Overcome a “lack of time” challenge

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If you’re reading this, it’s because you somehow found or made the time. Regardless of why or how you found the time, the fact is that you did find or make the time.

Did you go to the grocery store recently? If so, you found or made the time for that. Did you shop online, go to dinner, text a friend, walk outside or exercise? For many of us the answers are yes, yes, every day, of course and absolutely. Which begs the question… when we are all so busy, how were we able to find or make the time to do these things?

It’s because to the person, they are all important things.

To tell you that “our lives are busier than ever” would be a ridiculously redundant statement. Each of us knows first-hand that life today is beyond intense. We feel it in our own daily experiences and hear it repeatedly from research, reports, and news and current events. The world is exhausted, stressed, burned out, sleep-deprived and running on empty.

But we still have 24 hours in each day, and your time is still your time. As adults, we have the responsibility – or the opportunity – to divvy up our time the way it works best for us. And with that responsibility comes choices and maybe a few “givens” – the things we automatically do and may not even actively think about “adding” into the day. A few of my “givens” every day are working, sleeping, eating and family time. Your list might look different from mine, but you probably have a “givens” list too. The point is that most of us are able to prioritize and determine what lands on our “givens” list. But…do the things that we deem most “important” ─ the places where we decide to invest our time each day ─ consume all 24 of our waking hours?

What’s on your “givens” list today? What are you doing with the rest of your time?

Step 1: Review your “givens” list

Five years ago, I 100% believed that my day was jam packed with absolutely no time left for any other important activities. Then my world fell apart. My dad became ill and my mom soon followed. I watched in horror as the strongest people I knew in the world needed more and more help for daily activities. While their spirits remained strong, their physical strength did not. It was not only horribly painful, gut-wrenching and heartbreaking to watch, it was a stark wake-up call that if I didn’t make significant changes in my own health, this could be my likely future. I was terrified, but motivated. I decided to make changes.

Somehow, I either found or made time in my own, over-scheduled 24-hour days to shift my priorities. I added “health and exercise” to my personal “givens” list. Now, working exercise into a few days each week is a priority. Whether it’s Body Pump, Zumba, yoga, walking, weights or even the dog park, I schedule it and I do it. Taking control and taking action has made a real difference in how I feel, my outlook and my future health and fitness. Focusing a bit more on specific actions, whether they’re small and subtle or more overt, is a worthy investment of my precious and limited time and energy to support both the current and future me. I’ve only lost a few of the pesky unwanted pounds many of us have, but I gained a bushel basket full of other benefits.

Why would any other “important” area be any different?

Step 2: Stop Blaming time

In my years as a learning and development and communications professional, working across industries from education, to manufacturing, to the sciences, I often hear reasons why people choose to not invest their time learning a new skill or actively working to improve their current professional skills. And over the years, some of the reasons I’ve heard are truly fantastical in nature. Think “the dog ate my homework” on a really grand scale. But recently, the most often repeated go-to reason is the simple lack of time. I am frequently told that people have “no time” in any day to dedicate to learn, to grow or in many cases, to even think about their future selves. As a group, folks are working “24/7” and they’re exhausted, stressed, burned out, sleep-deprived and running on empty.

And while I fully believe and agree with the “exhausted, stressed, burned out, sleep-deprived, running on empty” part, I actually don’t agree with the fact that there is “no time” in any day for skill-building, personal improvement and professional growth.

As adults, most of us have the gift and privilege of making choices, the personal power to do what we need to survive and thrive, and the grace of the ability to decide what is and what is not important in each day. This is truly a gift. And with this gift, whether consciously or not, each of makes our own list of “givens.” Our list may change over time, and remaining flexible to adapt to life’s curveballs and drop-kicks is crucial, but we do have a list. We also have the ability to reprioritize and adjust our list of things that we feel are most important. If an area is important enough, it will make it to the list, and the less important things will fall off. After all, there are still only 24 hours in a day.

So, for those who explain there’s no time to dedicate to learning, I can’t fit it into my day, I don’t see how it’s possible to build skills with my fast-paced life… that’s because it is just not important to you. Which again is totally fine – we all have our own priorities. But let’s be honest and call it what it is. Stop placing the blame on the lack of time, and begin taking accountability for choosing how to invest your time.

Step 3: Dream Big ─ Start Small

Can you find a few minutes each day?

Just like with my exercise routine, every little bit helps. Weaving 10-15 minutes of skill-building or learning into your day genuinely adds up over time and can make a huge impact on your skills and ability to do your job now and to start future-proofing yourself from potential obsolescence. That small 15 minutes each day for 3 days is 45 minutes, for a month it’s 300 minutes and for a year it’s 3,600!  Do the math and see how much skill building and growth you could see by investing a few minutes each day. Just think what you could accomplish!

Concerned that this time will impact your work or personal life? You bet it will…in amazing ways that you may not have even considered. People who focus on continually improving and being their best are more engaged at work, more collaborative, they have higher levels of job satisfaction and they’re more productive overall. They have the mindset to grow and are building the skill set to achieve. In many cases, these same folks generally have better relationships with others (at work or outside of work too) and are able to connect and work cross-functionally more effectively to solve problems and innovate. The higher level of engagement often helps these individuals to be more aware of what’s happening at work and seek out opportunities to get involved…and those are the folks who stand up and stand out.

So, own your priorities, choices and decisions, whatever they are. Build your own list of important items and “givens,” have the flexibility to adjust or pivot when you need to and think of the possibilities for your own growth when you shift, ever so slightly, and find a few minutes in each day to focus on you.

About the author

Terri Souder-Basa
Director, Learning & Development, Curia

Terri Souder-Basa is a learning and communications professional, working across industries for over 20 years, privileged to support amazing people to continually grow.

Terri has a bachelor’s degree in Communications (BS) from Miami University, a Master’s degree in Education (M.Ed), with an adult emphasis, and an Instructional Design certificate from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. She is Adobe-trained in the art and science of visual communications, and at the Center for Creative Imaging (Camden, Maine).

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