Nancy Conger, CPCC

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Ousting the Time-Stealers

Many of us complain about having "no time." We lead busy, full lives, often feeling rushed and unable to do the things we really want.

What if you could have 2 more hours a day to do only what you love? Well, you can. It means ousting some time-stealers that are built right into the normal day of an American.

To find time for your dreams, eliminate one or more of these things--unless, of course, these activities top the list of what you most want to do in life. If they don't, they are stealing time from more important things:
  • Watching television (average US adult watches 4 hours a day)
  • Browsing mail order catalogues
  • Shopping
  • Excessive grooming (more than 1/2 hour a day in washing, dressing, fixing hair, etc.)
  • Cleaning and laundry (many people iron sheets, vacuum daily, wash towels and clothes after every use, etc. Worth the time? More important than your dreams?)
  • Surfing the Internet (is it what you most want to be doing?)
  • Reading/answering e-mail (do all these people really matter to you? Is it quality communication?)
  • Reading the newspaper (listen to MPR to stay on top of the news while driving, cooking, or exercising. Would that free up time for something you love more than reading the paper?)
  • Talking on the phone (every conversation has a point of diminishing return. Recognize it, and say goodbye.)
  • Browsing magazines (unless it truly helps you pursue your dreams)

Sometimes I'm caught by one of these time-stealers in a sneak attack. Recently I met a friend to go bumming around Uptown. We were glad to see each other and to have a few hours to reconnect. We began to walk and talk, then saw the used CD store. We agreed to duck in and check it out. We ended up spending 45 minutes browsing, selecting a few, listening to some, and ultimately buying one. It was engrossing, interesting...and not what we most wanted to do, which was to relate with each other.

Then we couldn't resist an alluring card store. There were so many cards, for so many occasions--and look, wouldn't this one be perfect for my sister... A half hour later we left, having purchased a card and candle.

Next, a home furnishings store, rife with beautiful things. And there, a wrought iron candle holder, marked down 60%! We murmured over it, cocked our heads and imagined it on our respective tables, and decided to keep browsing and think about it. We left with neither of us buying it--but I cast a longing look at it as I walked out the door.

Then, a bookstore...overwhelmed by so many books, I never left the front table. I picked them up, read the back covers, looked at the author photos, read a few paragraphs in the middle of them, wondered if my own book was still on the shelves...and an hour later, we left. I had written down several to try to get at the library.

Finally we made it to the spot where we'd been planning to eat, and got to share our stories, problems and affection for each other. That was the point of the day, and the most memorable and enjoyable part.

We had trickled away most of our time perusing products, making decisions about buying and not buying, and being bombarded by all that we didn't have. It not only created new "wants" in me, it stole time from something far more enjoyable and worthwhile--a relationship.

Beware of your own time-stealers. They'll usually be enjoyable, or you wouldn't be doing them, but seldom are they what you most want out of life. An hour-long TV show (which is 20 minutes of commercials) may on the surface seem good for "relaxing" and "entertainment," but can't compare to the deep satisfaction of spending that hour learning piano, or painting, or writing your novel, or playing zoo with your child.

Let's all start doing what we truly desire. Every day. Our lives won't look like the typical on-line, sitcom-savvy, mall-hopping American who smells more of cleaning products than human. Our lives will instead be rich. Relaxed. Full. Healthy. We'll be better, and the world will be better. Let's say a universal "NO" to time-stealers that keep us from doing the good, true work of our lives.

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Nancy Conger, CPCC
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nancy@congercoach.com
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