Busyness – The Clock And The Compass
You never want to have that ticking clock and know that you had all that time and didn’t use it – J.J Abrams
Tick tock, tick-tock. Do you hear the clock? Do you see the minutes pass by one after another? Or do they pass by without you even noticing they were gone? One minute, then another goes by. One hour, then another turns into one day and then a month. Then suddenly a year has gone by. Tick tock. tick tock. Slowly at first, then faster they go and then we ask “where has all the time gone”? The days, the months and the years become distant memories and all that we have left is the clock – tick-tock. Tick tock.
Busy, busy busy, we run from one thing to another – work, appointments, meeting with friends, kids sports, birthday parties, shopping. We have places to go, and people to see and things to do. Who among us does not have more activities and work than time? Who among us would love to have at least one more hour each day? My guess is that we have all earned the right to wear the “Busy Badge” and some of us wear it quite proudly. How fast have the last 5 years gone by and how fast do you think the next 5 will go by? All parents can affirm that their kids seem to go from being a baby to being an adolescent in a nanosecond. Time flies quickly by. Consider:
Our life is like a flower that grows quickly and then dies away.
Our life is like a shadow that is here for a short time and then is gone – Job 14:2
Time Flies or Does It?
It is just hallucinating to see how busy we have all become over the years. There are even entire sections in bookstores filled with books telling us how to “manage our time” or “get more done in less time”. We actually need to learn, these experts say, to master our time, as if the time needed to be mastered. Time knows no master; we can not master time, but we can make the most of it. We are constantly reminded of how we need to get a handle on our activities and our time and technology promises to make our life easier. For instance, now, with our smartphones, we can be “on-call” at any time of the day. Life be more convenient but are we really in control?
For sure, smart technology does make a lot of things easier and it does help us to connect with friends, family, and businesses around the world. There is that. We can have digital technology at our fingertips to do just about anything we need to do: send an email, call uber, add money to the parking meter, video chat and so much more. It has allowed us to do amazing things that our ancestors never even dreamed of. We can accomplish so much remotely with our technology, but are we really getting more out of our time? Are we really at an advantage in the big picture?
At the end of the day, is it really about cramming more into a time slot? Is it really about how much more we can get done in a 24 hour day? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about getting the most out of the time we have rather than trying to fit as much into the time we have as we can? Somewhere along the line, have we lost track of what life is all about?
The hours of folly are measured by the clock, but of wisdom no clock can measure – William Blake
The Clock Vs The Compass
Leadership author and speaker John Maxwell has written about a concept called the clock veresus the compass. He says:
How do we know if what we’re doing really makes a difference? We can’t just look at the clock. We need to conscious of our compass.
Essentially, he says, the clock is what measures our life or what ticks the seconds, minutes and hours of our life away. It measures the passing of each day. The compass is what we use to steer our life and represents the bigger picture: our destiny. John Maxwell says that, when we are younger, we tend to live more by the clock than the compass and as we get older we start to pay more attention to the compass. Ultimately, a balance between the two is important.
The clock is represented by our appointments, commitments, schedules, goals, and activities. It is how we manage our time. The compass represents our vision, values, principles, and mission. It is our direction in life. Both the clock and the compass represent what we believe is important and determine how we live our life.
How many of us have noticed that the gap between what we spend much of our time doing and what we would like to spend our time doing is a factor in the stress and fatigue we feel on a daily basis. The clock dictates our to-do list and the compass is our bucket list and our priorities. At times or even very often we find ourselves in autopilot mode trying to keep up with the clock. We are busy focused but not necessarily destiny-focused.
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter F. Drucker
Where Are We Going?
With all of our busyness, where are we headed? Do we even know? It’s hard to see through the fog, isn’t it? Sometimes it seems like we are going in circles and other times it may seem like we are dashing about in a zigzag pattern. But those of us who have planned an itinerary for a trip know very well, It is important to plan well to arrive at the destination. Where are we going? What’s the plan and what’s the purpose?
A trip planner has to consider factors such as distance, time, and mode of travel. He has to keep the destination clearly in focus. If the trip is not well planned, time could be wasted, the travelers may get lost and end up somewhere they did not want to be; they could waste a lot of money and time trying to get back on the path. If the wrong mode of travel is chosen, they might not get where they want to go or they might take a long time to get there.
For example, let’s say you want to leave the East coast of the US to travel to Hawaii; it would certainly not make sense to drive up to Canada, then go down to Florida, then across to California. Nor would it make any sense to choose a car as a vehicle of choice since once you hit the California coast you can’t go any further. Similarly, if you think you are in the line to fly to Fiji, but when you get to the counter and discover that you are in the line for Antarctica, it’s time to change lines.
And even if you think you have planned well and you have the most efficient mode of travel, if you are going in the wrong direction, you won’t get to where you want to go.
What’s The Connection with Busyness?
We need to know where we are going and why otherwise we are just spinning our wheels. There needs to be a point as to why we are working so hard, running around trying to keep up with meetings and appointments, running from activity to activity and errand to errand, fighting the clock or planning everything around the clock. There needs to be a bigger picture, something we are working toward, something that truly matters and brings meaning to the lives we are living.
Sometimes it takes a wake-up call and there are some who, unfortunately, get a wake-up call they were not expecting. Sometimes we have to come to a “wall” before we realize what we have been doing with our life and our time. Have we been spending more time (hours, days and weeks) with our job than with our family? Do we know our colleagues better than our spouse? Do we wonder where the time went with our kids and how it is that they have grown up so quickly? And do we notice that our parents are suddenly much older than we thought? Where has the time gone?
Leadership speaker and author of the book: PAILS, Chris Brady, writes as a subtitle to his book the following question:
“20 years from now, what will you wish you had done today”?
Although the book targets younger people just starting out in early adulthood, the question is relevant to everyone. The 20 years (or 5 or 10) will pass anyway and the future will suddenly become the past. 20 years from now will it matter all that much if our to-do list is checked off? 20 years from now will it really matter if we are successful with our career but weren’t around much to see our kids grow up? 20 years from now will it matter if the laundry was always done and the house was in top shape?
“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” – Viktor Frankl
Our Busyness Keeps Us From Doing What Is Important
There is always something more we need to do. Each day our to-do list is made before we make our t0-do list. The urgent takes over and what is important has to wait on the back burner. It seems that everyone needs us to do something right now. Everything seems urgent. But what is urgent is not always what is important and what is urgent does not necessarily need to be done post haste. In fact, if we take the time to think about what our values are, what our priorities are and what we really want to accomplish in our life, it becomes easier to focus on what is important in life.
It may mean that we will need to do some rearranging and discarding of things and activities that get in the way or take up much needed time. It may mean that we will have to say NO to a lot more and to more people. It may mean that we will have to get good at being firm on our priorities and not allow others to overstep them. It may mean that we confront ourselves and see time as our most valuable resource. It may mean that we regain our sanity, our health and our sense of purpose. And most importantly, it may mean that we will be following our compass and not the clock.
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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, travel, self-improvement, pursuing a debt-free/financially free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. Diana is a Quebec City girl. who loves living life. You can connect with her through Livingandstuff.ca