No one revels in the art of taking smart shortcuts more than yours truly. You know the one that leads from point A to D with expedience and without sacrificing quality. It's a thrilling thing! And when you master it, there is no turning back. The sheer delight in increased efficiency, timely
turnarounds and NOT wasting time is, "in short" -- phenomenal!
The convenience industry which characterizes much of society today includes a fulsome range of neat businesses and "hard-to-live-without" services running the gamut. From healthy daily meal preparation with delivery to your door, to grocery shopping online and the endless variety of cleaning services, personal trainers, landscaping artists -- the list goes on and on.
Then there are the veritably endless apps that can conveniently keep you honest with food intake and weight loss, sleep trackers and the enabling gifts of all kinds to magically appear at the front door of family and friends marking a special occasion -- and within swipe or click or tap range, or flashing from a wearable device. It's truly head-spinning material.
Which brings me to a newly discovered convenience, one that may very revolutionize an entire industry: buying a car -- from loan to purchase -- entirely ONLINE. Honestly, I found the concept truly amazing. Making one of the largest purchases one has to make in their life, using the click, tap, swipe method. Whoa!
It all got me thinking, as I watched my 16-year-old son climb into the gleaming taupe-coloured Driver's Education car, with the instructor in the passenger seat, poised to begin the lesson.
The convenience industry has definitely enabled efficiency to a large extent which means in theory we should be able to spend more time doing more of what we love and hopefully less time, doing the opposite. That should presumably give us more time to chase those creative pursuits, do more of what brings up happiness, free up time to spend on what matters --- family, friends, fitness, faith, to-do lists before they become bucket lists on a time limit, etc.
For parents, being able to tap into some of what makes up the convenience industry -- hopefully the free or less-costly things -- should mean freeing up time to spend that ever-elusive "quality" time with our children, spouses and partners.
But does it? Or do we somehow resist the benefits of the convenience industry and fill up that newly gained time with more stuff -- that "stuff" that renders us all busy, ALL.THE. TIME. The B word that forms the common refrain to questions like: How've you been? How is life treating you? What have you been up to?
Time management is an ongoing odyssey for many of us, but for parents, it must be mastered quickly and on an ongoing basis as a matter of pure survival. Working parents understand this best. No time to waste. The clock is ticking. Drop-offs, pick-ups, schedules, nap time, calendars, activities, snack, meal and potty time, and of course timeouts. The clock whirrs.
While we cannot stop the clock, despite many valiant efforts to attempt such a feat, we could try to outsmart it. Perhaps stealing time -- precious moments, priceless seconds, an hour here and there -- truly leveraging the age of convenience that we live in to our own advantage, could offer the best of both worlds: A greater appreciation of living in the now.
I can frequently be heard saying to my children when they respond, "I'll do it later." Whatever IT is. Depending on the importance of the IT, a.k.a. the ask, I'll reply, "Why not do it now, later may not come."
And then there's the priceless magnet on my father-in-law's fridge reads which provides further food for thought and summarizes this concept so well: "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that's why it's called the present."
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Investing time in caring for your health is an obvious one that will certainly yield you more time, literally -- in days, months, if not years tacked on to your life. Yet we often take our health for granted until we experience a wake-up call. Proactively invest your time in your health by eating well, exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep and regularly seeing your doctors. Invest heartily in those non-physical markers of well-being as well: emotional, mental and spiritual health -- you will reap many hours of well-lived life from them. Learn the habits of the Blue Zone people, from the regions in the world where people live the longest. Some common lifestyle traits they share? Building in natural movement and activity, lowering stress and being part of a faith-based community.
There's a little saying that goes, "A stitch in time saves nine." Create the time to make the right stitches, and you'll be spared much time, hassle (and usually expense) later. Stephen Covey refers to this concept in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." According to him, we spend our time primarily on four types of activity: (1) urgent and important (crisis, deadlines, putting out fires) (2) non-urgent and important (building relationships, identifying opportunities, prevention, planning) (3) urgent and non-important (interruptions, phone calls, meetings) (4) non-urgent and non-important (TV, email, time wasters) Covey says that we spend most of our time in sections (1) and (4), but the real area of personal growth is in (2). If you're spending more time putting out fires than building the right foundations, you'll never get out ahead of your to-do list.
Americans could really learn a thing or two about "La Dolce Far Niente," or "the sweetness of doing nothing," something the Italians and many other cultures have mastered. In America, we don't feel our time is well spent unless we're either producing or consuming, says social psychologist Robert V. Levine, author of "A Geography of Time: On Tempo, Culture, and the Pace of Life" -- a limited (and frankly, stressful) perspective. In other parts of the world, such as India, it's normal for people to enjoy each others' company without activity or even conversation. Investing in do-nothing time will help us slow down and experience a different pace of life, in which time's value is not measured by its productivity.
It's well-established in happiness psychology research that making small improvements to your life pays out exponentially in happiness. For example, putting a keyhook by the door so that you don't spend five minutes every morning hunting for your keys. Or rearranging your closet so you can actually see everything, and not spend 20 minutes each morning figuring out what to wear. Or coming up with a better filing system for your digital photos, or your expenses (check out LearnVest's My Money Center), so your personal admin time can be cut in half. Investing some up-front time in creating better, more organized systems will reap you lots of time in the long run.
This is one of those time investments that's so simple, but can yield such great results in your life. In the famous "Good Samaritan" study from Princeton University in 1973, researchers John M. Darley and C. Daniel Batson put an injured person in the path of several groups of people, to see who would stop and help: those running late, those who had just enough time, and those with plenty of time to get to their destination. They also controlled for people's religious affiliation. The results: religious affiliation had no impact on whether the individual stopped to help the person -- but whether the person was in a hurry had a huge impact. Only 10 percent of those in a big hurry stopped to help the person, 45 percent of those in a medium hurry did -- but 63 percent of those not rushed at all stopped to help. This means that being in a rush may be preventing you from being the kind of person you want to be -- the kind to stop and help someone in need. Building in lots of cushion time in your schedule and preventing "constant hurriedness syndrome" is a great investment in yourself and in the quality of life of those around you.
A recent 2010 study published in the Association for Psychological Science found that wealthy people are unhappier because they have a lower "savoring ability" (the ability to enhance and prolong positive emotional experience), like taking in the colors of a sunset or the taste of a cold beer. Apparently, having access to the best things in life may actually undermine your ability to reap enjoyment from life's small pleasures. It's not a coincidence that savoring requires slowing down -- taking a few extra seconds to really look at the colors of the leaves, or munching slowly to enjoy the texture of a bite. Investing time in savoring all the unique sensorial moments of your day will guarantee your moments don't flash by in a dull blur.
You wouldn't keep spending or investing money without assessing how well things were going every month, quarter or year, and the same thing should apply to your time. How frequently you decide to take stock is up to you -- but a good system might be: - Take five minutes a day to make sure you've invested time in at least one thing on this list. - Take 15 minutes a week to review your past week's schedule and what you wish you had made time for, and what time investment made you the happiest. - Take one hour a month (or two to three hours a season) of quiet time with a journal to assess the past season, how your time felt and how you'd like to invest your time in the coming season -- this can pair nicely with the tempo of the period. For example, holidays may mean more family investment time, the new year can be career-focused, summertime may have a big leisure time component, etc. - One day a year of time alone or with a friend or partner (best if you can physically go somewhere peaceful and different from your daily routine), assessing the past year and where your times and energies went, setting goals for the new year, and whether you are closer to achieving what is truly important to you in life.
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