Time management concepts: What are values?

Over the past few days, I’ve published three articles* by guest authors on time management. I did that because I planned an article of my own that shows how each of those articles contributes to a better understanding of how to manage time. And why time management is much more essential and urgent than most people think. In fact, time management isn’t just about performance and productivity at work. It’s not just about schedules and to-do lists. It’s about living the best life you can live. It’s about choosing to do the most meaningful and fulfilling things in every area of your life.

But, I realized as I began outlining that there are some ideas underlying the significance of time management which aren’t very clear. So, I wanted first to clear them up a bit.

I’m starting with the concept of personal values.

What are values?
Your values are your emotional and mental measurements and judgements. You judge the quality or characteristics of things, people, ideas, behavior and experience. That is, what is good or bad, right or wrong? What is harmful or helpful? What is enjoyable, boring, scary, comforting, etc. You measure how much of that quality/characteristic is in any particular thing, person, idea, behavior or experience. You measure how important that quality or characteristic is to you.

A child, for example, might hold the value judgement that having to do homework is bad. That it is an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the worst.) However, being grounded would be a 10 on that scale, so the child does the homework anyway to avoid the greater “badness” of being grounded.

Where do values come from?
Some values are built in. You are born knowing that pain is bad and comfort is good. You may not have the words or concepts for that. But you cry when you are uncomfortable and coo when you are dry and well-fed.

As you grow, you learn values from your parents and caregivers. First you learn through basic reward/punishment and later by modeling and teaching. As you grow more, you learn through experience and reasoning. And you learn to live up to the standards of your society or culture. (Socialization.)

Part of our socialization comes in the form of learning and obeying rules and laws.

How do you use values?
Values are at the core of every decision you make. Values affect your behavior from the tiniest task to the life-changing choices. Values play a part in whether or not you brush and floss and who you select to marry.

You make your choices based on what your values tell you is the best to do under the circumstances you have.

And most of the time, you don’t even have to think about it. Because your values are ingrained in your unconscious. Even when your values come into conflict with one another, you seldom think about your decisions. Your value system has measures of the relative “value” of your values! For example, your own life and survival has a high value and priority. However, you might have a child you love enough to sacrifice your life for — meaning that he/she has a higher value and priority to you.

Your values and value system are most useful when you examine them and make sure that they represent your ideal “self” and have the fewest possible conflicts. After all, they are going to operate mostly automatically and unconsciously when you are making choices. You want them to be the best values for you.

Your values are formed from your lifetime of learning. They have their roots in beliefs, prejudices, information and misinformation. In hopes, dreams, wishes, fears and concerns. So, some of your values are primarily correct and useful. Some of your values a filled with errors and will harm you or others.

Your decisions. Your goals. Your actions. Your plans. Your schedules. All are based on your values. You will chose what to do first and what to do next according to what’s most important to you. If you’ve adopted a harmful set of values, you might, for example, choose to call in sick to work and go play golf. That choice could get you fired. It’s risky. It is also not in alignment with normal work ethics.

You can see it’s essential to know your values. To think about them. To see if your actions reflect what you believe is right. To see if what you believe is “right” actually reflects the “real world.”?
To examine your values, your best approach is to create and complete a values list or chart. To get you started, I found a good, free example at www.sofia.edu/resources/crc/pdf/values.pdf

* The three articles are:
1. Our Values Set Our Priorities
2. Time is a Finite Commodity – Do You Have Enough?
3. Time and Productivity Management — Sandy Style

Knowing what to do. Being there to do it.

I’ve published two guest articles since my last post here.

First, there’s Jim Allen’s “How to Get Going When You Don’t Know What to Do.” Coach Jim talks about the times you can get stuck. Times when you have problems that you don’t know enough about, don’t have enough experience in, to resolve. He has some good advice for those times.

I’d like to add that there are other reasons for being stuck that his advice applies to as well. Sometimes, you know what to do, but don’t have the resources to do it. Sometimes you know what to do, but others are involved who block your solution. In fact, I think that those times are more common than not knowing what to do. And I think they are more frustrating.

If you follow Jim Allen’s advice, you can use it to figure out what to do when you don’t know initially. And you can use it to create alternatives to the solutions you know but can’t apply.

Second is Nan Russell’s “Winning at Working — Being Present.” Ms. Russell uses a quote I like, from Malcolm Forbes: “Presence is more than just being there.” As she points out, many people show up at work but are only “half there.” They are inattentive, bored, slow, make silly mistakes. They seem to lack purpose or intention. Just “get by.” Do you recognize yourself, co-workers or employees in that description?

Russell describes the problem and solution in detail to help you figure out what to do about it. Well worth the read.

Your to-do list and the laughter of God

I like the old proverb, “man plans, god laughs.” I think I’ve mentioned it here before. I’m a big fan of things like planning, organizing, scheduling and pro-active strategies. But, I have to stop occasionally to remember that, although a great deal of our lives are controlled by our own choices, some stuff just happens.

Yesterday, everything was working well. I got up on time, wrote a post on schedule, finished up some research I needed to do and started the computer back-up I had planned.

Oops. The back-up drive wasn’t recognized by my computer. The disk sounded like it was spinning. But the lights that were supposed to come on did not appear. This wasn’t the first time it had happened. In fact, the brand of hard drive I used is known to do this from time to time. I had solved the problem before. So, I confidently went through the various processes recommended to make the drive recognized again. Two frustrating hours later, I had to give up and try to salvage the remainder of my work day.

So much for my to-do list. Now the good news is that I don’t just back-up. I triple back-up. (Remember, I said I’m a big fan of planning and pro-active strategies?) I have a second back-up drive, and I backed-up to that. Also, I have a “cloud” back-up service. So, my data isn’t lost. And I don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for data recovery. I do, however, have to go get another hard drive, in case my current single hard drive back-up fails.

Even though I only lost the time to try to fix my problem, two hours is a considerable amount of time. Especially when you’ve got a tight schedule. And even though I build flexibility into my schedule, I only build in an extra hour for disruptions.

I, and others who advise on performance and productivity have good suggestions and guidelines to help you keep your life and work orderly and easier. I follow my own advice as best I can. I plan ahead. I have a to-do list. I have a schedule designed with both time and order flexibility. I anticipate that there will be disruptions. Things go wrong anyway.

I can predict that every day will bring its own distractions and interruptions. I can’t predict what they will be and how long they will take.

When I, and other advisors like me, write about taking life into your own hands, making your choices, taking responsibility, planning and managing your time, remember that we can only make suggestions in general about how to do that. We’re not promising that once you do what we suggest things won’t go wrong and you’ll have a smooth path. There’s no such thing. What we suggest just makes the path smoother and makes goal achievement more probable.

Remember how I started this article — “Man plans, God laughs.” Accept that you can do everything right that’s in your power, and yet, what you’re doing may go wrong.