Time Crunch

I visited our area zoo this weekend, and was told when buying my tickets that the zoo would close in an hour and a half.  Needless to say, I was actually thankful for the condensed time frame to see the animals (and also screaming children, sticky fingers and interesting smells).  We didn’t get to see the entire zoo, but experienced some great highlights and left with a strong desire to come back for a visit soon.

When you are faced with a time crunch, do you jump in and make the most of it, or shy away for another time?  Some of my most productive moments happen during time crunches.  For example: you find out on the way home that some friends are coming over for dinner.  Other than getting the food ready, you probably make the mad dash around your house picking up toys, laundry and other clutter to make your house more presentable.  What you were able to accomplish in 5-10 minutes on this time crunch day, would most likely take you an hour or more on a normal “clean up” day.

Even the most organized and motivated person experiences procrastination from time to time.  To keep up the momentum of our positive actions, throw in a time crunch.  Create a deadline (real or fictitious) that is imminent.  If you are dreading putting together a regular report (that may not be due until the end of the month) set a timer for 30 minutes and crank it out.  Pushing yourself against a time deadline will put your brain and your body in motion to focus your energies on that specific task, and complete it.

Time to Rejuvenate

I recently asked some friends what they do to relax.  At first, they just stared at me, then laughed, then said “seriously?”  All of us yearn for some serious down time, but what I was seeking at that moment was some suggestions for a short 5-10 minute breather.  That’s about the time frame that most of us have on a daily basis to commit to relaxation – whether it be in the car, between meetings, or just before bed.

I then asked those same friends how they relax for just five minutes, and I was able to garner some solid responses to share.  I encouraged their brainstorming by asking what scent, sound, thoughts, and visual stimulation added to their relaxation activity.  A few weeks ago, I stopped by a favorite Mexican restaurant for some take out.  When I walked in the door, I was met by a warm burst of air, the smell of fresh tortillas, the citrus flavor of the margarita machine, and mariachi band music.  I was instantly transported to a tropical location where all of these sensations came together to create a fond memory.  How relaxing!  Too bad that the host came up to me a few seconds later to assist me with my order.

One friend responded that he lights a candle and looks into the flame to relax.  The scent of the candle wasn’t important, but it was the focus on the flame that cleared his mind.  Another shared a favorite scent that she uses in her hand soap at home to give her a small reminder of slowing down and breathing it in.  Music can also solicit a relaxing mood, or even liven it up.

I received some remarkable advice a couple of years ago that I need to revisit and put in force today.  With busy schedules, back to back meetings, and email responses taking place at 10 o’clock at night, when can we find the time to squeeze in something more?  The friend with the brilliant advice told me to treat my down time just like I would any other appointment.  She said, “if I didn’t write it down on my calendar, I wouldn’t fully commit to it.”  She had a point.  I had many a good intention of designating a few minutes to rejuvenate, only to make up excuses as to why I didn’t have the time.  Starting now, I’m going to write it down, find my place, and wake up my senses for just a few minutes.

Just Take a Sip

I started my day today with the discovery of a large chocolate stain on the back of my pants.  I am thankful that I made the discovery before I left the house, and not let the world wonder just what exactly happened to my backside.  I had to think of where that chocolate stain came from, when I realized that I typically carry around chocolate chip granola bars in my car for my kids to snack on during their ride home from school.  I usually open the granola bar package with one hand, my teeth, and eyes on the road.  Apparently, those sneaky chocolate chips decided to fall in a most inconvenient place in my rush to feed my pre-dinner hungry children.

 How often do we eat on the run, standing up at our kitchen counters, and while we’re doing a number of other tasks?  Medical experts (and our mothers) urge us to “take one bite at a time” when eating.  I always thought that this helped in digestion, preventing hiccups, and to clean your plate.  The message these words of encouragement also send is to slow down!

 For those of you that are coffee and tea drinkers (I’ll throw wine in there, too), this is one activity that you can’t do quickly.  You have to just take a sip.   What if we approached other areas of our life with this same concept?  Sometimes time constraints make us want to shovel it in all at once, but certain activities force us to slow it down and savor the moment.  When you take a sip, instead of a gulp, do you appreciate more what you are tasting?  Would you continue to consume the same things if you had to do it slowly?

 My son brought home a flower bud he found laying on the playground at school yesterday.  He was adamant that we put it in some water so it could “grow.”  He didn’t understand that once a flower is broken or cut from its stem, that it no longer has the chance to grow.  We placed this broken bud into some water, and to our surprise, the bud bloomed overnight.  He was thrilled!  And my husband and I were surprised.  Even at the young age of three, my son is savoring those “sips” of life.  What joy he brought not only to his day, but also to us as his parents when we witnessed this simple beauty of slowing down and savoring those small moments together.

Just give me 15

I eat breakfast every morning in front of the computer.  It’s a good 15 minutes of catching up on email, online news, Facebook and some of my favorite celebrity gossip sites.  Those 15 minutes seem to fly by each morning, with nothing to show for it other than spilled oatmeal on my robe.  Then, the world wakes up.  Alarm clocks, dog out, kids up, forced breakfast, cutting short cartoons, bus late, hair dryer, socks on and out the door.  Whew!

A good friend of mine just shared with me that her daughter now has her driver’s license.  She didn’t realize the solitude she now gets to experience during her commute into work each morning was so greatly missed.  With her daughter driving herself to and from school each day, she has a blissful 30 minutes of time to herself each morning and night.

If you had 30 minutes (or even just 15) of time to yourself, what would you do?

Task-master guru and author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen Covey asks us to “Sharpen the Saw” in his 7th habit lesson.  Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.  Covey goes on to suggest some activities to engage in to fulfill these lessons including:

Physical:                              Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting

Social/Emotional:            Making social and meaningful connections with others

Mental:                                Learning, reading, writing, and teaching

Spiritual:                              Spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer, or service

I challenge you to carve out 15 minutes of your day today and spend it on one of these areas.  In 15 minutes, I bet you can: plan a healthy dinner, take a walk around your office or even around the block, meditate, write a letter to someone you love, read a few pages or even a chapter from a favorite book, write a blog post, write in a journal, download new songs that inspire you, research your next vacation…whatever you decide, make it an activity that has nothing to do with your “right now.”