When I feel like my day is too short and my “list” is too long, the song “Seasons for Love” runs through my head:
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter and in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?
As the year comes to a close, with days getting shorter and homework, after school activities and holiday preparation lists getting longer, I find myself reflecting on where this year “went.”
I know that each of us has the same 24 hours in a day and the same 525,600 minutes in a year. And yet, I feel like some people somehow have more time than the rest of us–especially when I read inspiring stories of women like the energetic mompreneurs featured in this issue of Mauimama.
When I talk to parents who seem to have more than 24 hours in a day, their secret usually isn’t less sleep and a better time management app. Instead, they have a different approach to prioritizing how they spend their time. They understand that time is the most important currency they have and that it should be spent on things “of value to them.”
“Of value” means that something is useful or important to the person who has the thing. “To them” means this is an individual determination. Have you ever gone through the “what if” exercise of imagining that your house is about to be destroyed (all your family and pets will be fine!) and you have time to grab three things? What would those three things be? Your answer is unique to you. Even if you would save objects that others would also list–a Hawaiian quilt made by your great-great-grandmother, a box of letters between your parents when your father was stationed overseas, irreplaceable documentation of your ethnic heritage–the exact object is uniquely valuable to you.
Another useful exercise is writing a list of the five or ten activities that are most important to you. The list might include playing with your children, exercising three times a week, having daily conversations with your partner, a spiritual practice or making five new business contacts a week. Once you have the list, track your time for a week. At the end of the week, see how much time was spent on items on your list.
Uncovering what one values is often a motivating factor for starting a business. A common trait among mompreneurs is their purposeful use of time. Some started a business to do what they love. Others started a business because it allows them to spend more time with their family. They align their use of time with their values and they no longer spend time on things of low value to them.
When you align your use of time with your values, several positive things happen. First, your energy increases because is it no longer wasted on worrying about what isn’t getting done or trying to figure out what you should be doing. You know that the things you value most are the things that will get done.
Second, you are less anxious because you spend your time on the right things at the right time. At some level, we know that when our use of time is misaligned with our values it creates internal tension. We have nagging thoughts about what we will do “someday” and we might feel guilty or uneasy about how we are spending our time.
Third, you are more peaceful and more present because you are being true to yourself. How you spend your time is determined by what you value, not by what others say you “should” value.
It takes self-awareness and courage to choose a path that is uniquely yours. When I start worrying about how my annual 525,600 minutes “should” be spent, I try to heed the advice at the end of the song: “Measure your life in love.”
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