time alignment

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.”

Image Credit: pixabay

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Karen Worthington is a Maui mama of two, a writer and editor, a children's policy attorney, and a consultant on child abuse, neglect and juvenile justice issues. She moved from Atlanta to Maui in 2010 to raise her daughters near family, her husband Mark Crowe grew up on Maui and most of his family lives here. Karen pursues her passions of social justice and writing through two complementary businesses: Karen Worthington Consulting, focused on childrenês rights and well-being, and Lightning Bolt Writing, a commercial writing business targeting clients in law, technology, health care and communications. Her work portfolio includes an eclectic range of projects such as: Serving as the coordinator for the Ho•'oikaika Partnership, a coalition of over 40 organizations and individuals working to prevent child abuse and neglect in Maui County. Teaching an online child advocacy class at UH Manoa. Conducting research, writing, and editing for a number of Hawaii and Georgia child-serving organizations. Writing blogs, white papers, newsletters, marketing collateral and articles for businesses and publications such as Mauimama Magazine. As can be seen from her Mauimama Magazine articles and other parenting publications, Karen enthusiastically studies and shares the latest research on children's nutrition, children's health, toxins in the home, and raising compassionate children. An area of special interest for Karen is the developmental needs of adolescent girls, especially in the context of trauma. A sampling of her writing on this includes her blog posts –Five Answers That Will Change the Future,” and –A Path from Girlhood to Womanhood for Girls in Foster Care.” The administration of psychotropic medications to youth is another area of research interest, culminating in the publication of the policy report, –Psychotropic Meds for Youth in Foster Care: Who Decides?,” followed by several national presentations on the topic. Karen believes that –service is the rent we pay for living,” as so eloquently stated by her heroine Marian Wright Edelman, and to live out this adage, Karen serves as president of the Imua Family Services board of directors and as a member of the EPIC •Ohana board. She also volunteers at St. John's Episcopal Church and her daughters' schools. Karen enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, playing games, yoga, walking, hiking, reading, arts and crafts projects, and going to the beach.