What is the greatest gift of all?

A gift of time! In today’s time deprived world, this might just be the greatest gift of all. With everyone so busy, time becomes the most precious commodity. Bestowing such a gift on others could show how much you care for or love them. You might be poor in terms of money, wealth, material goods but you are as rich as Bill Gates in terms of time. The richest people in the world have no more time than the poorest. In fact, they may have less since they are so busy earning and accumulating money.

Each of us has it in our power to give a gift of time both to others and to ourselves. Children, relatives, loved ones and friends might all find your gift of time more meaningful and valuable than anything else you could give them. Can you imagine a Christmas where no presents or money was exchanged? The only gifts that would be exchanged would be gifts of time. It would probably create havoc in the economy. No one would go into debt during Christmas and the mass hysteria associated with the Christmas shopping ritual would be destroyed. Why go into debt when you can make others happier by giving something even more precious than money and something you can get for free? A gift of time is a gift of humanity. It is a gift of yourself.

When was the last time you gave anyone a “gift” of time. How often do you share yourself with others? Can you think of someone whom you could give a gift of time? How does it feel to create this gift and to give it away? What if you gave a gift of time to someone each week? What if you gave yourself a gift of time each week?

What if you slowed down today?

“The more I’m in a hurry, the more I tend to worry.” I heard these lyrics in a song the other day. The more I’m in a hurry, the more I tend to worry. This makes a lot of sense if you think about it. When you try to go fast, you frequently end up putting things in the wrong place or forgetting to do something. For the past few years, multi-tasking was being pushed as a sort of panacea to our productivity and economic problems. If we could all learn to do things faster and to several things at one time, we would be more efficient and productive. Recent research shows this to be false. The more we do, the dumber we do things. We do not concentrate and do an effective job when we try to do several things at one time. We don’t watch TV and write well. We don’t play cards and monitor our children well and we do not drive and talk on cell phones well. We all know these things from experience.

I know that when my pace speeds up and when I get going really fast, I am more worried that I will forget something or do something wrong. Generally, I am right. Going too fast, results in mistakes and doing things over. How many times in the morning when I am getting ready for work, do I end up walking back up my stairs because I forget my phone or something else? The moral here should be that if we slow down, we will have less worry in our lives. At least, there might be some opportunities for less worry. Slowing down will not reduce all the worries in your life, but if speed kills, then you will have dying sooner as one less worry. Think of the deaths on the highways that could be prevented by less hurrying and taking life a little bit slower. Not only would you get there in one piece but the drive would be a great deal less stressful.

Would it help you to worry less, if you could take more time to do things? What is one thing you can do more slowly today? Try it and see if at the end of the week you do not feel less stressed.

What is the value of meditation?

Zen and time: Part 2. What does it mean to experience time? Have you ever just stared at the second hand on a clock? When you do, it almost seems like the hand stops moving. As impossible as it might seem, the more you stare at the clock, the more time seems to slow down. When we are having fun or staying busy, time seems to “fly.” Hours can pass as minutes when you are engrossed or really enjoying what you are doing. As we get older, we seem to see months go by with the same rapidity that we once noticed days and weeks going by. We often hear the comment that life is faster today than it was years ago. Does that mean that time is moving faster today or is it simply our perceptions of time?

All major religions seem to value the benefit of meditation (prayer is also used for somewhat the same purpose) as a primary path to spirituality and salvation. Have you ever prayed or meditated for an hour or more? During meditation, time slows down. Life seems to pass more slowly and we are able to become more centered and less schizophrenic. Daily life has a way of creating chaos and disintegration with our lives and spirits. Daily meditation or prayer is a good way to get in touch with the experience of time. There are many different disciplines and methods for both meditation and prayer. For a good overview of the many different spiritual approaches towards meditation, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation.

At first it may seem very difficult to meditate or to find the time to meditate. If you decide to start, try doing your meditation for only five minutes each day. Do you have the time to meditate for five minutes? All of the great religious leaders and wise men have noted the value of meditation for centering ones life and being more in touch with their spiritual essence. After the first week of regular meditation or prayer ask yourself the following questions: What is my experience of time now? Has the regular meditation or prayer made a difference in my life? What if I expanded the time to ten minutes or more? What difference might this make in my life?

What does Zen and time have in common?

Zen and time: Part 1. I friend of mine asked me when I started this blog whether it was just going to be another time management type thing. I asked him what the problem with that was and he said “People are inundated with prescriptions and exhortations for using their time more effectively and being more compulsive about it.” I asked what he thought was the antidote and he said “We all need a more Zen-like attitude about time.” I presumed I knew what he meant, but the more I thought about it, the less I knew. I had studied Zen many years ago and was familiar with Zen meditation and Zen Buddhist philosophy. However, I had never thought about its application to time.

I once remember doing a long drive from Rhode Island to Wisconsin. The hardest part was going to be crossing NYC and getting past the large metro areas in Pennsylvania and NY. I had been doing regular Zen meditation at the time and I thought “Well, I will just use this drive time to meditate and not worry about the traffic or congestion.” I put myself into a frame of mind for sitting Zen. I did not expect the results. In what seemed like a matter of a few seconds, the next thing I remember was being on a wide open stretch of road in rural Pennsylvania. I had gone over 250 miles in some of the most traffic congested sections of the USA in what seemed like a matter of seconds. It still does not seem possible and feels more like a dream than reality. How could something like this be physically and mentally possible? Can time really stand still? Can we make life so smooth with our unconscious thought that we eliminate stress and anxiety and yet can still function? What then is a Zen-like attitude towards time?

Do you have a Zen attitude towards time? One comment I found on a web-blog was “But get some Zen and time slows down since you are actually experiencing it.” Are you experiencing time or do you just sort of anesthetize your self to it? Do you allow time to happen or do you try to control it? Are you waiting for something to happen which never does? Could your life be more exciting if it was more Zen like?

Is time running out for you?

The clock is running out! You hear this expression occasionally. However, have you ever thought that it applies to just about every day of your life? The clock is always ticking. The clock is always running down and not up. The arrow of time flies towards our final meeting with eternity. Sometimes it runs out faster than we expect and sometimes slower. Sometimes it runs out for those whom we least expect it to. The healthy jogger who never smoked, watched his/her diet and was in perfect health may just be the funeral we attend next week. The obese relative who smoked and drank too much may just live to a hundred. The experts are full of contradictory studies relating to our health. Don’t eat this, do eat that, this is bad, no its really good, watch your fat, eat more fat, watch your carbs, eat more carbs, get more exercise, get less exercise, etc. etc.

I like the quote that says: “ask not for whom the bell tolls.” This poem from John Donne helps me to feel linked to other people. Death seems to provide a kind of a linkage. We can feel sad about deaths for people whom we do not know because we are all linked together. I have six degrees of freedom with everyone in the world. How many degrees will I have with those who have already passed away? The clock is running out for all of us. The death we meet may not be the one we desire either for ourselves or for others. Today may or may not be your last day on earth or perhaps it will be the last day for someone you love very much. The clock ticking tells us to not take life for ourselves or others for granted. Each tick is a heartbeat. Each second another person takes their last breath. Better to connect now before it is too late. We never will know when the bell will toll for ourselves or others.

Who are you putting off connecting to? What if their clock runs out before you can connect? How will you feel? How can you connect to them before it is too late?

Why not waste a little time today?

Time wasting web-sites! Have you ever felt like just wasting time? What about having a day where you can just let go of any concerns about time. We are so compulsive about time that we let it run our lives. A day wheen we waste time might be a day well spent. I can imagine the stress levels of the world going down. Less homicides, less road rage, less drive by shootings. Well, if you really want to give a gift to your stress levels, then you might want to visit the following website: http://freebies.about.com/od/710/tp/timewasting.htm

It has ten (I guess you could say games) that will help you to waste extraordinary amounts of time in a fun way. Alternatively, just go to Google and type in “time wasters” and you will be able to find all sorts of incredibly amusing ways to waste a little time. Spend some time foolishly. Stop worrying about time, being on time, managing time and letting time run your life. Time is not like money. If you waste money, you don’t get it back. However, each day you start with 24 hours again. Do yourself a favor, waste some time each day.

How often do you just waste time? Do you let yourself have a little fun every so often? Take some time today and just waste it. How does it feel not to be so compulsive? What if you made it a habit to waste a little bit of time each day? How would your life feel?

Is procrastination always bad?

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today! This is another one of those bits of exalted wisdom that we learned way back in our childhood. “Under the influence of this pestilent morality, I am forever letting tomorrow’s work slop backwards into today’s, and doing painfully and nervously today what I could do quickly and easily tomorrow.” – J. A. Spender. This quote by Spender is interesting and funny since it contradicts that old wisdom about procrastination that dogs so many of us. How many of us live by these bits of wisdom that we learn early in life and never question? There are usually two sides to every story and very few things in life are universally or unequivocally true. For every bit of wisdom, there is a counterpoint.

While there may be few absolutes, this does not mean that some old sayings and wise thoughts are not without merit. More importantly, there is another moral here, which is that few things should simply be taken for granted. According to Spender, there might also be a place for procrastination in our lives. If this is true, then we may be well advised to put off doing some things until tomorrow. Perhaps, after a good night sleep, further reflection or simply having a better day, tackling the task that feels overwhelming today will be easier tomorrow. Often I do not know where to start or what I need to do. If I put the job off for a while, I can talk to others or do some further research. I am then able to come back to the task feeling more confident and competent.

Are you driven by doing things today that might be better handled tomorrow? Do you always tackle the task even when you are not quite sure what you should be doing? What sort of things do you think you would be better putting off doing until you have some help or more guidance? What should you put off doing today, since you might just do a better job tomorrow or the day after?

What are your big time wasters?

Don’t waste my time. One of the greatest sins of modern society is to waste time. It is even worse to waste someone else’s time. Unfortunately, there are numerous ways that you can waste time. Pace Productivity conducted surveys among 690 employees and entrepreneurs across North America. The first question they asked was designed to find out which factors impeded respondents’ productivity that were outside of their control. The following were the top ten wasters that respondents felt they had no control over.

1- Paperwork / administrative tasks
2- Customer requests: service / problems / complaints
3- Phone calls / phone interruptions / inquiries
4- Computer / system / equipment problems
5- No internal support / other departments’ inefficiency
6- Unspecified interruptions
7- Traffic / travel
8- Meetings – too many / too long / unnecessary
9- Volume of work / not enough time
10- Staffing issues / people absent

This is a very interesting list. No doubt there are many aspects of time that we cannot control. However, the first question I have when looking at this list is the validity of the respondents’ assumption that they have “no control” over these time wasters. I admit that in several of these areas, it is difficult to have control, but the operational word is difficult. I would stop at the word impossible. I lean towards looking at what I can do to have more control over my life and I refuse to abdicate control in many of these so called time waster areas. I might only have partial control but once I assert this control, I can minimize the impact of the time wasted.

Do you see some areas above that you also feel you could take some control over? What are the biggest time wasters in your life? Do you think they are all out of your control or do you think you have some control over them? Pick one large time waster in your life. What could you do today that would help you to gain control and minimize this time waster in your life?

How can you stop procrastinating?

Procrastination is a word to be feared, yet it is a word that we are all too familiar with. The dictionary defines it as “To postpone or delay needlessly.” It also traces its roots to the Latin wherein pro-crastinate means to “put forward.” Thus, when we don’t want to do something today, we put it forward until tomorrow. Sometimes that works and other times it starts creating a kind of sandbag effect in which it just seems easier to keep putting things off. Why do we procrastinate? There are many reasons. Here are some that I have found:

• I don’t know where to start
• The task seems daunting and monumental
• I am afraid I don’t have the ability
• I fear I will not be able to finish
• I am afraid of looking stupid
• I tried before and failed
• I just don’t feel like doing it

You could probably put your own list up but I would guess that it would have some similarities to my list. Is there a secret to overcoming procrastination or a solution? I think the answer is yes. We are all intimidated by the world. The people that accomplish the most are the ones who find support from others. Every year at graduation, I listen to the seniors talk about how they could not have made it without the help and support of someone else, usually their family, a teacher or friends. Going to college for four years is a major undertaking. We can never be sure if we will pass or graduate or even manage to pay the college loans off. Anyone who starts school begins a very long and precarious journey. However, as the song says “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

When you find that you are procrastinating that can be a red flag or a signal that you need some help from a friend. Working together we can do anything. Remember Ben Franklins famous quote “Either we all hang together or we all hang separately.” Why try to do it all by yourself? Musicians, chess players, actors and sports figures all have coaches. Coaches help us stay on track and provide moral and mental support. You may not be able to afford a high paying professional coach, but I will bet there is someone in your life that could help play this role. Seek this person out and enlist them in your endeavor. The secret to overcoming procrastination is to find others who can support and nurture your effort.

What are you putting forward today that you really need to do now? Who can you enlist to support you mentally, physically or emotionally in your effort? Do you need ideas or simply willpower? Who do you know that would best provide them? By the end of the day, will you be able to contact them? If not, is there someone else who could help you? Don’t procrastinate, contact them now. You will be glad you did.

Are you procrastinating?

“Think big, start small and deliver quickly.” I found this advice from a Vice President of Cisco Corporation. At the time, Cisco was one of the most profitable and fastest growing firms in the world. It struck me as the way we must all do business in this highly competitive global era. We must think big. We cannot just look at the world from our own petty perspective. We must view the world from the eyes of our customers, stakeholders and other world citizens. Things we do in New York affect the Amazon Rain Forest and vice versa. We must start small. Every journey begins with a single step. Every large organization or endeavor started out quite humbly.

It is no shame to start on the bottom and work your way up. We all must pay our dues. It is all too easy to see those who have achieved success and think they did it overnight. However, when you look closely at success, you see it came from very humble beginnings. Finally, we must be quick. Opportunities are like a window that opens and closes or like an elevator going and down every few seconds. Opportunities do not last long. If you do not seize the moment, someone else surely will. Nature abhors a vacuum and an opportunity is a vacuum just waiting to be filled. Opportunities are like the waves in the ocean and whenever one comes in, it is quickly spent but soon replaced by another one. You must pick the right wave and jump on it quickly or you will miss it.

I posted Cisco’s phase over my desk as a reminder. Thinking big reinforced the need for a vision worth achieving. Without a vision, we may end up building a molehill. We need a vision but we also need determination and speed. You need determination to have the stamina and patience to build your vision one day and one step at a time. You cannot know in advance if you will succeed. You will need determination to see you over the hills and valleys. You will also need speed. While you are still contemplating your great new idea, the chances are excellent that a competitor is also thinking about the same idea. Haste can make waste, but timing is everything and today you must act fast or lose the opportunity.

What good ideas do you have that you are procrastinating over? What opportunities are waiting for you to seize them? Why are you still waiting? Who or what could help you get started? If you are not sure how to get started, find someone to help you. You will regret it later if you do not act now.

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