When was the last story that you read that started with "Once upon a time?"

“Once upon a time” there were – hold it – why do all these old stories always start with the line “once upon a time?” Is there something special in these words? Does the line evoke certain images for us or certain feelings? I think you will probably answer: “Why, yes it does.” Somehow, the words “Once upon a time” have the power and magic to take us far far away to strange fantasy lands where good is battling evil. And despite how dark it might seem for the hero or heroine, in the end, we know that the evil king, queen, witch, warlord or dragon, will be defeated and the good guys (or good creatures) will live happily ever after. How many fairy tales were you told when you were a child that ended “happily ever after?”

“Once upon a time” takes us to a world where good always trumps evil. Who would not want to live in such a place? “Once upon a time” is a much sweeter opening line than “And now the six o’clock news.” Faced with the evening news, who would not want to escape to a magic kingdom of “someplace?” It is interesting that during hard times, people want more fantasy stories with happy endings to escape too. Stories like the Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins were very popular during some tough economic and social times in the USA. We might call this escapism but it actually shows that humans can only handle so much bad news and after that we must have some happy news. Like the old axiom, “all work and no play makes Jane a dull girl”, it is likely true that all bad news and no good news makes us bitter and angry people. We must have fantasy and happiness in our lives or we shrivel up and become sour old prunes.

What is your favorite story or fantasy land? Why? What dreams or fantasies does this story hold for you? Do you realize that none of these stories ever tells you what the time period was? The time they take place in is simply “once upon a time.” Where would you like to go now if you could go anyplace in time?

How about having even more play time in your life?

Play time (Part Two). There is so much to be said about play time. The short entry above only scratched the surface. Let’s spend more time on play time! Play is a time for relaxation, for recreation and for being non-goal oriented. If you look up the word “play” at http://www.dictionary.com , you will find nearly 100 different ways the word can be used. To attend a play, to play cards, to play a game, to play at something, to play music, etc. Most of our associations with play have to do with being non-work oriented and doing something that we regard as fun. We do not generally think of getting paid to play and there are not many jobs for playing except in the theater. If you were to be paid for playing, it would suddenly become task oriented and likely loose the element of fun.

During play time, time seems to disappear and we become much less aware of the passage of time. Play time is a time when we can forget time. We forget obligations, we forget out to do lists and we forget the demands for accountability. Time seems to fly by when we are having fun. You have probably noticed how fast weekends and vacations seem to go. When we play, we become so immersed in what we are doing that we do not notice or perhaps even care about the time that is passing by. There is some evidence it is important to have a time to relax and let the cares of the world be ignored. People who can play well and frequently do so will probably live happier if not longer lives. Most of us play well when we are children but as we become adults we forget how to play. We have to learn how to play again. We may become work-aholics as we age but you seldom see adults who are play-aholics. Can you imagine an AA group for play-aholics? That would be a group worth joining.

How well do you integrate play in your life? Does it happen for you on a daily, weekly or monthly basis? Do you get enough play time in your day to allow some of your stress to dissipate? Can you play and not feel guilty if all of your work is not done? How could you be even more playful in your life?

How to have more play time in your life?

Play time. Here we are about three fourths through the year and we are just now discussing play time. I suppose it is because I grew up with the Aesop story about the ants and the grasshopper. Most of us have heard that story but I think about it every single day. It is been etched not only into my mind but into the very fabric of my existence. “You must get your work done before you can play.” Later in life, I learned about the three boxes of life and discovered that if I was creative enough; I could integrate work, play and learning. I have tried to integrate that model in both my teaching and my consulting. Sometimes, I am successful but more often I am not. Nevertheless, I keep working on it and trying to make it a constant reality. On most days though, my mind keeps repeating the “you must get your work done first.”

Karen is very different, she can play and play and not feel guilty. When I play before I work, my guilt becomes overwhelming and feelings of some impending disaster are ever present. I suppose I think I will be left out in the cold (like the grasshopper) with nothing to eat. I once asked a group of gold-miners whom I was training what it would be like if they could integrate work, play and learning. I am not sure what I was expecting for answers but I was stunned by the following comment from one of the miners: “Well, it would be like there was no difference between Monday and Saturday.” I could not have come up with a better description. We would not be able to tell the difference between the days of the week, because they would no longer have the same meaning to us. Life would be like Saturday all the time.

What is your conception of work and play and learning? Do you think they can be integrated? Are your Saturdays different from Mondays? What would it take to integrate them in your life? Imagine waking up and saying “Thank god its Monday”

Why time management is a demon and how to "mis-manage" your time.

Time management is a demon. When I first started these blogs, everyone wanted to know if they were going to be on time management. We can all relate to this topic since it is not only popular but ever present in our minds. How I can manage my time better, what are some secrets of time management, where can I find a good course on time management? How can I be successful if I cannot manage my time! My answer was NO! NO! NO! I am not writing a blog on time management. There are a gazillion books on time management. I am sick of the subject of time management. My good friend Sam P-W once told me that time management was the ultimate oxymoron. We think we can manage everything these days. We human beings somehow think “management” is our solution to all of the world’s problems. If we could only plan, organize, lead and control better, we could solve all of the world’s problems. Of course, the secret to doing all of these things better is time management. However, is it really the secret? Why do we all have to be so super organized?

What would happen if we created a class on “time mis-management?” You could earn a certificate in time mis-management. It almost sounds like something they could put you in jail for. “You have been accused by the state of “mis-managing” your time. You are sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.” We take the creed of time management so seriously that we cannot even contemplate the idea of it being feasible to mis-manage time. However, if you think about it, play is the ultimate mis-management of time. When was the last time you felt that you mis-managed your time? What did you do about it? Were you compulsive, contrite or penitent? Do you beat yourself up when you mis-manage your time? Why? Whose time is it to mis-manage anyway?

Do you hear the time passing in your life?

Time crept by on little cat’s feet. You hardly noticed it was gone. When you have too much time you are bored, when you have too little time, you want more. Like most of what we get, we never really value it until it is gone or until someone else wants what we have. We hardly notice the passing of time, the ticking of clocks or the ringing of church bells. Time is a paradox, a riddle and a conundrum NOT rolled up into one but twisted and tangled together until we cannot tell what is the beginning, middle or end. We alternately exult time then shortly after we malign it. We define it, and then decide it does not really exist; but through it all, time remains omnipotent and omnipresent in our lives.

So how can time be so stealthy and so cat like? If we belled time (like belling the cat), would we be more aware of its influence and presence in or lives? What if we could hear it coming and hear it leaving? Would we be forever warned or would we quickly learn to ignore the sound of the bell? I suspect that we might still take it for granted. We never really value time until it is running out. We have the most precious resource in the world and we ignore it unless we suddenly realize we will not have much more of it. We all know someone who had a heart attack and then started watching their eating and exercise. We all know someone who smoked until they were diagnosed with cancer. As a nation, we have repeatedly delayed taking action when needed until the crisis was in our face. We can get a hurricane warning but until the winds are blowing the trees down, we stubbornly resist taking action. It seems to take a crisis to galvanize us into motion. But what is more of a crisis then finding out that our time left on this earthy is shorter than we thought it would be. Suddenly, time is a very precious luxury and no longer a simple commodity.

How aware are you of the time in your life, the changing of the minutes, the passing of the days, weeks, months, seasons or years in your life? Do you see them all passing by or do you only notice them when they are gone? What would it take to make you more aware of the time in your life, the time you spend and the time you waste? Do you need to put a bell on your time? Are you satisfied with the passing of time in your life? Do you treat each hour and minute of your life as a luxury or are they simply a commodity?

Is time moving too fast or too slow for you?

Tempus fugit is Latin for “time flies.” Oh and how it does fly. But, at what speed does time fly? During the caveman era, did time fly as fast as it does now? Does time fly at the speed of light or is it even faster? Have you ever been engrossed in something you really enjoyed doing? Time then seems to pass in a blink of an eye. On the other hand, if you hate what you are doing or you are bored, seconds can seem like long minutes and minutes like long hours. Why does time fly? Does time ever choose to walk or meander?

Time seems to always have wings and be quick. Time can be slow but we seldom want it to go any slower. We seem to always want to speed time up. Let’s hurry up now! Let’s get going! Let’s get it done! Time never flies fast enough for us except when we are having fun. Then it flies too fast. We alternate our demands on time. Fly faster now, fly slower now. We can never find the right balance. Either time is moving too slowly or time flies too fast. Although, usually it is the latter case for most of us.

If time were a bird, what bird would time be? Would it be a fleet falcon or a stealthy vulture? Does time have the wings of an angel or of a devil? In the twenty first century, it seems as though time has jet wings. How fast time flies will probably always depend on your perspective. How fast does time fly for you? Would you slow it down if you could? Why? Have you ever wished you lived in a time when change happened more slowly and time passed more slowly? Or are you always in a hurry to “getter done.” We say in business that the new mantra is “better, faster, and cheaper.” What if the mantra were slower, more relaxed and more thoughtful? What if your life was slower but higher quality? What would it be like? Would you be happier if things in your life were going more slowly? What would it take to slow things down for you? Would you live longer?

Do you want to know how to be in control of your life?

Are you a slave of time? Time is a harsh master. To be a slave to time can mean to live a life chained to a yoke. Time can be a yoke that permits no rest, no relaxation and no fun. The yoke is the tic tock tic tock of the omnipresent time piece. When you are a slave to time, the timepiece is in your head and you need no watch or alarm clock. You will never rest since there will always be one more task to do, one more task to accomplish, one more task to be completed. You will hear the tic tock in your dreams even when you are asleep. Is it any wonder that so many of us suffer from stress related illnesses? We are running from the Time Master but there is no place to run to. The time master is in our heads. The day you die, you will pass from under the yoke of the Time Master. Is this any way to live? Why do so many of us willingly choose to be slaves to time? To paraphrase Patrick Henry “Is time so dear or work so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me time or give me death.”

My apologies to Mr. Henry but I was always smitten by the vigor of his speech. This speech seems to fit my passion about taking control of our lives and our time. To take control of your life, you must take control of your time. There is no other alternative. This entire blog is being written in the hope that even a few who read it will be able to shed the yoke of time. It is a millstone around the neck of too many of us. We are driven by the demands of the almighty time clock. From getting to work on time, to getting back from break on time, to getting the job done on time, to being on time for all the daily meetings that clutter our lives; we go from one time obligation to another. It was my hope that this blog would help you to view time differently. Time has a role in our lives but like many other obligations, we must balance it and weigh priorities.

Can you have fun if you are always thinking about time? Do you have any recreation time or just plain down time in your life? Do you strive all day to be busy? Where is the time to do nothing in your day? Is time a slave driver for you or do you manage to keep the genie in the bottle and let her out when you need her? What would it take for you to do a better job of balancing the role of time in your life? Some good answers to these questions can be found in the book called “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich” by Timothy Ferriss. I highly recommend this book. Have a great day, goof off and have some fun.

How much can we stretch time?

Can we stretch time? We often use this expression (to stretch time) to mean that we are doing more with less time. This brings to my mind a picture of time as play dough or silly putty. I have this chunk of time which is only so big. However, I am able to tuck it, kneed it, and stretch it until I can get all of the things I need done in the time I have. How do I accomplish this miracle? Is their a coefficient for the elasticity of time? We have such figures for product demand and product supply so why not time. These coefficients measure the elasticity of demand for products and services. Some products can change very little in price and the demand drops sharply, for instance if the price of beans or broccoli goes up even a little, people will find substitute products. Products and services that respond rapidly to small changes in prices are referred to as being very elastic. Other products can undergo very large price changes and the demand falls off less so (Insulin and alcohol are often named in this category). These products are very inelastic. It will take a large change in price before the demand falls for them.

What would an elasticity of time be like? Time that was very elastic might be leisure time, vacation time and weekend time. During these periods, you can stretch your time to accomplish things that suddenly come up. Time that is very inelastic might include work time, project time or chore time. During these times, it is very difficult to put more on your plate since it is already accounted for. Thus, when we talk about stretching time, it might be wise to first see how elastic our time is. I can imagine this preventing many misunderstandings and arguments.

For instance, if I told Karen my time was very flexible and elastic this week, it would mean I could easily change our schedules to accommodate some new tasks. On the other hand, if I said it was very inelastic, she should understand that I had very little flexibility or openness to change. Perhaps, this concept could help in work load scheduling or other forms of job tasking. It might help others to understand when we were willing to take on more work and when we were not willing.

How do you stretch your time? Do you find that your time is often not very stretchable? What makes the difference for you in terms of your ability to stretch time? Are there weeks when you can do more and weeks when you do less? What do you think accounts for this difference?

Do you know when to hold them or when to fold them?

The time had come. “These four words are the essence of any great decision”(Profiles in Audacity, Alan Axelrod, 2006, Sterling Publishing Co.). This book describes many great decisions that had to be made throughout history and of the difficulties that faced the decision maker. Harry Truman is famous for the saying “The buck stops here.” However, when does it stop? Timing is the critical component of any great decision. Too early or too late and no decision is correct. When we act too soon, we “rush to judge” and act without facts or commitment. When we act too late, the window of opportunity is closed and there is great loss.

Decision makers assume great responsibility and many assume that it is better to do something than nothing. Perhaps this is not true. With more patience, could we have had less wars and death? I do not need to point out the Holocaust and Cambodia massacres of the twentieth centuries as examples of when we should have acted sooner. We hesitated to condemn these atrocities and millions died.

In business, windows of opportunity are represented by new products, new value propositions and new business models. The first in are not always the ones to benefit from the “new” but seldom do the “last” reap many major rewards. Thus, the trick as always is to be able to tell the difference between haste and sloth. When to wait and when not to? Or as Kenny Rogers sang “knowing when to hold them and when to fold them.”

How can we improve our decision making and the timeliness of our decisions? The answer to this question probably depends on whether you are too often hasty or whether you procrastinate too much. Do you rush to judge without facts and data or do you hem and haw in fear of making a mistake until it is too late? How many of the major decisions in your life have turned out well and how many do you regret? Your answer to this question will suggest whether you need to be bolder or less bold in your timing and decision making.

What if you had only one week left to live?

You have only one week to live. We have explored this concept before in terms of life expectancy. However, let us think about it again but with a different time frame in mind. Right now, how long do you think you have left to live? Hopefully, it will be a very long time. But what if you went from thinking you had twenty or more years to live and suddenly found out you had only one more week left on this earth? God forbid that should ever happen to you, but it does happen. It might be one of the main reasons we all dread that annual visit to our doctor. We fear that we might hear some bad news. I recently had an MRI and a Colonoscopy within two weeks of each other. Both times, I was very anxious less I hear the dreaded news “you have cancer.” We all know someone who received this news but we don’t know how we will respond until we hear it.

One week is a lot more than one second but a lot less than one year. I would not wish such news on anyone. We would all trade for more time, but if you only had one week, how would you make the best of it? Even one week is better than the sudden death that comes from an accident or other catastrophe. It is probably too late for those trips you never took or the time to spend with some friends and relatives. However, it might be enough time for some apologies and goodbyes or perhaps one last adventure you always dreamed of. One week to spend. So many things we want to do and so little time. No time to spend worrying about the life we wished we had lived. We have one week to conclude our business on this earth and wrap it up. In some ways, it would be wonderful if we were all given a one week warning of our impending death. We might be able to use this last week very effectively.

How would you spend your last week? Would it be a week of doing or being? Would you opt for finishing some things or would you choose to be more peaceful and contemplative? What are the most important things you would want to accomplish during your last week on earth?

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: