Passenger or Driver? [An excerpt from my new book, It’s Not About Time]

WHAT DO YOU WANT? Do you want to halt the busyness commandeering your life? Replace overwhelmed with control and balance? Or maybe you’d like to have more time with the people and endeavors that matter to you? Perhaps you’d like to explore, discover, and embrace life’s wonders? Or, write that book, coach your child’s soccer team, volunteer in the community, reach career aspirations, go back to school, start your own business, or exercise more?

Think hard. What do you want? Do you want to be engaged in your life’s work, live well, feel great, share joys with the love of your life, raise wonderful children, contribute to your community, change the world or at least your part of it, and live your life’s potential? Don’t we all!

Sure, in the big scheme of things we do want those things, or ones like them. But in a world-of-overwhelmed, that seems too lofty. Maybe what you want, right now, is just more sleep, a walk in the woods, or an uninterrupted conversation with a friend? Or maybe it’s time to organize that closet that’s bugging you, read the novel you got for your birthday, or experience two unscheduled hours to do whatever you’d like?

The reality is our wants and our time demands collide. Like the ebb and flow of life, the time we have to pursue our desires, or even our basic wants like enough sleep, fluctuate. When there isn’t enough time to do it all, have it all, see it all, embrace it all, or control it all, we realize the results we want require a few top tier choices. One of those is the choice to make the art of self-managing a primary focus.

Bottom line: whatever you want won’t be accomplished by merely enhancing your time management skills. You likely already have those basics for scheduling, priority setting, and meeting obligations. You already know, or your good wisdom nudges you, that in this era where work and non-work blur to create “your life,” getting results isn’t about how much time you have.

You’re granted the same number of hours every day as your coworker down the hall or your neighbor up the street. It isn’t even how productive or efficient you become. You can be great at managing time and getting things done, but still not flourish with well-being, reach your career aspirations, enjoy great relationships, live your life’s potential, contribute to your world, or accomplish your dreams.

Lack of time is a symptom. Busyness is a symptom. Overwhelmed is a symptom. When these symptoms linger week to week, year to year, it’s not a time problem you’re having, it’s a choice problem. And the first choice you need to make is deciding who’s in charge of your life.

Our choices determine whether we run our life, or our life runs us. And we do have choices. It may not seem like that when we’re overwhelmed and can’t see the tunnel, let alone a light at its end, or deeply mired in to-do-mud, attempting to spread our too-little-time on our too-much to-do pile.

When that happens, we typically seek time-equivalent antibiotics–efficiency apps, email filters, more hours, and promising productivity tips–to treat the growing symptoms of too much to do and too little time to do it in. These temporary fixes hold for awhile, but soon we’re at it again, seeking new ways to “stop the bleeding,” never realizing time-management wasn’t our real problem.

To solve the I-don’t-have-enough-time problem requires mentally stepping away to elevate your thinking. Start by making the first of four 30,000 foot operating choices — passenger or driver?

Who and/or what is driving the choices you make? People who thrive and get the results they want choose to drive, not be a passenger, in their own lives. They view time as life’s non-renewable currency, and carefully decide how to spend, invest, and enjoy it. By self-managing from the inside out, these drivers allocate their time carefully, understanding their life as a reflection of their choices.

They make time for the people they love, the passions they have, and work that uses their uniqueness. They focus on the results, goals, and life-dreams they desire, rather than accepting what comes their way. They do, while others talk of doing. They plan their day, while others let their day plan them. And they motivate themselves, while others wait for someone or something to motivate them.

For people who choose to be drivers, it’s not about the time they have; it’s about the choices they make in how to use it. Of course, there are choices that matter to us and choices that don’t; own-life-drivers know the difference. Sometimes and about some things, we passenger on someone else’s trip, but for drivers it’s a reflective choice.

It’s simpler to think it’s all happening on the outside; that you’re the passenger in an out of control world with stuff coming at you 24/7/365. It’s easier to follow the busy-busy-busy herd, wearing busyness like a badge of success, checking your phone on average 150 times a day even while shopping, driving, meeting, eating, or just walking around, as if that next text you think you have to answer–right now–is going to change the world. Well, it’s not.

In the scheme of things, I get it; I’ve been there. It’s harder and riskier to choose to be a driver in your own life–to own actions and results; to empower yourself; to maybe fail and not achieve your dreams or not succeed at the things you say really matter to you. Still, we only get one life. Passenger or driver?

[Excerpted, with publisher permission, from It’s Not About Time: How to Thrive and Get the Results You Want at Work and in Life! by Nan S. Russell, Lisa Hagan Books, January 2017.]

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