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Barbara Jordan
Oct 15, 2010

Make Time Work For You, Not Against You

Have you found yourself repeating phrases like these: “I never have enough time to get it all done.” “How am I supposed to exercise, relax, or take time off? I just don’t have the time.” or “The faster I work, the behind-er I get”? Do you find yourself feeling like you’re racing the clock or working against time? Well, don’t fear. Using time management methods can help you manage your stress, organize your life, and control your time. You can put time on your side. You’ll learn to make time work for you, not against you.

Most people seem happy, yet they find themselves complaining about their supervisor, their partner, their spouse, or their children. They fret over how much they have to do and how they don’t have enough free time. In a recent survey of over 1,000 employees, 46 percent said they felt overworked somehow, with 28 percent complaining that they felt overwhelmed by how much work they had to do and 29 percent stating that they felt they had no time to stop and reflect on their work. Interestingly, 75 percent of executives surveyed reported that they spend their weekends fulfilling work duties, sending and receiving e-mail, “taking work home with them … and poring over their papers.”

Are you happy, yet something still seems to be missing? Is the success you’ve always wanted so close you can taste it, but you just can’t seem to get there? Many of us are frustrated trying to manage a busy life. We feel compelled to “juggle it all,” but we tend to drop the balls, one by one. Again, time management skills will help you keep all the balls in the air without dropping them.

Have you climbed the ladder of career success only to find that you don’t like the view? Or have you been obsessed pursuing career goals that, once achieved, don’t live up to their promises? Well, you’re not alone. Many ambitious, aspiring people like you are realizing that professional success doesn’t ensure happiness.

Iris Martin, author of From Couch to Corporation, outlines some of the most recent stressors we face. For one, the recession has led our agencies to cut back spending, lay off employees, and restructure/reorganize to become more competitive, lucrative, responsive, and lean. It has caused organizations to look more critically at the size of their workforce and how they spend (or save) money. These changes have left thousands of people without jobs. Those left behind are expected to more and more with less and less time, staff, and other resources. Downsizing has been so dramatic that people of all ages and tenure have had to train for different occupations.

According to Martin, “homes and other trappings of success (are) often lost. Young people who made quick fortunes on Wall Street (are) deeply in debt from living beyond their means. Middle-aged men and women who had been comfortably entrenched in senior management positions (find) themselves without their high-paying jobs and benefits.”

Martin goes on to say that health care reform and reduced reimbursement practices by insurance companies have made counseling and psychotherapy services less and less lucrative for practitioners and, thus, less available for consumers. “…while the complexity of change demands more psychological growth now than ever before, less support is available.” Previously, employees received support from coworkers. Today however, that support network has dissolved due to mergers, restructuring, and downsizing. At the same time, an increase in the divorce rate has led to the breakdown of family support.

Never before has the need for time- and stress-management been so critical. The emotional and mental stress of today’s complex, competitive world often brings physical tension and resulting physical problems. These issues range from hypertension to gastric ulcers. If you frequently experience headaches, insomnia, fatigue, ulcers, or neck, shoulder, or lower back pain, you may need to find ways to reduce that psychosomatic stress.

Like others, you may have developed several of your own coping strategies to manage stress. Some of these behaviors are healthy while others are destructive. Poor coping strategies can become part of the problem and thus multiply your stress. They may even lead to negative, addictive behaviors such as overeating, smoking, drinking, or working too much. You may need to identify these unhealthy, self-defeating patterns and replace them with healthy, effective alternatives for managing stress.

Counseling people in duress can be rewarding. But, these occupational transactions can also be a tremendous source of stress. Although personal relationships with family, friends, and coworkers are essential, they can be tumultuous as well. Nothing has a larger impact on overall well-being than relationships. Nevertheless, learning conflict resolution skills and applying them to your individual situation will help you deal with difficult people and build a positive network of friends and family for mutual support.

One of the biggest time wasters is procrastination. Here are some powerful tips for avoiding procrastination:
1. Pick one task at a time that you tend to putt off and attack it. For example, if you procrastinate starting a new project, answering e-mail, or returning phone calls, choose one area and start.
2. Compartmentalize your work into blocks of time such as project management, phone correspondence, email, meetings, web research, etc. Within each time block, force yourself to get through the project or message, one at a time. Once you complete each one, begin the next.
3. Tackle the biggest job first, when you have the most energy and focus. With that done, the rest is downhill!
4. Give yourself target dates. Write these dates down where you won't overlook them. And, stick to them!
5. Resist the temptation of perfectionism-the biggest reason people put off doing necessary work. If you fear you won't live up to extremely high standards, you may be afraid to try at all. Use the expertise of those around you and, as stated by Pat Benatar, "Hit me with your best shot. Fire away!"

Barbara Jordan is a counselor, counselor educator, author, trainer, and leadership coach. For more information go to

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