Managing the time management challenge

By Lisa Sugarman

Too much to do, too little time.

Hands up if you feel that way on a regular basis. (For the record, both my hands are up.)

Actually, it feels like that’s the only thing coming out of my mouth lately. And judging by the conversations I have with time-challenged friends on a daily basis, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

I mean, who among us hasn’t been that frantic mom in the market, cornering our carriage on two wheels around the produce section, desperate to check everything off our list and make it to our spot in the school pick-up line on time? 2347335500000578-2840015-image-53_1416349028824Or the lunatic dad trying to simultaneously drop all three of his kids off at different soccer practices at three different fields at opposite ends of town? Or the psychotic mother frisbeeing an Eggo Waffle across the kitchen at her son as he’s grabbing his backpack, while we’re signing a permission slip with one hand, and writing out a check to the PTO with the other, simultaneously digging our daughter’s Spandex shorts out of the laundry pile with our teeth?

But it doesn’t stop there. It continues. Forever. On an endless loop of time-sensitive tasks that are eventually completed, only to be replaced by more tasks. It’s exhausting and emotionally draining. And everything we do always seems to take place in increments of twenty minutes. I’m not sure why, but it does. All. Day. Long.

It can get a little overwhelming and slightly ridiculous after a while.

Think about it… sitcoms make fun of it, books are written about it, time management consultants make buckets of money from all the crazed people out there who struggle with it. So clearly, time management is a real issue.juggling

For most of us, it seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the stuff that needs to be done. We struggle to fit it all in and to get everywhere on time and to clear all our daily hurdles without nicking one, but inevitably we feel overwhelmed and frantic and behind the eight ball at least some of the time.

On average, anyone with a family or a job or a house to take care of, is relatively strung out the majority of the time. It’s just the nature of the beast, unless you live somewhere, completely off the grid, in a lean-to, on the island of Foula, just off the northern tip of Scotland. Those folks are completely relaxed and stress-free all the time.

And while I realize it’s not like I’m POTUS or anything, with a daily to-do list of protecting the American people or reforming healthcare, I do still have a decent amount of relevant stuff on my plate. Stuff that, if it doesn’t get done, people don’t eat or wear clean underwear or have their inhaler for track practice or their suit for their business meeting or an inviting front walkway with dozens of pretty impatiens welcoming you to the front door. See what I’m saying.

So this is that moment when I take a giant step backwards and deconstruct my problem in an attempt to fix it. Like when my Uncle Marvin used to take apart the entire engine of his station wagon and lay each piece on the front lawn to find the broken one. (For the record, he fixed it every time.)

How, then, do we accomplish everything on our list?

The answer is: we don’t. We just do the best we can with the time we have. Cause it’s impossible to finish an endless list. And for most of us, that’s exactly what we’re dealing with. The fact is, we’ll all be doing laundry and food shopping and paying bills and running errands forever. Not to be a buzz-kill, but that’s just the reality.

So that leaves us with two choices: we either knuckle down and attack the list or we have a breakdown in the corner of the bathroom, totally inundated by what we have to do.2014-09-26-timemanagement

Personally, I choose the first option, what I call the Pit Bull Method.

Simply put, I prioritize. Let me say that again because it’s so important. I prioritize. I circle the most important, time-sensitive stuff on my list and then I attack it like I’m a starving pit bull and the list is a piece of tenderloin on a hook. Instead of fearing what I have to do, I pull a NIKE and Just do it. No complaints, no procrastination, no distractions. Just focus and Rudy-like grit. Then I celebrate the stuff I got done and push what’s left over to the top of tomorrow’s list. It’s as simple as that. Then, after a healthy pour of wine and a good night’s sleep, I hit it again. And again. And again. Always keeping one main goal in mind: Someday I’ll retire and move to Foula where I’m hopeful they don’t allow To-Do lists.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.

 

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