Make Your Time Count By Nailing It Down To Concrete Events

26 July 2011, by A. Cedilla

Here’s what I want to say:

  • Find concrete images of what you want to have, achieve or be in your lifetime, and distill them. For example, you want “a happy life.” That’s too vague. What does “a happy life” mean for you and to you? You want good work or a good job, and that means what? Making good money means what? Good health, good relationships…what images or scenarios do these things bring to your mind when you think of them?
  • Once you have your answers, break them down to real events and real-world numbers. Both should be livable, achievable and fiercely alive in your visions.
  • With those as clear goals, work your way back. Make a time-line and pretend you already achieved them:” If this is what I have, what did I do to get here where I have these things in my life, accomplished these things, am this content?” Focus on the answers that come up, and work your way backward in the time-line.

This exercise lets you see the life and lifestyle you want and shows you what you could do to get it, instead of letting your current circumstances dictate your future and your life for you.

Where did this come from?
For someone who often feels like a slave to the calendar, I missed out on more than a few important things because they’ve seemed so far off, I forgot about them until they were breathing down my neck, sending me scrambling.

I’ve also spent hours planning out and writing down my various fitness goals, financial goals and de-cluttering goals…then realizing weeks and months have passed by without me doing anything about them. Where did the time go?

Quick answer: it went on the same way it always has. It was my attention that kept wandering off.

It’s Tuesday, so you must do laundry. Okay. That’s fine…and there’s the quarterly consult with the accountant, so you have to prep all your accounting, expenses and receipts, sure. You got time for that…Plus you have to make a quick run for an ATM withdrawal, passing by the supermarket on the way back to pick up some groceries and whatnot.

Then something comes up, you know, the regular stuff that pops up and throws rocks at your pretty little plans, poking holes in your flowcharts and then — Holy crap it’s your anniversary/ your mother-in-law’s birthday/ the end-of-month presentation. Or in my case: My investment goals! My push-ups and jump-rope and stretches! My overflowing shelves *looks around* Where did the year go?

And I’m not the only one. Years can pass while you keep saying you’ll see to it soon, just not now.

Question: How can one make the best use of all that time passing by?
Answer: Anchor your attention to a solid center, then work from the inside out.

Chronos is linear time, kairos is open time, where special things happen. Everyone experiences different kinds of “time”, but a common reaction to a surprise (unwelcome or forgotten) event is “What-what-WHAT? It’s that time already?”

Some events become so commonplace you accept them as normal. You get used to them. These events fade to the common rhythm of your days, if not exactly into the background. This is where time can slip away, in routine and general inattention, the old day-in-and-day-out.

One exercise that can help bring you back to the center of your life is to think of all the important things you want to accomplish in it. Not just a promotion, or a raise for example, but for what that promotion or raise might mean for you. A better life for yourself? OK, but better how? A promotion is only one way to get a better life, and it’s not even a guarantee.

Mark big chunks of time down by important goals and then count backward. Seeing how much time is left gives you a visceral understanding right in the pit of your stomach, one that can kick-start the changes you need to make and fuel the long process of getting them done.

  • If you know in X months a new baby will arrive, what do you do?
  • If know your kid will go to kindergarten next year, what will you need?
  • If you want to go to the next level in your business — assuming you’ve pinned down what that would mean for you and your family, what steps will you take, and when?

Anchoring time to concrete events roots them solidly into your life. Two years is twenty-four months, sure, sure. But Baby Number Two in seven months is REAL. Kindergarten next year is REAL. That’s coming and you can’t stop it, or move out of the way. So you move today — making it count– to make it easier on yourself tomorrow. You take the time you have left before D-Day, or D-Month, or D-Year, and MOVE to make the necessary arrangements happen.

It’s easier to think about things rather than act on them, especially if they seem “far off”. What demands our immediate attention are like little sparks we put out, while a smoldering bushfire is waiting just over the hill. Set things up to attend to important goals and events properly, and the steps you need to take. Don’t wait it out or wait it off, as in an off-position. Ignoring important stuff won’t make them go away.

For example: People can have trouble saving for retirement because it’s too far off. They can’t see the value of time and compound interest because it doesn’t ping their radar. It’s not immediate. But it is important. These two articles at Get Rich Slowly can explain why.

Things that are REAL matter to you (The Velveteen Rabbit gives good advice). They may very well be hard to achieve, but spreading the difficulty out over time in small batches, marked by milestones – X number of weeks to Baby Two, X months to enrollment…that time can help dial down the pain-meter, as long as you commit to taking the steps needed to get closer and closer to your real goals.

Make a time-line: Have a wall calendar tracking your actions
Mental time slips away very easily — oddly enough, it can act like pebbles in the works, grinding you down, or slipping away silently like sand without your notice. The urgent fades away to be replaced by a new emergency, while important things are pushed to the back ground, some of them languishing far past their best-if-done-by date.

Push things even further out.
Moving with the scenario we presented: With two kids under five, how will you budget for school and various expenses (Like dental and doctor’s visits, clothes and school supplies), as well as your own expenses and that of your spouse, and the household? What about setting up specific savings goals for education? High school and college are a long way off, so the earlier you save, the better. What about your retirement? What do you do with your life?

Try not to get stuck at the theories and planning stage, the so-called “pre-launch.” Make it a point to go for action and learn from experience, because your goals and visions need you to make them real. Your ideas don’t take one weight and breadth and presence until you give them the stone-cold focus that they deserve, and that is done through thoughtful, timely action, not plans alone.

Time passes, but it’s your mind and your choices that determine whether you’re using your life-time to make the best of your life.

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