Taking Your Time

My first job out of college—in, dare I admit it? 1968—was as an assistant editor on a monthly magazine.  We, well the editors, really did have 3-hour, 3-martini lunches.  My typewriter was manual.  Voice mail?  Didn’t exist. We worked hard—but our time at work was constrained.  The only time we stayed past 5 o’clock was the one night a month before the “book” was put to bed.  Things crossed our desks in what now seems pretty leisurely fashion.  Manuscripts, queries—all the things I had to deal with—came in via snail mail, and were returned the same way.  No one expected to hear back in less than 3 weeks, giving me the luxury of at least 5 working days to read, consider (remember considering something?), buy or reject.

Because once I left the office I typically left my work there, I also had what feels like the indulgence of letting things simmer at the back of my mind.

While I wasn’t quite so busy in those days, I actually think I was far more productive.  True, that could be the gauzy veil of time making things then seem better than things now, but in this particular case, I’m not so sure.

Today, I wake up and almost before I get out of bed, I check my iPad for emails.  Honestly, what could possibly have happened between 10 PM last night and 5:30 this morning that could be of such importance I have to read it immediately?

All day, I am connected, and if someone doesn’t respond in hours, I am frustrated.  If I don’t respond in hours I get “I’m not sure if you got my last email….” Emails.  The only time this doesn’t happen it seems is when I am trying to set up a meeting with a client so we can continue to move forward or when I am trying to find out if a prospective client has made a decision on my proposal.

Everyone is so busy.  No one has time to do anything but the one thing that is thrust up against his or her nose.  And worse.  No one appears to have the time to consider if this thing is the thing that should be using up what is clearly too little time.

In short, we all need to STOP.  Take a deep breath.  Consider what it is that you must accomplish.  Not—notice—what you have to do.  To do lists are wonderful.  I love them.  But too often things end up on them without thought or consideration.  Is this something I really need to—or even should—do?  Would doing this thing move me forward to accomplishing that which I need to accomplish? Or will it just take up more of my time, allowing me to bemoan to all and sundry, “Busy, I am soooooo busy!”?

My one New Year’s resolution this year was to commit to doing things that took me outside my comfort zone.  Not things like helicopter skiing, which would take me far beyond comfort, but the little things I had stopped doing over the years—going out to a lecture on a Tuesday evening because it was interesting and not letting things like traffic, driving at night, parking get in my way.  To that I am adding one other thing.

I am resolving to take my time before jumping into activity.  I will consider the purpose and what I want to attain.  I will breath long and deep.

And I will most likely be far more productive.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits helping them to increase their fundraising capacity.  Learn how she can help you be more productive at http://janetlevineconsulting.com or email her at janet@janetlevineconsulting.com