Taking back time
I have a never-ending war with time. The appropriate allocation of the time eludes me incessantly. I get up early to get work done and often stay up late to finish the chores. The task queue is endless and those tasks bleed time into other areas.
But no more!
I am taking back my time, so where will I find this time?
I recently watched a TED talk by Adam Alter about how screens have robbed us of our time. Not just any time, but our most sacred and precious personal minutes. This personal time is what is most referred to by people at the end of their lives. We cannot afford to lose any of it and we only get 4 hours a day. Screens eat 90% of that time, almost 3 hours and 30 minutes. 30 minutes of non-screen time is where, as Alter says, “our humanity exists.”30 minutes of non-screen time is where, as Alter says, “our humanity exists. Click To Tweet
Lest you fear another post about the heinous crime of screens, I love screens. You read this post from a screen. You get information from screens. Screens are a necessity, but I am going to start pushing them from my personal time.
How am I going reclaim my time? I am going to hack in stopping cues into my life.
What are they?
Stopping cues are things that let you know you that this is a good place to stop and pick back up later. They are those moments when you finish something. It is the end of a chapter or a section of a book. Stopping cues used to be the end of a TV show, but TV producers are smart and have cut the commercial in-between shows robbing us of the stopping cue. It’s the credits at the end of a movie with no added bonus footage.
Stopping cues used to be everywhere, so we could better segment and plan our lives. They have gone the way of the dinosaur because media is always seeking your attention. Ever reach the bottom of a Twitter or Facebook feed? I thought not.
How do they work?
Stopping cues are arbitrary points in time when or where we stop doing something. We have to stop playing candy crush, scrolling the news feed or watching TV and do something else. Below are some examples of stopping cues. Some are location based. Others are based on predetermined times. Still, others occur under certain environmental conditions. Some examples are:
- No phones at the dinner table, ever
- No TV after 9 p.m.
- Lights turn out in the office at 6 p.m. always (Michael Hyatt suggestion)
When these stimuli or points occur, something changes You have to hack in stopping cues, and it can be difficult to do, but it will make a difference.You have to hack in stopping cues, and it can be difficult to do, but it will make a difference. Click To Tweet
Stopping cues in my morning routine
Recently, I began stopping my morning time at 7 am. I go shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and start brewing my tea made before 8 am. What this does is three things
- Gives me a break from my side job to engage my real job of being a SAHD (stay at home dad).
- I am physically prepared for the handoff with extra time to ease the transition.
- It makes me more productive from 5-7am. I know my time is limited, so I have to make it count.
Make it count
I read a morning selection of the Bible almost every day. It used to be that I didn’t engage that time very well, but I was committed. With the time constraint, I was far more thoughtful about what I was reading. That made my prayer time better which made my work time thereafter better. 5-7am used to be like 5:15ish – 7:15ish and sluggish. Now I get up because I don’t want to rob myself of my time with God. It counts.
Beyond that because I stop working on my side gig. I am ready and well-prepared to engage my son. More on that after a note to perfectionists.I know my time is limited, so I have to make it count. Click To Tweet
Imperfect but Growing
There are still mornings I drudge through my readings. I don’t wake up at 5, 6 or even 7 am every morning. I am terrible at screens as the day wears on especially after dinner. If you are the perfectionist type be prepared to fail at this. Check out Jon Acuff’s Finished for some help as a perfectionist. The war on time is too important to give up on because perfection is unobtainable.
Pass it on
I could leave this at, “be better with your time and follow the examples given,” or you could learn how to pass it along. This story is not just for you. It is for your neighbor, your co-worker, the stressed-out mom at church, or the checked out dad at the playground. We all need to re-engage in our personal time. We all need to be “more human” as Alter puts it in his TED talk. Don’t leave this here. Spread stopping cues to everyone who has trouble tearing their eyes away from the screen, like me. Here is how I spread stopping cues to my son.This story is not just for you. It is for your neighbor, your co-worker, the stressed-out mom at church, or the checked out dad at the playground. Click To Tweet
My son is terrible at stopping cues (just like his dad). Since he was 3 months old, we have built in stopping cues for him. We give him 5, 3, and 1-minute warnings before we change activities because we must change activities. Without the stopping cues, he cannot break focus. My son has what he wants to do in his mind, but that is not always what is best for him or in line with where the family is heading. Thanks, Mom and Dad for having patience and passing on the tricks with me.Thanks, Mom and Dad for having patience and passing on the tricks with me. Click To Tweet
The next step for us to wean him off the TV. I am going to try to do this by turning off the TV after every episode of Mickey Mouse or Blippi. It will force him to think about doing something else. Also, it takes a minute or two for the TV to power back up and connect to the internet just long enough for a toddler to be distracted by a sound, a sight or another activity. Bonus points for the parents who are prepared to distract your child with art or interactive fun. You should write up a post for this blog.
We can apply the same hacks to our own lives’ sans children. Put your phone in another room during dinner. When you go to pick it up, you might get distracted by the beauty of real life. That time crunch of the 5, 3, 1 works for us too. It forces us to prioritize what we can and then let go. Oh man, that letting go is so hard, but so rewarding when we actually succeed at it.It forces us to prioritize what we can and then let go. Oh man, that letting go is so hard, but so rewarding when we actually succeed at it. via @Jpa89 Click To Tweet
For example, this morning I nailed my routine. I got done by 7 am rolled up to the shower, ate, then got dressed and caffeinated by 7:50. My son and I spent an awesome 30 minutes together before packing up for pre-school. On a crappy day, that type of engagement might be all he gets in between several hours of Twitter and Facebook. Today though, I rocked it. My son had a better day because of it. Hack yourself and see if the people around you don’t respond better. (My wife even made me some hot chocolate for after lunch, woot!)
We have to learn how to stop doing things again just like I teach my son several times a day.
Time Well Spent
Adam Alter argued in his TED how screens are robbing us of our most important personal time. I have given you several examples of introducing stopping cues. What works for you? Please share in the comments below or via social media
Also, I email out cool resources and updates twice a month. My next one goes out on the 15th of November (two days from this initial post). If you want to catch up efficiently hit the subscribe button below and fill out the info then turn off the screen and talk somebody or sing a song (to yourself if no one else is around).