Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Finding Time In A Time-Pressured World

September 16, 1996

Do you wish there were more hours in the day? Do you feel weighed down by excessive demands? Are you trying to do too much? Are there things you'd like to be doing but can't find the time? Do you feel lost amid the details of your everyday life? Do you feel in control of your life?

Don't feel alone. Join the millions who feel the same way. Why is this happening?

  • Economics and the high cost of living drives much of it. It takes a lot of money to cover basic needs. If that wasn’t enough to handle, ever so subtly our wants become our needs and the price tag goes up. We want to have it all.
  • There is work. Business and professional activities take on a quickened pace because of improvements in telecommunication technology, the explosion of knowledge and increased competitiveness. Business is the bottom line. More is expected and we expect more of ourselves. There are more obligations and deadlines, some of which seem beyond our control.
  • Today relationships take more time and attention. We know more about relationships and their importance to a healthy life. Children take time. Providing for their activities, development and extra-skills is a high priority in our child-oriented culture.
  • For those who live in big cities, the hassle of commuting in congested traffic takes an inordinate amount of early morning and late afternoon time.

How do we cope with the stress of modern living? Here are five ways for you to get control of your life.

1. Be clear about your goals. Design a life with the end in mind. Visualize the lifestyle and the work you want to do. Find a job or profession that challenges your best skills and creativity and gets you lost in the flow of time.

Specialize in a niche that is financially and personally rewarding. If you don't like what you are doing, go back to the drawing board. Life is too short to be spent in work you don't enjoy. Put your money to work for you. Through business or investment, liberate yourself from having your income pegged to your time.

Savings means stored time - more choices and more control over your life. Debt means obligated time and fewer choices. Don't let pride and misplaced values tempt you to live beyond your means.

Having a spiritual orientation to life and a good sense of humor will enable you to detach from the cares and pains of most everyday problems. You’ll keep priorities in proper perspective.

Master the art of saying no to activities that really don't fit your goals. This may mean saying no to more work and more income so you can give attention to other priorities. Simplifying your lifestyle is a way of getting control back in your life.

2. Give relationships the time they deserve. Experiences, memories and relationships count as much as personal accomplishment. Things don't. Life needs balance.

In relationships quantity and quality of time both are important. Do things together - schedule the time if necessary. Take short vacations. Three and four day weekends may be more refreshing than one long vacation. Protect personal and family time zealously. Make a conscious effort to leave work problems at work.

Love and give of yourself freely. Reduce conflict. Work on effective communications and problem-solving skills. Give courtesy and respect. Be loyal and honor your commitments. Enjoy the pleasure of a confidential relationship where the joys and pains of life are freely shared. Have a confidant with whom you can share emotions, clarify thoughts and exchange care.

3. Make leisure a priority. Identify and cultivate personal interests. Find solace in nature. Have fun and adventure. Try new things. Schedule exercise as a part of your daily and weekly routine. Read a book.

Take the time to learn something new that is different from your main line of work. Stretch your mind and horizons. "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

Don't be so single-minded in your work that you don't discover other pleasures of life. The time spent away from obligations will renew you so you will have more to give. Learn to set and manage your mood.

4. Manage stress. Put first things first. Don't procrastinate important or hard tasks. Organize your day. Answer your mail first. Review your plans for the next day before leaving your work. Discourage calls at night. If you take work home, schedule a block of time for it and be 100 percent present during the rest of the evening.

Learn to trust and delegate. Let others help you protect your time. Schedule uninterrupted time during the day away from the phone or other co-workers. Take short breaks to get a change of pace.

5. Make service to others a part of life. Be accessible to others. Share your talents and resources. Get outside of yourself and your concerns. You earn a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give. Service to others is an important part of a balanced life too.

The hardest thing we may have to do is gain control of our time - and consequently our life.