I’ve watched it a thousand times. Another day winding down as the sun sets. Each day, I embark on life with dreams, goals, and a list of TO-DOs. Yet, there is so much to do and too little time to do it. I use to think like this until I reached a breaking point. A point where I had to make changes and figure out why there was always so much to do. I couldn’t get out of my own way.
I always have goals. Yet, they became secondary concerns compared to everything else. The answer seems simple. It’s a matter of taking control. Sadly, that’s too vague and will fail without a plan of action.
Habits are hard to break. However, at some point there is the motivation to change. The biggest challenge is to start. But where? How? The answer is to audit the day.
Audit the Day
Auditing is conducting an official financial examination of accounts. However, the precious commodity to audit is time. It is the only non-renewable and non-replaceable thing in life. The goal is to find the activities and distractions that can be changed or removed.
It helps to have a single point of reference such as a written or digital journal. Although keeping a journal isn’t necessary, it’s most helpful when reviewing several days or weeks of notes. Most people can’t remember specific details over a short period of time. Pop quiz: What did you have for dinner over the last few days?
The amount of details can vary in a journal. It can be a quick note such as “grocery shopping for an hour” to an in-depth description of the entire day. Typically, one would write down a brief description of each activity, how much time it takes, and why it is necessary. When this information accumulates over the course of days or weeks, it quickly reveals patterns of important and not so important uses of time.
Are there things that jump out as unnecessary, too frequent, or take longer than they should? Is there excessive amounts of time spent using devices? Perhaps it’s time to change some of those habits. It’s crucial to ask “why do I do this?”. Important tasks will quickly have answers. However, a more difficult question may be “why does it take that much time?”
Being creatures of habit sometimes locks us into a routine of mindless behavior. Therefore, asking questions helps reveal a purpose. Knowing is the first step to understanding, and with understanding can come real change. It’s okay to say “no” to people, and sometimes stopping something all together is necessary. In truth, it may no longer make sense to do.
Change Takes Time
Lasting change requires hard work and self-discipline. Unfortunately, it’s easy to try and hurry along change, and too many changes too quickly is a recipe for frustration and failure. Goals like new years resolutions are usually too broad. Therefore, most of them fail either from poor planning, or they require drastic changes to succeed.
Studies have shown that it takes about two months to form a new habit. It’s human nature to want results quickly, but true change requires patience. This is why a journal is useful. Not only is it tracking time, it can be inspiring and motivating to see positive changes unfold. Change is difficult, however, sticking to any short-term adjustment can yield big rewards for your future self.
Awareness of what we do is the nature of experience. Each of us will find purpose and determine what’s important to us. We owe it to ourselves to use our time wisely and live a meaningful and fulfilling life. We should audit our days, and then reduce or eliminate any non-essential use of our time. It will not only improve the quality of our lives, but improve our mood and outlook on life.