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This week, Life Training Online is reviewing CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Handling Your Fast-Paced Life, by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., the twenty-first of fifty-two books in the 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks series.

To wrap up the review of CrazyBusy we’ll be taking a look into the second half of the book, where Hallowell begins to expose some solutions on how to not only survive in this day and age but how we can thrive.

Budgeting One’s Time

Many of us are very familiar with the idea of budgeting — typically associating it to the prioritizing and organizing of our finances. However, few of us have ever — with the same amount of effort and foresight as with our finances — laid out a budget plan for our time.

Hallowell offers a way of analyzing not only where we spend our time but provides a unique way in which we can assign a value to each of the activities that we spend our time on. In this manner, we can better understand — from a personal value standpoint — which activities are worthless (those we can jettison from our lives) and which ones are necessary (those we need and want to keep).

Basically the method Hallowell uses to budget your time and assign a value to your various daily activities are as follows:

  1. Create a spreadsheet with seven columns.
  2. In the first column, list all the activities that you perform in a given day. Be sure to include things like sleeping, eating, housework etc.
  3. In the second column, list the average number of hours per day that it takes to perform it.
  4. In the third column, rate the activity according to the amount of effort it takes to finish it with 1 = least and 5 = most.
  5. In the fourth column, rate its “fulfillment factor” — basically how fulfilling this task is for you with 1 being the least fulfilling and 5 being the most.
  6. In the fifth column, multiply the effort rating that you gave by the fulfillment factor.
  7. In the sixth column you’ll put the necessity or “right-thing-to-do” factor. Basically here’s where you rate it according to how necessary it is that you carry this task out or the fact that it is the right thing to do. For example, you may not want to go to your grandmother’s cousin’s funeral, but out of duty you know you should. Rate this one with 1 = least necessary and 5 = most.
  8. In the seventh and final column you put the “Worth-It-Factor” which is the product of the third, fourth, and sixth columns.

After setting up your table/spreadsheet as I described above, let me explain some of the less clear items in that table. First off, let’s look at the Effort x Fulfillment product. Hallowell says we should shoot for activities that rate at a 5 or above. If the Effort x Fulfillment product is less than 5, you might want to reconsider participating in that activity. For that reason, he has set up the Worth-it-Factor. This reflects how necessary a given activity is or how much you believe you ought to be doing it, simply because it is the right thing to do or in alignment with your beliefs. So in summary, the only reason for doing an activity that produces a product less than 5 is that it carries a high necessity.

Once the grid is filled in, you will now have a centralized location which can indicate to you whether your spending too much time in frivolous activities. Keep in mind that the scores are meant only to be red flags — signaling you to take a closer look.

Ten Key Principles to Managing Modern Life

  1. Do what matters most to you. After filling in the above table, you should now have a clear idea of what is most important to you. If you’re spending most of your time in doing things which are not important to you, it’s time to reevaluate and change some things in your life. True happiness comes when you are doing what is most important to you.
  2. Create a positive emotional environment wherever you are. When you interact positively with others around you, not only does it improve their lives, but it improves yours as well. When you feel safe and secure in your own environment, when you feel welcomed and appreciated, you can think more clearly, you work better, and you’re better able to help others and they’ll be more apt to help you.
  3. Find your rhythm. When you are doing what you love and do best, and are prioritizing your time, and dropping those things which ultimately distract you from being productive, you’ll find a rhythm of productivity and effectiveness.
  4. Invest your time wisely so as to get maximum return. Remember that like money, time is wasted when you’re not aware of how you spend it. Especially int the world today, where more and more things are trying to steal your time, it’s important to be very wary of where your time is being spent.
  5. Don’t wast time screensucking. “Screensucking” or passing the time idly in front of some screen (i.e. television, blackberry, computer, hand-held video game etc.) can be very addictive and wasteful. Do whatever you can do to brake the habit.
  6. Identify and control the sources of gemmelsmerch. If you remember from the last post, ‘gemmelsmerch’ is the force that distracts a person from what he or she wants or ought to be doing. If you don’t control it, it will control you. Some sources of gemmelsmerch are: magazines, mail that is waiting to be opened, the “screensuckers”, radio talk shows, a new idea that pops in your mind. Each of these are great at the appropriate time and place. It’s important to qualify when they should be attended to and when you should get busy with what needs to be done.
  7. Delegate. Work on effective interdependence. Delegation allows you to leverage the strength and talents of those around you. Enlist others to help your cause.
  8. Slow down. In the modern world we rarely take moments to just sit, relax, and let it all go. It’s important to set up a regular time where you can be left to your own reflection. Do whatever you prefer to slow down; Take a walk, meditate, pray, go out in nature, etc.
  9. Don’t multitask ineffectively. In most cases, give your full attention to one task before you go on to the next. However, some things, such as riding a bike, you are able to do on autopilot. In those cases, you are able to free up neurons to focus on other matters other than the menial parts of the task.
  10. Play. With everything that you’re doing, seek to engage your imagination. This will spark creativity and bring pleasure to even boring tasks.

Some other Suggestions

Ultimately, whatever ‘system’ you set up to manage your daily life, needs to become a habit. Setting up routines to handle those daily mundane tasks will help make your life become ‘rhythmic’, freeing up your cerebral cortex to engage the important activities. Here are some other suggestions beyond the ten key principles, which will help to bring order in your modern life of chaos:

  • Do your difficult and important work during the time you’re at your freshest. For most people this is the early morning hours. Your’s could be the evening. Just find that time when you know your mind is at its most focused state and use it regularly to tackle those tough tasks.
  • Always keep a notepad or an electronic device with you for putting down ideas that suddenly occur to you. You can never plan when you’re going to have your best ideas. Be ready to catch them when they pop up.
  • If you’re working on a project, don’t gather data forever. There is so much information out there that you could be gathering data and doing research for years just to write a thousand-word article. Just gather enough info to get your mind around the concepts you’re trying to put forth and let your imagination bring forth something new and useful.
  • Listen to feedback from those you trust. Don’t let your pride get in the way of progress.
  • Set aside a few minutes every day just to think. You’ll be amazed at what solutions and ideas you can come up with.
  • Get regular physical exercise. Not only does it benefit your body but it sharpens the mind

CrazyBusy is the twenty-first of fifty-two books in Life Training – Online’s series 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks.


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