Take Back Your Life

Voice Write Media (Jeff Hicks)

Are you enslaved by daily habits or influences that stifle your productivity? Do you find yourself being plagued with tasks and activities that do not contribute to your personal goals and ideals? Here are a few simple steps to take back your life.

Personal Guiding Principles Statement
Everyone must draw-up and incorporate a few principles that will guide their decisions and activities in life. Nearly every person recognizes their own basic values that are learned from childhood. However, surprisingly, people often don’t construct those values into a fluid structure that will guide their decisions and activities. So, at the moment of decision, those people are not resolute and often get pegged with being wishy-washy, weak, or ineffective. If you are one of those people, you can overcome that weakness by creating a personal guiding principles statement (P-GPS).

Imagine yourself hiking through a thick forest without any distinct trail that will guide you to your destination. The beauty of the forest is magnificent as you bask in the exquisite colors and sounds surrounding you. However, you are troubled because the further you walk into the forest, the more lost you become since there is no defined trail. With the tall trees surrounding you, you are unable to determine your location or direction of travel.

Suddenly, you remember the GPS in your front pocket. After turning it on, you are quickly able to mark your location and the direction of your destination in relation to your surroundings. That is exactly what your P-GPS will do for you personally as you navigate whatever paths you choose in your career and personal life. Your P-GPS distinctly defines your personal “position” in context with your chosen surroundings and environment.

Your P-GPS is a statement containing some broad descriptors that explicitly define you. It’s a good idea to use terms in your statement that are broad and general, in order to cover all the vast expanse that defines your purpose and existence. Here is my P-GPS. Be compassionate and virtuous, honest and ethical, real and present, open minded but solid in my convictions.

You may be asking, “What does a P-GPS have to do with personal and time management?” The answer is your P-GPS is the foundation of principles and values with which your daily life is structured. In fact you may even recognize that the values contained in your P-GPS guided your educational choices, career path, and the other major elements in your life that subsequently dictate what your daily tasks entail.

Core Ideals that Dictate Actions
Every person has a few things with which they “hang their hat.” These ideals dictate a person’s views and actions and usually influence a person’s daily and weekly routine. Here’s an example. Consider all the people you know who follow a strict religious standard of Sunday worship. One of their personal ideals that govern their activities is the belief that Sunday is a day of rest and should be reserved for religious service and worship. Each Sunday, these folks make a conscious decision to be sitting in the pews at church. In contrast, consider your friends who find Sunday solace by visiting nature. Every weekend, they head for the hills to partake of nature’s beauty and serenity. Both of these groups have Sunday ideals but define them differently.

In order to take control of your personal life and manage your time effectively, you must determine what your core ideals are. Take some time, be true and honest with yourself, and define your core ideals. As an example, I’ve listed my core ideals:

  1. happiness and safety of my wife and children
  2. belief in God, daily prayer, Sunday church worship
  3. career for professional growth and income
  4. education

As you confirm your core ideals, you will recognize how they influence the daily and weekly activities in your life. If you are firm in those ideals, you will not allow outside influences on a whim to alter your actions based on those ideals. You will soon be recognized as one resolute in your goals and life’s direction. The actions facilitated by those ideals will define who you are.

Managing the Daily Grind
Everyone on earth has the same amount of time–exactly 24 hours each day to accomplish their goals and tasks. However, we can all stipulate that some folks just seem to accomplish a lot more with that 24-hour allotment than others. It’s a fact; they do. And the reason is they have a game plan.

After you’ve established your Personal Guiding Principles Statement and defined your core ideals, you have a great understanding of who you are and what defines you. You can now plan your days and weeks with purpose. Your planning will now illuminate your personal standards of excellence and draw you towards activities representative of your personal goals.

How often have you found yourself sitting at your computer, your eyes glazed-over, with your fingers methodically clicking your mouse as you surf through the countless images and links on your favorite social networking site? I’ve been there! I recall times that I easily wasted a full day checking out all the cool things my “friends” posted. Connecting with friends and associates via the internet has its place, but we all know that an inordinate amount of time can be lost in the process–time we will never get back!

So, how do we avoid the pitfalls of time wasting? The answer is found in personal discipline and planning. You manage the discipline part and then follow this simple planning sequence for immediate success.

You will need a daily journal recording device or notebook. Years ago, I used a small flip-notebook that easily fit inside my shirt or inside suit breast pocket. Now I use my iPhone. Whatever device you choose, you need to have it with you always and make sure it can easily be written in. Since I always have my phone wherever I go, I prefer to use it. If you like, a rectangular pocket calendar will work just fine.

Now for the “meat and potatoes” of this game plan. At the beginning and end of your day, you must allocate five minutes of quiet time for only yourself. Here is what you will do with this short, but invaluable time:

  • list on your chosen device the tasks that must be completed on this day–record them
  • review yesterday’s list of tasks and bring forward any that still need to be completed
  • rate each task according to importance and expediency
  • list activities that either you are expected to participate in or you desire to participate in
  • establish the time parameters for activities–IE. Internet surfing: 15 minutes, grocery shopping: 60 minutes, staff meeting: 30 minutes
  • record any prudent reminders–IE. Jimmy’s birthday, the visiting VIP’s name is Colonel Zogg
  • Review all your tasks and activities for the day and make a mental note how each contributes to your P-GPS and/or your core ideals
  • Review your task and activity list often throughout the day. Follow it explicitly! When an activity or task is complete, cross it out.
  • At the end of the day, take a moment to record your successes and make notes for the next day’s activities.

As you perform this exercise at the beginning and end of each day, you will soon notice your mind beginning to bend toward personal order and constructive time management. You will draw positive parallels with your tasks and activities in relation with your core ideals and guiding principles. You will gain self-discipline and will no longer find yourself being overtaken by mind-numbing activities that you admit are a complete waste of your valuable time, unless it is specifically planned.

As you incorporate this simple plan, I promise that you will be more productive. Productivity brings happiness. Taking back your life brings happiness!

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