Time and How to Manage It

Originally published on October 10, 2018 in the Montrose Daily Press.

As can be expected with parenthood and a full-time job, life has become a bit hectic in the Rosty household. I grasp for time and struggle to get it all done, and I constantly tell myself something has to give. But what? Last week, I had the honor of giving a presentation at Heidi’s for the Forum. As the emcee introduced me, she read my biography including a list of the four boards I currently sit on. In a moment where I wanted to be proud, I felt shame instead. Four boards?! With a full time job, and a new baby at home?

Later that day, I looked at my calendar. It was full of meetings with very little time for “actual work,” thinking, planning or connecting with my teammates. How do I fix this? “How many lifeboats have you seen?” I could hear my dad’s voice in my head. A question he often asks when I’m facing a problem to which I think there is no solution. I thought back over the past several weeks: At least two. Was this the final one before I drown?

If you’re like me, possibly drowning in the flood of commitments, let’s see if we can find our way out of it and onto dry land:

1. Identify what is most important to you. Things that fall into these categories should not be compromised from a time standpoint. Perhaps your grandchild plays baseball every Saturday and it is important to you (and her) that you be there. Taking on a volunteer commitment or job that takes you away from the games will not only disappoint one little girl, but will build resent toward the commitment over time.

Of course there are concessions. Having dinner with my family every night is extremely important to me. If a commitment I make takes me away from that one night per month, I can likely live with it. If it becomes three to five, perhaps not.

2. Try a time audit. I can’t take credit for this one; wouldn’t you know this was a “lifeboat” sent by a dear friend a couple weeks ago. We manage what we measure. Ever tracked the food you eat? Your finances? Time, like anything, is more manageable when told where to go. Spend a week or so writing down exactly how you spend your 24 hours. Don’t forget time spent on social media, watching TV, or the like.

Let’s say for instance we want to spend an hour walking with our spouse three times a week. Yet, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time. A time audit will find 15 minutes here and there adding up to three hours per week.

3. Why? Once we’ve nailed down how we are spending our time, it is time to ask “why/what” at least three times for each major commitment.

“Why do you serve on Board xyz?”

Because I really care about xyz.

“Why do you care about xyz?”

Xyz buys shoes every year for kids who may not otherwise have them. My father grew up with very little. He had to work starting at a young age and sometimes barely had enough money to help put food on the table for his family, let alone shoes on his feet.

“What else about xyz makes it worth giving up 10 hours per month?”

You get the idea.

4. Grade your effectiveness. Along with the time audit identifying all the commitments, and the “why” behind our commitments, now looking at the amount of contribution we bring to each commitment may serve both us and the commitment. If I am volunteering on four boards, are each of them receiving the best of me? Maybe they are and that’s great. And maybe not. You know the philosophical question, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

If you walk out on this commitment, does it make a sound? In other words, will your contribution be missed, or is this more of a placeholder in your life? We all have our individual answers for our individual journeys.

Time is valuable. It is one of the greatest gifts we’ll ever give and ever receive. It is finite and should be spent wisely and not all in one place, but not in too many places either. Time should be the one place we are pessimistic. For it is actually optimism making us think we will have enough time, but we never do. Let’s fill the time with more things that fill our hearts and less things that fill our calendars.

Chelsea Rosty is the director of business innovation for The City of Montrose. She can be reached at crosty@ci.montrose.co.us.