Why worry about the meaning of what we say? How much is our perception of time affected by this meaning?

How about we end this month with some semantics?  Right, let’s briefly talk about the study of word definitions.  Let’s explore the way that we use some common terms or phrases concerning time.  I know it sounds boring but how can we spend another year talking about time if we do not agree on some basic terms?  For instance, we talk about being on time, being ahead of the times and being behind the times. We use these phrases so often that they become “unconscious” and we seldom reflect on what they mean or whether they really mean what we want them to mean.  We all think we know what they mean but do we really agree with what they mean?  Are we using them “correctly?”   Can you really be ahead of or behind the times? 
We sometimes say that someone is “stuck” in the past.  We may know someone who seems to fondly remember their best days as when they were the high school quarterback or when they were in college or when they lived someplace else or some other time that was happier or more pleasant for them.  We joke that they are “stuck” in the past and cannot seem to move forward.  However, are they really stuck in the past?  What does it mean to be stuck in the past?  Can they be partially stuck or only stuck sometimes?  If so, how can they get “unstuck?”  Are we all stuck in the past at least sometimes? 
There are many other phrases that we use concerning time that have become so habitual with us that we take them for granted. We assume that we know what they mean when we hear them.  We apply them to our lives and to those around us without thinking about how we use them or what their use implies. The novel “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll is so powerful because the meaning of words and the way they are used in the Alice story forces us to rethink how we use words.  For instance, who ever heard of an “un-birthday” party?  Well, it is a wonderful twist on an expectation that you can only have a party on your birthday.  You can have an “unbirthday party” 364 days a year.  One of my favorite exchanges in the story takes place between Alice and Humpty Dumpty:
Humpty Dumpty: When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.
Alice: The question is, whether you can make words mean so many different things.
Humpty Dumpty: The question is: who is to be master – that’s all.
The phrases that we use concerning time can have many different meanings. We each choose the meaning that we desire or that we learned as a child. Other people may have different meanings or different associations.  For instance, what does it mean to be late? What does it mean to be on-time? Who decides what is late and who decides what is on-time is?  How late is late?  What does it take to be on time?  Who decides?  Well of course, you and I do, right?  If so, then how come so much of the world seems to thwart our best efforts to be on time?  Maybe we are all dancing to a different beat. 
Is it worth the effort to get everybody in sync with their definitions of time?  Does everyone you know agree with your definitions of time?  Do you belief that your definitions are right and everyone else is wrong?  What if your definitions of time were more flexible? What difference would this make for your family and friends?  Are you too flexible already?  What if you were less flexible? Would your life be smoother and happier?  How far can we go with no common definitions for time? Who decides?  Maybe February 30 would be a good day to decide?
Finally, here is a plug for a reader of my blog who has a new article out called 10 Reasons I Don’t Want to Look at My Work Email
I think you will agree that most of these reasons have to do with the time that email now captures or destroys in our lives.  I for one am often “afraid” to open or even look at my email. 

Is there a formula for creativity? Try this one.

Have you ever tried to be creative in a hurry? It is probably not going to happen. Some of the greatest ideas in history have come at spontaneous random times.  Indeed, many great ideas have come in dreams or during periods of sleep or relaxation. You cannot be creative on a schedule.  Conversely, creativity is a process like any other activity and requires a systematic use and application of time tested principles. The creative process proceeds through steps.  One of the earliest models of the creative process is attributed to Graham Wallas (The Art of Thought, New York: Harcourt Brace, 1926) who proposed that creative thinking proceeds through the following four phases:

The Wallas Model for the Process of Creativity

Preparation (definition of issue, observation, and study)
Incubation (laying the issue aside for a time)
Illumination (the moment when a new idea finally emerges)
Verification (checking it out)

Of course, not all experts agree with the idea of steps or stages for creativity:

For example, Vinacke (1953) is adamant that creative thinking in the arts does not follow a model. In a similar vein, Gestalt philosophers like Wertheimer (1945) assert that the process of creative thinking is an integrated line of thought that does not lend itself to the segmentation implied by the steps of a model. But while such views are strongly held, they are in the minority. (Working Paper: Models for the Creative Processby Paul E. Plsek, 1996) http://www.directedcreativity.com
Which ever way you look at it, time plays a key role in the creative process. If creativity does require preparation, incubation, illumination and verification, then each of these tasks takes time.  I would also add some time for stimulation to the process. Something must be sufficient to stimulate and motivate me to want to solve a problem or be creative. If not, I will not put the time and energy into looking for a solution. Each of the phases noted above takes time. 
Many people believe that it takes a great deal of imagination to be creative. Some of us might feel wanting in this area. It is true that some people are more imaginative then others.  However, I would argue that if we apply time to our problems in a systematic fashion than we can all be creative. If you think you can solve your problems overnight, you are going to be disappointed.  If you realize that it will take time and you are willing to apply a systematic process to your problems then almost any problem is solvable. 
What problems have you been ignoring that a systematic use of time and effort might help you to solve?  How could you start working on those problems?  What changes in your life might occur if you could solve these problems? Have you labeled yourself as unimaginative and uncreative? Who could help you with these problems?  A little help with any issue can provide new insights and illumination. 

Act fast or think things through? Which is the best path?

Haste makes waste! He who hesitates is lost? These are two very popular sayings but they express two very different ideas and concepts about time. You well might ask which is true. Should I take my time, think things through, get a second opinion and then make a decision to act? Or is such carefulness a vice? In this day of rapid change, perhaps hesitating is to lose great opportunities. Should I act quickly and seize the moment? What do to? Act fast or think things over? Oh, why isn’t life simple? 

Alas, the world is full of information which contradicts itself. Perhaps, the contradictions arise from the simple fact that there is no ultimate truth. Sometimes it pays to act fast and sometime it pays to hesitate. On the other hand, perhaps it is the complexity of life that makes it so much more interesting. You have heard it said “All things in moderation.” This is good advice, however sometimes moderation can lack passion and commitment. To be too moderate, is to be very bland. It is to be in the middle. Non-assuming, vanilla and non-offensive.  It may be a foolish attempt to try to please everyone. 

There are times when you must take a stand on something. This means you might offend a few or even many people. Moderation is not always a panacea. In life, there will be times when you must rush and times when you cannot afford to rush. There may also be times when it pays to go down the middle road and there will be times when for your own integrity, you must take a stand. It was simple for Robert Frost since he had only two choices. He had a high road and a low road. Now we have many more roads to face. Today, most of us face multiple choices. The road now forks in ten or more directions.

Which path do you go down today? What kind of a day will this be for you? Will it be a day to be careful and deliberate or will it be a day for speed and uncertainty? Will you take a road of moderation or will you take a road of passion and commitment? How will you decide? At the end of this day, ask yourself if you found the right balance between haste and hesitancy and between passion and moderation.  Did you? What will tomorrow bring?

Are you forever waiting? What are you waiting for?

Time and tide wait for no man or woman; an old saying that has been around forever. Despite this good advice, there are people who are forever waiting. In fact, some might argue that the world is composed of two types of people; the wait-ers and the do-ers. Wait-ers are people who hope that good things will come to them and do-ers are people that make the good things come to them. Wait-ers hope to win the lottery so they can buy the things they want. Do-ers go out and make the money to buy what they want. We all have friends who fall into these categories or habits. Friends who are waiting to take a holiday to another country, friends who are waiting for Mr.or Ms right, friends who are waiting for their ship to arrive. We eventually come to realize that they will be dead and buried before any of these things happen. One of the reasons why Nike’s motto “Just do it” is so powerful is the way it resonates with most of us at a primal level. We all want to be doers but many of us fall into the category of wait-ers.
Why do we wait is a good question? Why do we wait and wait and wait and wait? What fears stop us (because the answer to the first question is FEAR) from becoming doers? What can we do to overcome these fears? Psychologists would say that the first step is to overcome the excuses and denial and to admit our fears. Be honest with ourselves and make an inventory of our fears.  Put them down on paper.

Once we admit our fears, we can take the second step. The second step is to decide to do something about our fears. I was afraid of heights. For years, I admitted it but could not decide what to do about it. Finally, I decided to do a solo parachute jump. It took me nearly ten years but I finally did it on my 55th birthday. Since then, I am much less intimated by being up high. This is the decision step.  Identify and then decide to take action.

The third step is the action step. My action was a skydive.  There are often many remedies, but which is the right solution for you. For me, it was to find a sky diving club, join them and take a class in sky-diving. Once I decided to take the sky-diving training and jump, I had to actually attend the training and then go to the school. I had to make several trips to the airport before I could jump because on two consecutive occasions the airport was closed for jumping due to bad weather. I almost gave up the idea but the third time was a charm. I was able to jump by myself out of the plane at about 5000 feet. Believe me when I say, I was scared to death. However as I floated down, I realized the beauty and unreality of the entire event. I actually relaxed enough to start enjoying it once my chute opened. Had I not taken action, the first two steps would be worthless.

Which are you, a wait-er or a do-er? We all are wait-ers in some areas of our lives. We all have fears that cause us to avoid or put off doing certain things. What are the events and activities that you put off? What are the fears you have to overcome? Can you practice these three steps or just take one of them this next year? What do you think would happen if you did? How do you think your life would be different? Life is waiting for you to start.

Do you have a plan to make friends and keep them?

I am getting up very early Wednesday to leave on a trip to Florida for an evaluation visit.  Thus, I am posting my Wednesday blog early.  So if this says Tuesday, it is really Wednesday. 🙂  However, here is the last of my five plans for a healthy and happy life. 
My fifth and final plan deals with the quality of the relationships that we have in our lives; as the Beatle song said: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”  We need other people in our lives.  None of us can have too many friends or too much family.  However, there are times when we are dissatisfied with both.  Therefore I recommend a plan that will help you to achieve your emotional and relationship goals or at least improve the quality of these goals.  In a balanced life, we must manage our friendships and relationships with people who can sustain and nurture us. This takes time. Your time is precious and will quickly slip away if not budgeted and planned.  Many people laugh at the various social networking tools like Facebook and LinkedIn as simply time wasters.  True, they can be time wasters but tools like these can also help you to develop and strengthen your friendships with family and others.  I spend maybe five minutes a day on Facebook and it has helped me to remember birthdays and many other events going on in the lives of my friends and relatives.  I do not regard such an investment of time as wasted.
Even if you are already in a close relationship, you must spend time on your relationship or it will wither and die.  My spouse Karen and I have set aside Tuesday night as talk night and family time.  With no children home, we still find that problems and issues arise that need to be discussed. When we skip our planned talk days, eventually something breaks down and we realize that skipping these days is not a good idea. In addition, we set aside time to be by ourselves and to do things alone and we set aside time to spend with our friends, our children and our grandchildren. 
The emphasis on my planning is to try to keep a happy balance.  When we are feeling dissatisfied with life it is a good indication that we are not spending enough time on some aspects of our relationships.  You do not need a very formal system to create a relationship plan.  Karen and I simply discuss it from time to time and have our own rough guidelines for spending time with family and friends. I regard appointments and times with friends as important enough to mark on my calendar and I seldom cancel dates that I have set unless something really important comes up.  I have all of my friends in my address book and many on email.  For a while, I was using a group email list to regularly visit with friends and relatives each month, but I drifted away from this method. It certainly has pro’s and con’s. 
I recommend you start your relationship plan by listing the most important people in your life.  Prioritize how much time you want to spend with these people.  Brainstorm ways you can keep in touch with them.  For example, Facebook, LinkedIn, list-serves, email groups, a weekly or monthly potluck, a list of five key contacts you want to make each month, a birthday list or a holiday card list can all be easy ways to keep in touch.  You might also identify for each of your key friends and relatives, something that you can do for them or send them.  I have friends that are interested in politics so I send them updates on the elections whenever I come across them.  I have other friends whom I routinely correspond with via Skype.  The new social tools on the web can help you stay in touch in many ways other than physically spending time with people. 
How much time do you spend trying to maintain or improve your relationships?  Do you think this is enough time?  Do you wish you had more friends or closer relationships with your spouse or family? When can you set aside the time to help achieve these goals? Begin your plan by setting aside time to talk to some of these people either weekly or monthly about the important things in your relationships.  Mark down some general overall goals for who you want to spend time with and how often you think you need to.  Put these on a calendar and review and revise whenever needed. People and sometimes friendships evolve and change and so will your relationship plan.

Do you have a plan for heaven or hell?

Okay, so now you have plans to become healthy, wealthy and wise. But what about your immortal soul? “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffers the loss of his own soul” (Matthew). Many of us worry about time and money. We worry about how we look and what people think of us. We worry about holidays, vacations, buying things, having the right image and having the right toys. What gets lost in our mad material rush for things and image is our immortal soul. We remember to put out the garbage but we forget our souls. Our souls will go on long after our body has aged and withered away. What is more important, how you look or how your soul looks? The fourth plan we all need concerns our spiritual development.

The highest level of development is considered by many wise people to be spiritual. Without spiritual development, we wither and rot on the vine. We are hollow and shallow people without a soul. We can plan a budget and plan time for going to school, friends, family and exercise, but what will it all be for if we cannot put aside time to develop our soul? Thus, a plan to develop your soul might just be the longest reaching and most important plan you can have. Without such a plan how can you grow wiser and kinder and more just? My spiritual plan is very simple. For others, it may be going regularly to church, mosque or synagogue. The core of my spiritual exercises is my daily spiritual prayer. Each day before I begin my activities, I recite a spiritual prayer and take five minutes to do a spiritual reading. This practice constitutes a sort of daily spiritual exercise for me. Every year, I attend a silent retreat at a Jesuit Retreat house called Demontreville. It is three days of spiritual reflection and prayer. The silence for three days helps me to get in touch with my inner being and to really reflect on where my life and my goals are. I have now attended over 25 of these yearly retreats. These retreats have helped me to develop spiritually, morally and ethically. Every year, I look forward to my annual retreat as an important time for spiritual renewal and reflection. Karen and I also attend a Sunday night bible studies group. We meet weekly with other folks to discuss various aspects of the Christian faith. I am sure there are groups for all religious faiths.

There are many spiritual exercises in the different religious traditions that can help you to develop spiritually. They all offer you more joy and happiness if you take the time to practice them. Are you satisfied with your spiritual and moral development? Are you doing something to help develop in these areas? Have you set aside time for your spiritual development? Do you have a concrete set of exercises and activities to help you grow spiritually? If not, when will you begin? Can you start by taking five minutes today for a spiritual reading from the Bible, Koran, Hindu Scriptures, Buddhist readings or the Torah? If not, can you simply read a good selection from a book on moral and ethical development? Five minutes each day that might change your immortal soul!

Here is my plan to be Wise

The first of my plans dealt with being healthy and wealthy. The third plan that I have found essential is for mental and cognitive development. This is a plan for being wise. Yes, I mean a plan to expand your brainpower or at least your knowledge base. It has been said that the only real job security we have is between our ears. In this day of rapid obsolescence, the knowledge and skills that one has can become outdated very quickly.

We need to think of learning as a lifelong endeavor and not just as a series of degrees or diplomas. To do that, each of us needs some type of learning or self-development plan. This is too important to trust to employers or others with the hope that they will provide us with the training and education we need to stay current. We need to develop our own lifelong training program. This plan will be different for each of us. It will depend on your knowledge, skills and abilities and your personal interests and aspirations. The goal of this plan is to stay viable and valuable to yourself and to others.

I try to develop a plan each year to insure that I am keeping up with technology and the key insights in my chosen career field. I am now able to use the Internet to help me do this. The use of RSS feeds (Really Simple Syndication), Google alerts, Blog notices, Facebook and LinkedIn, webinars, Ezines and other automatic downloads helps me to keep abreast of what is happening in the workplace. I also try to subscribe to current magazines that will help me to keep abreast of events in my field.

If you cannot afford new magazines and books, you can make a weekly trip to the library and simply scan the newest magazines for insights. Belonging to professional associations can be somewhat expensive but may be well worthwhile if you can use the time effectively for growth and development. Professional associations give you the opportunity to meet and network with leaders and experts in your field. These contacts can be invaluable. The website LinkedIn allows you to participate in a wide range of professional associations on-line. The networking and knowledge that you can learn from these “virtual” organizations on LinkedIn can be almost as valuable as attending a “real” organization and at little or no cost.

Finally, do you look for opportunities to attend workshops and conferences that will give you new learning and insights? There are many free podcasts, webinars, video-conferences, teleconferences, papers and articles on the web that are wonderful resources and they do not cost a cent.

If you do not have a plan or as you start to develop your plan, here are some key questions to think about:

• How will you ensure that you remain knowledgeable and informed?
• What could you do now to be better informed about your world and what’s happening
in it?
• Can you read a book, take a class or attend a lecture each month?
• Are you taking advantage of the free opportunities for education and training on
the Internet?
• Make a schedule of activities that will keep your mind healthy and flexible and
see if you can stick to it for the next year.

How to be healthy, wealthy and maybe even wise?

The second of the five plans that you need to better manage your time deals with your health. All of us want to be healthy. You have only to visit the health clubs the day after New Years to witness all of the people who have suddenly decided that their goal for the New Year is to become healthy. However, it takes more than just desire to become healthy. You have to also have commitment, follow-through and a plan. Have you ever noticed that the more successful people are the more time they spend taking care of their health? All the money in the world will not do you any good if you don’t have your health. True, some health problems are not preventable by good diet and exercise. However, bad diet and no exercise will make any existing problems worse and perhaps create a multitude of life-style related illnesses and disease. The medical dictionary is full of illnesses that are preventable or ameliorated by good diet and exercise.

I have been keeping to a diet and exercise program now for over 25 years. I chart my exercise and diet regularly. I keep food goals and exercise goals. I am not trying to be an Olympic athlete. I seldom run any marathons or races. However, I feel good, maintain a healthy weight and occasionally am able to compete in some short local events. I don’t make a habit of it because what is the point? At my age, I am not going to break any records or win any gold medals. My entire exercise and diet program is aimed at what a friend of mine called “maintenance.” I want to maintain an adequate level of heath and fitness to enjoy life daily. Do you have a health and exercise plan that you chart daily or weekly? Does your program work for you? If not, I am going to suggest the following ideas.

Your health plan should address both weight and exercise to start. List your goals in terms of weight and exercise. I use a wall calendar with large open squares to write in. I put my daily amount (length of time running or swimming or yoga or walking) in the appropriate daily square. My calendar is what enables me to track how often I exercise against my goals. For instance, my goals now are as follows: to run at least 16 times each month for an average of 30 minutes a run; to swim at least 3times per week for an average of 45 minutes each swim; to do 50 pushups or ten pull-ups each day; to do yoga at least twice a week and to walk with my wife for 3 miles at least twice a week.

At the end of each month, I look at my calendar and count the number of times I did each exercise against my goals and I put it in a little notebook. I have been keeping this record for over 20 years now. Writing it down helps me to keep on track and to look back to see how I am doing each month for the current year. I also summarize my weight based on my daily weigh-ins on the bathroom scale and compute an average monthly weight which I list in my notebook. To do this, I simply get on a scale each morning and write my daily weight in a space on the calendar. Even if I miss doing this a few days, the average of 20-25 daily readings each month is much more accurate than taking a once a week or once a month reading. Taking a reading like this also prevents me from over or under reacting to daily weight shifts. For instance, some days I may be up two or three pounds over my target weight. However, the daily reading is not important. It is the monthly reading. By taking this monthly average, I can identify trends and see if my weight is going up or down. I also chart this on an Excel spread sheet. I am being somewhat redundant here but I like seeing the totals each day as well. This system allows me to adjust accordingly by noting those months and events that have an adverse impact on my weight or exercise.

By the way, this might seem like it takes a lot of time, but it takes me no more than five minutes a day to chart my exercise and my weight. I work out an average of about 45 minutes each day if you add up the walking, swimming, yoga and jogging each week. I believe that by staying healthy, you will add a great deal of time to your life. The payback for this time has been worth it for me. It will be worth it for you too. It is an investment in your health and your wealth. The longer you are healthy, the more you earn and are able to avoid forced medical expenses.

Well, are you ready to start your plan? Do you need more information? If so, simply type “exercise planning” in Google with the quotes and you will find a number of excellent worksheets and articles to help you get started. Another question is “Will you fall off the bandwagon?” Of course you will. I have fallen off so many times, I have lost count. The real question is “Will you get back on again?”

The importance of a Financial Plan or Budget

One of my major regrets in life is finding out late how important financial planning is. I realize that our schools cannot teach us everything, but I think all students should have some training in financial planning at least by the time they get out of college. If you want to manage your life well, you must have a financial plan. A financial plan will help to insure that you have the money to spend when you have the time to spend it. There is no sense having a lot of extra time if you do not have the money to go anywhere or do anything. Although staying at home can be relaxing and fun, we need to have the choice of doing nothing or something. Money gives us this choice. I have always liked the quote that “love makes the world go round, but money greases the wheels.”

It has been said that the great Duke of Wellington had a goal to make enough money when he was young so that he would be financially secure enough to make his own decisions when he was older. When you cannot afford to quit your job or you do not have the resources to feel comfortable, you must rely on the good will of others perhaps to a greater extent than you might desire. This does not mean that you will not need others or that you will not need to work. However, having enough in the bank to cover your bills and expenses for several months might just mean the security to start a new job or to even start that business you had long dreamed about.

You do not have to be a financial planner to have a financial plan. The major purpose of a financial plan is the same as for a business. It is to chart your income and expenses. A financial plan should have both current and projected expenses and it should be as detailed as possible. I like to have a list of projected or “desired” expenses to itemize those things that I am planning to buy in the future. My projected expenses also include bills that will come due someplace down the road such as my home taxes, car registrations and even new running shoes. A good business would not think of running without an Income Statement, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow Analysis. These same forms in a much simplified version can help you to control your expenses and even put money away for your future.

You can start your financial plan with using a software program like Moneydance or RichOrPoor or you can simply use an Excel spreadsheet. Here is a link to a review of the top budget software packages for 2012 – http://money-software-review.toptenreviews.com – These software programs will cost you from 30 dollars to sixty dollars but will be worth the cost. If you choose to use Excel, it is easy to use and you can later migrate to a more sophisticated package. We often use Mint, which gives us mobile phone notices of upcoming deposits, withdrawals and bills.

Using Excel, in one column, list all your monthly debts, for instance, Visa or insurance or mortgage. In the columns across the top, you should put each month from the time you start your plan. Your bills will be very similar from month to month but you can list your monthly bills and expenses for the next 12 months by cutting and pasting from the first month you start your plan. If you know of any differences that are coming up, you can place these figures in the appropriate box. Fill the boxes for the next upcoming month with any fixed or essential expenses. You should also list all expected income on this page and keep a monthly total of your checks or cash received. Your income should either match or exceed your expenses over a six month period or you can expect to have cash flow or credit problems. Credit debt is always something that should be minimized or paid back as soon as possible. Few businesses can afford a large credit debt and fewer people can afford this type of debt. The interest is just to great and it will eat your budget up in no time.

You can then use another page to set up a “forecast” for projected expenses that are desirable but not essential. For instance, I may want to buy a computer or a new suit. I will put the item in the left hand column and then under a future month, I may budget the item in. I will try to find a way to project the expense out so that I can manage my money to cover the expense and not rely on loans or credit. You can use this second page for items like clothes, vacations, concerts etc. By having both sheets you can see first what you must pay and then second what you would like to buy. If you do not have the money to cover these future expenses then you may need to think more about what are your basic needs and what are your wants. I may not need a new computer or suit. On the other hand, if my work derives from a computer, I may need a new computer. The suit may be a “want” which I can put off for another year. We all need to have a clear distinction between wants and needs.

I also add a third spreadsheet where I track large recurring debts such as home equity loans or credit card loans. This third spreadsheet helps me track my monthly payments on these debts and how much I have left to pay on each debt. Right now we have only a couple of these debts one of which is due to our taking the payment of a school loan for our daughter. I put down the total amount of the loan, the loan payments and then I use my Excel to work backwards to see when the loan will be paid off. My goal is to make steady payments on any loans and whenever possible to pay them off before the final date. This way I can minimize interest payments on the loans.

Well, does this sound simple? It is! But the benefits are huge. You will take charge of your life and your finances. You will know where your money is going. You will be able to prioritize and spend your money on the things that are most important and eventually you will be debt free and have few financial worries. It really works. Have you started yet? Why not? What is holding you back?

By the way, I am not saying that any plan will make you rich. But being debt free and financially secure are not the same as being rich. There are many rich people who are neither and who do not sleep well at night. My goal is to be able to pay my bills, remain healthy and have a fun life. As I go out this morning to run the Desert trails up at Casa Grande Mountain, I would not trade these morning jogs for all the money in the world. Money is important but you must manage your money and not let your money manage you.

What are the benefits of organizing our time more effectively?

What is a plan? I call a plan “organized time.” If my time is not organized and managed, then nothing happens. The key is to balance our time so that the major areas of our lives each receives the time needed. I believe we all need 5 plans to lead a balanced life. These five plans will help you to organize and manage your time to achieve the results and goals for a balanced life. A life that is successful, healthy and happy. Although this series of blogs was never meant to be a “time management blog”, I did feel that there were some key time management tasks and activities that I had learned over the years that I want to share with you. I have had some negative views of “time management” as I can see it sometimes focusing on trivia and missing the essence of what time is really about. Just like we cannot always manage the earth, we can not always control time. However, we can plan our time more effectively and allow for contingencies.

As I sit here, I am relatively fit, happy, prosperous (but not rich) and lead a very comfortable life. I don’t do drugs and am not on any medication. I am over sixty five now and feel as good as I did when I was 40 years of age. My new Omron health scale says my effective body age is 45. Not only do I feel good, but I am much more satisfied with life and much happier with my life. What do I attribute this to? Most importantly, these five plans that I am going to share with you! In fact, I believe I could have been happier and even more prosperous and successful at an earlier age if I had known about and practiced these plans in my youth. Due to my lack of plans, I missed many opportunities that I was not prepared for. I am not complaining though because as they say “hindsight is always 20-20.”

What is the purpose of planning? It is simply to help prioritize our time so that we get the important tasks done and leave the unimportant and intrusive tasks out of our lives. You do not have to be a genius to plan. You do not need any special skills. The biggest skill you need is simply commitment. You need to commit to a series of goals and objectives and measure your results. Only by measuring and monitoring your results can you see if your plans on working.

Planning also needs to be realistic but not overly ambitious. Contrary to many experts, you do not need to “shoot for the moon.” In my plans for health, I simply set up a maintenance schedule to “maintain” the level of health I have now. I am not interested in breaking my “personal best” time or running a marathon tomorrow. I want to maintain an adequate level of health to do the things I enjoy and not spend my time in the hospital or in bed. I have not set my health goals to be the next Olympic gold medal winner.

Tomorrow, we will talk about the first of my five essential plans. The first of these essential plans is a financial plan. I like to follow the maxim that says “live each day as though it will be your last, but spend your money as though you will live forever.” Karen and I were caught in the recession like many of you. We watched as 40 years of savings lost nearly 45 percent of their value. However, we saw the recession coming at least two years before it hit and we started to cut costs, lower our spending and pay off all of our major bills. Despite losing more than we liked in our retirement funds, we emerged from the recession with all of our debts paid off, two houses and no credit card debt. We own our homes, cars, motorcycles and everything else in our homes outright.

So are you ready to start planning? Can you make a commitment to plan? Remember, some days you will honor that commitment and other days you will fail. That is quite normal. When you fall off the wagon, one goal is to simply keep starting over again. You may need a pencil and paper or a note pad. I like to use a calendar with open spaces to write my daily efforts in. I also use an Excel spread sheet to track goals like my daily calories and weight. An accountant’s ledger pad would work just as well. These tools simply help to focus our activities and to act as a reminder each day for us. There are many software programs that will assist you in managing these five plans and helping to be more organized. Good Luck.

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