and tangible results for twenty-two years.
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