Never before has our culture been faced with technology at our finger tips that continually distracts us with it’s seductive sounds and stimulating visuals. I’m convinced that the sudden expansion of personal technology devices has completely outpaced our ability to manage it. It's time to unplug and reconnect.
There are daily signs and signals that families are busier than ever. Recently two retired men lamented to me that their grown children don’t attend a church. Both men shared that their kids say that they’re too busy…right now. How often do you go to bed with everything done on your to-do list?
But wait! I thought technology is meant to improve communication and make our lives easier and less stressed and less busy? How is it we don't have time for those things (or people) that are important? Something doesn’t seem to be working right.
Unfortunately, we’re not working right. It’s too easy to lose sight of what’s really important and what’s of true value. And the bells and whistles of technology have hijacked our attention and ability to focus.
Conversations around the dinner table – on the rare occasion when families eat together - can often be interrupted. Too often parents and/or children have their phone positioned next to the fork. It’s become the new table setting. Not only that, in many homes the TV is also on during the meal, which further inhibits meaningful conversation.
Technology promises to connect people like never before. But, combined with our busy lifestyle, we’ve never been more disconnected from those who mean the most to us. The dopamine response we get when the device dings or beeps or rings, causes us to divert our attention immediately, regardless of what we’re doing…even in the middle of conversations.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. The first thing our family collectively did was identify how we were being affected. Then we discussed why it was important to make changes. The next step was to get everyone on the same page, or to at least understand the rationale. We then identified simple strategies we could implement to eliminate distractions and improve communication.
To give you some ideas, just a couple of the strategies we agreed to included: no phones at the dinner table; and no looking at your phone or any device when talking to each other. Nothing complicated but, in some cases, not easy either. As a result, communication improved, conflict reduced, and common ground was reached.
In coaching one of the most often used phrases I hear is ‘I don’t have enough time’ to get stuff done. People are pressed for time. It clearly has emerged as the most valuable commodity we exchange.
Time is elusive. You can’t hold on to it. You can’t see it. You can’t store it up. You can’t stop it. You can’t get it back. You can’t create more of it. (You’re probably getting stressed just reading that.)
Time slips by…or so it seems. But we all start with the same amount each day…1,440 minutes.
Regardless, I hear the ‘I don’t have enough time’ excuse when it comes to exercise, eating healthy, getting work done, cleaning the house, preparing meals, playing with the kids, doing fun stuff, praying, reading the Bible, going to church, reading, playing golf, etc., etc.
It seems people are seeking to live a balanced life but their perception of a balanced life is off base. A balanced life doesn’t mean everything is done equally. A balanced life is one that matches your stage of life in which the things that need to get done get done in order to live a life that is physically, mentally, relationally, financially, and spiritually healthy.
Often I’ll ask those who tell me they don’t have enough time to exercise if they really think that they’re busier than all the people who do exercise regularly. Is that really possible? Or are there other reasons?
In working with people, there are four common problems I’ve identified when it comes to time.
Changing behavior begins by becoming aware of current thoughts, habits, patterns, or activities. That's the key to addressing the first problem listed above, which is the primary purpose of this post.
The amazing advancements in technology and communication platforms have come with a price. In fact, the advancements in technology have outpaced our ability to manage them. As a result, what could and should be enhancing the quality of our life is actually contributing to our lack of time and inability to get stuff done. The cell phone often fills those five-minute blocks of time instead of tasks that advance our goals.
The secret of the successful life is the diligent use of our allotted lifespan."
As reported in the Huffington Post, there was research conducted by British psychologists that revealed young adults use their smartphones roughly twice as much as they thought. The study found that youngsters in the study used their phones an average of five hours a day, which is about one-third of their total waking hours.
Additionally, it was reported in Science News for Students that the average college student uses a smartphone about nine hours per day. Additionally, because the smart phone is so accessible and enticing, young and old are often on their phone while doing other activities that should demand complete focus, like homework and office work. It’s beyond the scope of this post, but the problems with cell phone addiction have been widely reported.
So what can you do to increase awareness about where time goes and instead work toward getting the important stuff done? A good tool to start with is to track how you’re currently using your time. To do so realistically and effectively, I’ve found tracking 5-minute intervals throughout the day provides the most useful feedback.
Below is a link for you to download the 5-Minute Time Tracker™ to assist your efforts. There are some tips provided for how to use the tool. However, use whatever method you feel provides you with the best feedback to assess how you’re using your time. Is how you're investing your time congruent with what you value most? Your Time Tracker will actually reveal what it is you really do value.
In addition to identifying how you’re currently using your time, to be more proactive, use the 5-Minute Time Planner™ to set yourself up for success. Either the night before or first thing in the morning, use the Time Planner to pencil in what you plan to do that day. Start by first entering the highest priority items based upon what you value most.
By increasing your awareness you’re better able to make changes that will impact not only what you do but also how you feel. The aim is not perfection but progress. With attention and awareness you can turn your minutes into movement toward your goals. Unless, of course, you don’t have enough time.
Last week I had the pleasure of watching my 17-year-old daughter compete in the Colorado State Track & Field meet. Few things provide pleasure like watching your child do something she loves and is good at. There is complete joy and pride in watching the fluid, repetitive motion of her legs propelling her around the track. As best I can, I try to just embrace the moments and give thanks for her ability and the satisfaction it brings her mom and me to watch her compete…regardless of how she does.
But, unfortunately, I also witnessed the ugly side of youth sports…and it’s not isolated but prevalent throughout all of the youth sports and as well as the performing arts.
The ugliness is when I witness parents whose mood changes because of the way their child performed. It’s the parent who gets sulky – or in some cases down right bitter - because her child didn’t perform as well as expected.
As a parent, I have to be aware that if my mood or attitude changes based upon my child’s performance, then I’m living through my child. That type of parenting is unhealthy for the child and the parent.
Simply knowing something – even the benefit of something – isn’t enough to cause sustainable behavior change. Have you ever experienced that? In my previous post, I said that the biggest problem we face is acting on what we know.
And do you fall into the trap of only doing those things you "feel" like doing? No matter what it is, if you only do something when you feel like doing it, you will never be consistent. And, for all things that matter, consistency is the key!
So, I'd like to share with you a proven strategy for making behavior changes stick. This is based on my personal experience, as well as through the coaching I do, and all the people I've worked with over the years who've seen success.
Are you living intelligently? When people discover my website and see the words “Inspiring Intelligent Living,” they often wonder what it means to live intelligently. They ask if it is really possible to live intelligently or if it’s just a slogan…or maybe an illusion.
If you believe an Intelligent Designer made us, and we were made in his image, then without a doubt we were not meant to live a life of self-defeating behaviors that keep us living below our capabilities. I believe we are designed with the ability to live intelligent lives, so we are the light to the world we are called to be.
Since we all have within us the ability to live an intelligent life, why don’t we?
Are your values always right? Or, could you be holding fast to some values that are wrong? In my previous post, I provided a method for how you can identify your top values. But, what if you’re not sure if those are the things you should value? This post will identify two questions you should ask about your values.
One question I’ve noticed that stumps very intelligent and successful people is this: “What makes a great person?” It’s an interesting irony that people can achieve high levels of status and worldly success and not really know what qualities they value most in people and what values they have in life.
It probably also explains why we frequently read about notable people who appear to have achieved success and influence who make bad choices that ruin their career and reputation.
The same could be true for us. When is the last time you sat and wrote down on paper the qualities you value most? My experience in working with people is that most of us have not done this ‘simple’ exercise.
Wouldn’t it be great if, when you started making poor choices, you were able to depend on something or someone to give you a course correction? It would be similar to a Global Positioning System (GPS).
You’re about to do or say something to someone you care about that would damage your relationship, but you stop yourself just in time. Or, you decide to skip another workout, but find yourself putting on your gym shoes, instead.
It would be as if you had your personal GPS guiding you and your choices. As you’ve most likely experienced, you can depend on your GPS to get you where you want to go, even if its someplace you’ve never been before.
Are you living the life you were designed to live? A popular quote attributed to John Dryden is, “We first make our habits, then our habits make us.” Another way to say that is, “We first make our choices and then our choices make us.” The reality of this concept came to life for me many years ago, back when I was growing up on a farm in South Dakota.
Both of my grandfathers were farmers who lived similar lives of hard work and toil, as is a farmer’s life. Where their paths diverged was when they retired. Although they both moved off the farm and into town, one retired from farming and the other retired from life.Continue reading