Ask Sarah Randall about goal setting for time management and she grins knowingly.
Ten years in 'the rat race' had left her weary and battered, stressed out and care-worn, disillusioned and bitter.
Sarah visited Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and finally India. Along the way, she rested and relaxed, learned about a mystical way of interpreting time, and rediscovered her passion, enthusiasm and purpose.
This is the story of how it happened.
A Different Way Of Looking At Time
"The Tao never strives, yet nothing is left undone."
- Lao Tsu
We often think about time management as a 'paint by the numbers' game. You draw up lists of 3, 5 or 10 things to do. You assign a time limit to each. You go at the list like an archer at a shooting gallery, firing away with focus at a target.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
One after another, you chalk off completed tasks - until the list is done.
Except, it never is finished!
New stuff sneaks into your list. Others dump their chores on you. Emergencies and rush-jobs crop up. And before you know it, you've been working all day long without getting your 'to do' list done.
That's frustrating. Saddening. Stressful.
"Where did all my time go?" you wonder, anguished at how quickly the day sped past, leaving you almost exactly where you started. "I need more time. A few extra hours in my day!"
That's how Sarah felt - until she learned to interpret time differently. You can learn it too.
Time Management Tao - The New Approach
It begins with a slight, subtle shift in your perspective of time and goal setting. Let's talk about it, starting with 3 simple questions:
The answers to these apparently simple questions holds the seed for your new appreciation of time, and a powerful paradigm to help you manage it more effectively.
Are You Having Fun?
Now, many people think of fun as being only carefree, frivolous play.
Rarely do we think of our job or work as being fun. But the very best time managers, the really successful folks, those who squeeze the most joy out of life, are the people who have fun all the time, in everything they do.
That's not really surprising, because whenever you're having fun, you want to keep on going. You're in the flow. You aren't stressed or worried or anxious. Things just keep humming along smoothly.
Okay, I know what you're about to say. Your job is so serious, important and critical that you can't have fun!
But fun isn't being careless or unthinking. Fun is the enjoyment you feel while doing something, the sense of fulfillment when you've successfully completed it. And any kind of work can be fun. Yes, even deadly serious, mission-critical and hyper-complex jobs.
The trick, then, is to find the type of work that's fun - for you!
When you look back later, after you've finished doing something, you should have a sense of well-being, a deep satisfaction that you've done what matters. This applies to your job, your hobbies, your duties, your responsibilities - everything.
The trite goal setting cliche is true. When you find what you love, you won't work another day in your life... because you'll be having such fun, it won't seem like work!
Which brings us to the next question.
How Does Work Feel?
"Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness." - Chuang-Tzu
Pause for a moment to ask yourself how you feel about what you do. Your exact role or job title isn't important. Whether you're a home-maker or a CEO, a brain surgeon or garbage collector, a teacher or a carpenter, your work makes you feel a certain way.
After answering these questions, consider another perspective.
We each have a unique bio-rhythm and inner clock. Our energy levels and ability to focus and concentrate wax and wane over the course of the day. Whenever your own cycle is matched optimally to the type of work you do, you'll find everything feels easier, more enjoyable, and fun.
If you're an early-morning person, scheduling your toughest tasks and intricate projects as the first activities of your day heightens your productivity. But if you're a late-bloomer, that routine may leave you exhausted and upset.
Doing the work you like and enjoy, on a schedule that matches your own internal clock, can turn time management and goal setting into an easy, effortless exercise.
But it depends on one more thing.
What Is Your Purpose?
Conventional time management teaches goal setting from a certain standpoint. It forces you to set targets and define milestones along the path to reaching it. That approach is excellent to manage projects - but not as effective when it comes to managing something infinitely more complex... your life.
We are spiritual beings housed in a physical form. Sure, we need to sustain and care for that form, through earning a living to meet our basic needs. But unless you are desperately poor or fighting for survival, that alone won't keep you going for long.
You need more to fulfill your existence. To excite your senses. To challenge your potential. To push you to your limits.
Once you clearly identify your purpose, and work towards achieving it in your daily routine, time takes on a different dimension. You'll discover that there is always abundant time available to get things done. You'll be more efficient, more focused and more productive - because you're now working with purpose.
And that, in essence, is what the Time Management Tao approach is rooted in.
The Stark Contrast With Traditional Time Management
Open any book or guide on goal setting or time management and you'll start with a section about getting better organized. Or making effective lists. Or logging the way you currently spend your time, to identify areas of waste for potential improvement.
That paradigm is broken!
Because it is a formula for higher efficiency, NOT EFFECTIVENESS.
You can become super-efficient at doing the wrong things. It won't make you happier. It won't leave you less frustrated. It won't save you much time.
The biggest problem with adopting the age-old method of managing time by creating your to-do list to work on is that you have no training on what to put on your list.
You end up drawing up a list that's too long. Or allowing other people to dump their tasks on your list. Or cluttering it up with trivia yourself.
Like a dog chasing it's own tail, you then end up seeking ways and means to be more efficient at getting those tasks done - without addressing what's at the root of the problem...
Time Management Tao BEGINS with that core issue. It helps you find your center. Identify what matters most to you. Prioritize it higher than anything else.
Only later do we embark on the next steps, and learn how to
Turn Goal Setting On Its Head
"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." - Lao Tzu
Knowing how to set goals is at the heart of effective time management. But goal setting doesn't have to be formulaic. It is true that most goals fit into 4 broad classes:
But within these broad categories, there are thousands of nuances which make your goals distinct from mine, and anyone else's. The Tao approach to managing time begins by turning goal setting over on its head, and putting YOUR priorities at the top of your list of things to get done.
The Ming Vase Time Management guide about Goal Setting will go deeper into the specific steps you can follow to find out what things are more fun to you, how your energy levels peak and fall, and what your true purpose is - so that you can formulate a set of goals to align with them, making time management effortless and fun.
The way of the Tao is frictionless and stress-free. It leads to a path of harmony and balance. Everything happens in its own time and pace.
... if only you cut out the clutter and zero in on what is meaningful.
That's what Time Management Tao will teach you about goal setting.
Next, before going on to the final tenet of the Tao style of managing time - getting things done - let's explore the important issues of delegation, maintaining a day planner, and talk about how to prioritize.