You Don’t Have Time To Read This Blog

Alright, so here you are, reading this anyways. Go figure. I am telling you, right off the bat, you don’t have the time. Show’s how much you listen.

What? You’re still here? Alright, consider this: If you are lucky enough to NOT be one of the 3.9 Million folks who are now unemployed, chances are your workload has increased, as you have watched many of your colleagues fall by the wayside. The amount of work has not changed, there are just less people doing the same amount. Your 40 hour workweek just became 50. Oh, and perhaps you took a cut in pay to boot. What a deal. In very round numbers, if you and 9 of your friends are in a room together, 1 of you is no longer employed, through no real fault of your own. Yes, I realize that is 10%, and the current number is more like 7, but asking you to think of 100 of your closest friends in a room together would probably make your teeth itch, so I’m trying to simplify things.

Let’s add the other things you’re thinking about these days. Let’s start with your home value. That probably just went down the tubes. If you’re lucky enough to still have a reasonable amount of equity AND a job, perhaps you can try to refinance. Rates are great. I’m attempting that, myself. The real benefit is that, with the banks and mortgage companies in the boats they’re in (I won’t rehash what’s been all over every semi-credible news agency for the better part of the last year), they have not been immune to the massive reductions in force (read: layoffs), so they have many fewer people to shoulder the burden. The burden, in this case, is MORE people trying to refinance their mortgages, and the need by the mortgage companies to have the process be more indepth to ensure that they are not making the same mistakes that got them into this economic situation in the first place.

Retirement accounts? Are you serious? Retirement for nearly every person in the US just got pushed back about 5-10 years. The economy will recover, probably in 2010 or 2011, fully, but we will never regain the value we lost when we had to sell low to live off the principle of some of our investments. For those of you who were within a few years of retirement, wow.

Let’s add the regular stress of balancing our work life with our out of work life (the part we’re supposed to like, but we’re too stressed about other things, so we’re sniping at our loved ones), and getting the kids to soccer and ballet and balancing the grocery budget, and worrying about when we actually bought that jar of peanut butter that may or may not have been recalled. Now that gas is once again cheaper than milk (for now), we at least have some brief sigh of relief, although I believe it will be somewhat short-lived.

It’s never a bad time to revisit (or for many, to create) personal goals. No, “surviving” does not count as a goal, although even THAT is a stretch for some, these days. I mean about figuring out exactly WHAT you are going to do with yourself, and I mean for the rest of your life.

“I don’t have the time to plan this stuff out, I need to take one day at a time.” This is something that I hear pretty frequently, and I do understand. The problem with that statement is that taking it “one day at a time” for too long becomes akin to driving “one mile at a time”, without really having a destination. Would you jump into a cab in downtown DC and throw $100 at the cabbie, and say “Take me for a ride”? You bet he would. Yet, for those of us living without specific goals and direction in life, that is exactly what we are doing.

I am not going to try to give you Time Management skills in a blog. However, I assure you that it revolves around a bigger plan than getting to that meeting, or finishing that project on time. Not many of us get to our retirement party and wish we’d spent more time at the office.

Time Management begins with very broad goals and direction, discovering who you are now, and deciding who you want to be. The gap between the two becomes the formation for your personal goal setting. Within that personal goal setting, you would establish annual, monthly, and even weekly goals. Behind that, your day-to-day activities should all contribute to those goals.

Certain things that land in my calendar become permanent, immovable objects. Non-negotiables, if you will. Examples of the immovable objects in my calendar are my kids’ sporting events. This may seem pretty benign to most, but when your kid has a 6pm soccer game, and your boss says you need to stay late that night……what are you going to say “no” to? Chances are, you fear for your job right now, and don’t want to feel expendable.There will be other soccer games, right?

Let me share with you a brief story that, while not really life changing (I had a pretty good idea of what my personal goals and strategies were at the time), really drove the point home for me. A few years ago, my dad and I were at a baseball game out in California. First game we had attended together in probably 20 years, due to schedules, and living in different time zones, and so on. As the game went on, we were talking about my oldest son, and how I really enjoyed seeing him playing in sports like I did. My oldest was only 5 at the time, and my dad is not one to give advice, especially unsolicited. That’s my mom’s department, and she gives enough unsolicited advice for several zip codes. However my dad then said that he would suggest that I never miss a single sporting event in my child’s life. I shared with him that I did not intend to, and I really wanted to make as many games as I could. My dad then said, “No, you need to be at every game. To this day, I have never forgiven myself for missing your first Home Run because I was at a damn class in Orange County. It was that night I began laying plans out to get out of the business I was in, and become my own boss”.

Now, in that I was no all star hitter, I hit all of four home runs in my entire youth baseball career. I stunk at soccer, but did score one disputed goal out of 3 that our pathetic team scored the entire only season I played. Football was better, and I have several touchdowns and good plays to my credit, but my dad missed my first Home Run. I shared with him that he saw the others, and I really never thought anything of it, since I was 12 at the time. While he appreciated my comments, he said he still never forgave himself.”

I never plan on putting myself in the same position, where 25 years later, I have regrets about missing something big in my childrens lives. So, they get pretty much top priority. In my oldest’s second year in soccer, he had a game where he scored nine goals. NINE. Two of them were headers. Now, since he was 6 at the time, I have not yet drawn up the contracts to send him off to AC Milan or Chelsea, but he was still pretty pleased with himself, and so was I. I feel pretty comfortable in saying that, unless he plays basketball (never a strong suit in our gene pool) he will probably not score or do nine of ANYTHING in a game, lest he be off to the pros.

My point? Well, if you’ve read this far, I’ve either struck a nerve, or you’re really bored. My point is that you begin with your time management by managing your SELF. Once you have your SELF under control, you can begin to organize the things around you, and have a greater understanding for how to prioritize your weekly (and, in some cases, daily) activities.

Oh, and when it comes to your boss asking you to stay late when your kid has a soccer game……a good manager realizes that a happy employee produces better work. We all still have deadlines, and we have to get our work done, but through proper planning and prioritization, you CAN have it all, even now.