Happy New Year! How to Avoid Time Traps In the Year Ahead…

“I don’t have enough time!”

How often in our disease do we tell ourselves this kind of self-limiting phrases?  Since we are starting a new year, why not take a minute to check the time?

The Four Quadrants of Our Time*:

On a blank page, we draw a cross, and estimate the time we spend. We classify everything we do by how important it is, and how urgent it is.  We come up with four categories, or quadrants:

1) Important  and Urgent : These are critical day-to-day tasks – deadlines from our bosses, families, ourselves, or others.   Examples include doing highly visible tasks our boss needs done immediately, or picking up our children, or going to the ER after an injury.

Avoiding these things places our jobs, our families,  or our health at risk.

2) Important but not Urgent:  These are tasks with no specific deadline, where time spent now improves our work, our families, and others.  This includes going back to school; time for leisure activities that rejuvenate us; personal enrichment; time to take care of things in advance, such as going for our annual physical checkup, before our health deteriorates.  It also includes mentoring those less experienced around us into increasing maturity.

Avoiding these things eventually erodes our careers, our health, our hopes, and our serenity .  Over time we become ungrateful.  Left unattended, these tasks will drift into quadrant # 1 where they often take longer to deal with.

3) Not important but Urgent:  Tasks that are important to other people, but do not affect us directly.  We do a favor for a colleague, friend or family member so that they do not experience pain.

If we don’t do these things we are not responding to minor issues of a boss, colleague, friend, family member.

4) Not Urgent and not Important: An example of this category is doing an activity, workout, or hobby out of habit, even though we no longer enjoy it or benefit.  We often do these things mindlessly, and include addictive relationships and behaviors around debting.    They feel important and urgent, but often this is the disease talking.

There is no down side to avoiding quadrant 4.  There is an upside to letting go of quadrant 4 entirely. 

Meditation for Today:

As you look at your life, ask yourself which quadrant you spend most of your precious time.  While everyone is different, one quadrant ratio that works for many of us is this: 1) 30%, 2) 60%,  3) 10%, 4) 0%.   As this year begins, am I willing to look at how I spend my time?   Am I being rational?  Am I willing to take the long view, to cultivate the arch of my life?

Affirmation for Today:

Today I will humbly and simply ask for help wherever needed.  I will delegate whatever I can reasonably give away to others to do, and, in so doing, help everyone involved.  I will let go of self-neglect, over-spending, under-earning and unsecure debt.  I will let my Higher Power bring order to my time.

Prayer for Today:

Teach me to get help when I need it.  Help me to right-size my life by spending my time where my time belongs.

  • Recommended Reading:

The quadrants mentioned in this article were based on concepts found in the book First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave A Legacy, by Stephen Covey, A. Roger and Rebecca R. Merrill New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.

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