Value-based Time Management: Key to Peace and Happiness

Patient Expert

Most of the time I write about health and wellness in relation to specific dietary guidelines and/or spirituality based practices and ways of being that can support internal growth and happiness. Today however, I'd like to talk about something new that is probably one of the most challenging areas for most people and one that directly impacts wellbeing in profound ways. That topic is time management.

How we spend our time is the foundation of our life and is an area that I talk to my coaching clients about over and over. At the end of each session, I ask my clients to set goals to complete between sessions that are in line with their own personal wants and desires for their lives. However, time and time again, I find that they have spent, at most, just a few minutes on those goals or done very little to move themselves towards the life they want. Somehow those goals fall out of the line-up of importance and daily habitual tasks take precedence even though they may not have anything to do with what's important to that person's life. Repeatedly I hear the excuses "I didn't have time" or "I plan to do it later" or "As soon as I finish something, I can focus on that", etc., yet here they are with me requesting coaching for those very things that they tell me cause them upset in their lives.

I believe that this issue begins with the confusion people have about what they can and can't control in their lives. Most people falsely feel that they are tied to their jobs, spouses, social obligations, expectations from others, etc. and that these things are out of their control. However, the only things that are truly out of our control (which some might find debatable from a spiritual perspective) are things like the weather, traffic, death, how many hours in the day, some illnesses, another person's reaction, feelings or beliefs, etc. Yet many people spend time being angry about things they can't control and doing very little to shift those things that they can.

One of the most powerful books I've read on Time Management was written almost 10 years ago by a man named Hyrum W. Smith, the CEO of Franklin Quest Company, most well known for the Franklin day planner, but also highly acclaimed for his time management training courses.[1]  His  overlying message begins with challenging people to really think about their core governing values for their life and how the way they spend their time does or doesn't match up with these. At the end of the day, we are in more control with how we spend our time then we realize and often guage our decisions on what we prefer in the moment or feel obligated to do versus what's ultimately important to us. To take that a bit further, many times what we prefer is based on comfort, mood, fear, short term pleasure, laziness, impressing someone or living up to another's expectations, etc. as opposed to what is in line with our core values.

Partaking in this exercise myself, I not only found it challenging, but quite eye opening as well in regards to my own life. I saw immediately that there are many areas that are extremely high on my list of values that I've been ignoring and which have subsequently been impacting my happiness with my life. The process of determining your core values is a very personal one and there are no right values, right number of values, or right order of importance of these values for any one person. Each of us has to look within to see what is ultimately governing our life and whether we are truly in line with what matters most to each of us personally. It then becomes easy to make decisions as to what we'd like to do with our time and develop long term and immediate goals within those areas we feel we're neglecting and thus are impacting us in negative ways.

To help you get started in this process, I'd like to share a few of my own governing values. Again, there is no right answer here and it is well worth the time to spend some hours working on this for yourselves. I think you'll find it much easier and fulfilling to manage your time effectively with the clarity this exercise provides.

Spirituality/Inner Peace/Belief in a Grander Purpose
I spend time each day in a spiritual practice (meditation, yoga, reflection, time in nature, reading) to support inner peace and personal wellbeing. I value and require alone time on a daily basis to recharge my energy and allow me to be there for others. Believing in a higher purpose for my life and an internal spirit that is not contingent on my physical body helps me to feel safe and protected. I create my life and anything and everything is possible. I am connected and part of all of life around me, a source energy that is based on love.

Happiness/Positive Attitude
My perception of life is directly connected to my experience of life. I choose to think positively with optimism and gratitude. I don't live in fear and do not run from my challenges. I know that happiness comes from within and is not contingent on any circumstance now or in the future. I take full responsibility for my state of being at all times, never blaming another person or situation for my life. I make sure that I am responsibly happy and positive the majority of the time.

Personal Health & Fitness
My health is the foundation of my personal and spiritual journey. What I put into my body and how I take care of myself is the key to my vitality, youth and happiness. I am always learning and teaching the latest health and wellness information. I practice what I preach and give myself equally as much love, respect and self-care as I do serving others in this area. I am involved in a physical activity that I enjoy and am challenged by.

Other governing values I listed were financial security, partnership in relationship, fun/connection with others, taking responsibility/self growth, integrity and honesty, education and learning, courage/adventure, making a difference/inspiring others, love for what I do professionally, control in my life/productivity, new projects/variety/challenges.

Utilizing our time to further goals that support our governing values is key to living a happy and peaceful life in which your time spent here is fulfilling and supportive of what's truly important to you.

[1]  Smith, H. W. (1994).  The 10 natural laws of successful time and life management: Proven strategies for increased productivity and inner peace. New York: Warner Books, Inc.