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Travelling with Time by Cecille Weldon

A personal approach to Time Management

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Organic Time Management®

cecille weldon weldon po box 180 avalon nsw 2107 time@banyantree.com.au

©2004

update 2007 ©cecille

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travelling with time

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‘This is the city of mazes. You may set off from the same place to the same place every day and never go by the same route. If you do so, it will be by mistake. Your bloodhound nose will not serve you here. Your course in compass reading fail you. Your confident instructions to passers-by will send them to squares they have never heard of, over canals not listed in the notes. Although wherever you are going is always in front of you, there is no such thing as straight ahead. No as the crow flies short cut will help you to reach the cafe just over the water. The short cuts are where the cats go, through the impossible gaps, round corners that seem to take you the opposite way. But here, in this mercurial city, it is required you do awake your faith. With faith, all things are possible� The Passion, Jeanette Winterson

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inside

forward: a personal perspective

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thinking about time - an observation

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talking about time

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constructing an organic time management model

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moving through overwhelm - the 9 Possibilities

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making it work - step by step

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bringing it all together

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a final note

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.....a personal perspective

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It is true that the study of Time is a noble pursuit most often restricted to the work of sages, scientists and saints. It is for this very reason that we often feel we cannot question TIME. The information contained in this booklet represents my personal experience of Time. It has grown more from the frustrations of my experiences in trying to balance my life – my two children, my business, my body, my womanhood – rather than from any esoteric indulgence. Now in my 40's, I feel both blessed and cursed by the world I inherited from my mother. Blessed by the many more choices which are available to me as a woman, and cursed by the reality of living out all those choices on a practical, dayto-day level. At times, I have felt as if I have stepped from one limitation only to find myself trapped by something more formidable; something that I could not break through, release, improve upon, resolve; something I was told I just had to accept: TIME. It was from the frustration of my life that I suddenly raised my hands, imploring the heavens; “Who said I must accept that I will always be limited, not by my capabilities, or my choices, but by my supply of Time? There must be another way!” When I speak of Time, I speak as an individual who has recorded patterns and relationships within my observations and experiences of Time in order to find a way to make my life work on a personal level. These patterns have led me to another way of looking at Time. Everything contained in this booklet has been ‘road tested’ in the reality of my life, via my ‘kitchen floor market research’.

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When I say I have come to understand Time, it is an understanding from within the context of my own life. Time, after all, is relative but sometimes our ‘relative’ experiences can mysteriously echo some common ground, which is why I share these findings with you now. Sometimes a shift in perspective is all that is needed and sometimes it isn’t enough. So I have included an Introduction -Thinking about Time- which follows a journey from common perspectives of Time, through to another way of looking at things. This is interwoven with a description of the Organic Time Management System and a set of strategies which may help in the ‘front line’ of your life. The Organic Time Management system differs from traditional time management systems that attempt to impose a value system over our lives. It records the patterns that exist within our lives, and our understanding of Time subsequently grows with our knowledge of these patterns, hence the name ‘Organic’. In other words, it is time management from the reference point of relativity. Sailors consistently refine their craft – the shape of sails, the rigging – in order to harness more efficiently the elusive elements of wind and water. They can then say they ‘understand’ the way wind and water ‘work’. You never doubt that this ‘understanding’ is relative to experience, that they will continue to refine their ideas and their boat throughout their sailing life; that underlying their observations will always be the deepest respect, awe, delight, frustration – and that there will always be more to know.

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In the same way, I do not claim to know how to manage Time in some absolute sense. Rather, I have recorded my observations and experiences and refined them to the point where I have been able to uncover hidden efficiencies in Time and new ways of looking at Time. These discoveries have resulted in a better life for myself and my children in every sense of the word. Indeed I can with all honesty say that applying these principles, strategies and perspectives about Time have enriched my life and provided me with the mental environment to grow, explore and refine more of who I am. I have known moments of lightness and expansion in the midst of the most overwhelming sense of ‘running out of Time’. Furthermore, I have found that the things about Time that now ‘ring true’ in a practical sense have a pattern to them which appears to resonate with other more scientific observations of Time. It goes without saying that your own inner wisdom is the greatest guide and therefore you will know what of the following is relevant and has meaning for you.

*

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Hamlet. Why, then, ‘tis none to you: for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison. Rosencrantz. Why, then your ambition makes it one: ‘tis too narrow for your mind. Hamlet. O God! I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space...’ Shakespeare, Hamlet,

Act II, Scene II

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Thinking about Time - an observation When I began tackling the problem of Time in relation to my own life I did so in a very systematic fashion. I tried to be brutally honest with myself, as I was desperately wanting to find a way to resolve the conflicting choices I was being presented with as the sole provider and nurturer of two young children. Whilst my family was very supportive, there was little anyone could really do to alleviate the situation I found myself in - with no regular weekends or evenings off, the pressure of work, the responsibility of my children and no possibility of things changing in any fundamental fashion, my life really did feel unsustainable. For this reason my experiences of Time may seem intense but this was, in fact, how it was for me. In order to facilitate a more emotionally detached observation of my responses to Time, I utilised strategies which I had gained from my Post Graduate studies in Sociolinguistics under the tutelage of Prof. Ruqaiya Hasan. This provided me with the framework to observe time management from a different perspective, a systemic functional perspective.1 It enabled me to strip down my 'self talk' about time and analyse it from the cultural values it was expressing and cross-check this against what was actually happening in my external experiences. The following observations reflect this analytical perspective, its practical application and a somewhat simplistic description of a compelling relationship between time, energy and motion which was uncovered through the process. These discoveries, made over an eighteen month 1  Ways of Saying; Ways of Meaning (1996) (Hasan, R : Cassell) back cover text. 'In the systemic functional model, language is viewed as a system of systems of interlocking choices and the primary analytic tool arising from this view of language is the network

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period, led unintentionally, to the creation of the Organic Time Management System in 1995.

Talking about Time Language both defines our experiences of time and reinforces our cultural perspectives of it. "..the reason language can be a means to so many ends is because the ends were created largely by language."2 Therefore ‘running out of Time’ is a phrase that no one questions and a truth no one argues against. Even the phrase Time Management can quickly become a misnomer. From a sociolinguistic perspective, the phrase I don't have enough time belies an intricate semantic network, highly systematised and culturally logical. There are a number of assumptions about time, both implicitly and explicitly communicated in this phrase. These are; 1. 2. 3. 4.

Time can be owned/given by an individual Time can be contained in some way Time is something that can be used up The demand for the amount of time is higher than the supply given.

The meaning of this phrase is reinforced by the contextual markers within our society which validate these underlying assumptions on an institutionalised cultural level. On an individual level, the person making the statement 2  Ways of Saying; Ways of Meaning (1996) (Hasan, R : Cassell) p14

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is rewarded when they use such a phrase by return communication/responses which validate the frustration inherent in its meaning. I don't have enough time is a shared cultural meaning, not an absolute truth.3 When we are under pressure, it is common to experience time as a limited and non-renewable resource. It marches forward in an unrelenting and inflexible manner - seconds, minutes, hours, days and weeks. Inevitably and frequently then, moments would arise, within my day to day routine, when it became apparent that there was 'not enough time' to go around. These moments went hand in hand with an increase in pressure from outside me, in relation to imposed expectations, and from inside me, in relation to capacity and personal 'reach'. This pressure in turn pushed me further into emotions such as anger and resentment, adding even more stress and feeding my perceptions that Time was linear, fast and unsympathetic. I noticed that when I chose to spend time on a particular task, this action and the ideas which generated it, set in motion a network of actions and reactions which determined how I managed what time I believed I had. I would commit to tasks that I knew I couldn't complete in time; I would try and squeeze too many things in and then watch helplessly as it all fell apart. I tried to 'out-run' Time: I'd get up early, go to bed late but I always found myself at the same place. 3  'The Systematicity of Metaphorical Concepts' in Metaphors We Live By (1980) (Lakoff, G & Johnson, M: The University of Chicago Press) pp 7-9

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The information gathered from these scenarios fed back and reinforced the original perceptions which drove it; I'll never have enough time; growth is something I can’t afford to do in all areas of my life. In other words my cultural ideas about Time, my perceptions, my beliefs and my external values linked together and reinforced each other in a systematic manner, creating self fulfilling thoughts and actions about Time which appeared justified, logical and unquestionable. "When all members of a community believe a thing to be so then that thing is the 'truth', the reality for that community"4 A sequence of events unfolded as a reaction to these underlying values and beliefs about time - my mind switched to an automatic response in order to relieve the pressure. I started prioritising things; ‘which things will go?’, ‘which things will stay?’ This re-active jettisoning of appointments, activities, and commitments provided me with a vicarious (if temporary) sense of mastery over Time. I started to notice that there was a pattern to this ‘prioritising-under-pressure’ response, it was not as random and panic stricken as it appeared on the surface. It seemed to be based on a sorting procedure, previously unseen by me, which was not entirely about Time. Sometimes I was given a glimpse into this sorting procedure when I heard myself say, "Look, I'm sorry I just haven't had the time." and I knew it wasn't the whole story! Or I 4  “Ways of Saying; Ways of Meaning” (1996) (Hasan, R : Cassell) p 16

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sensed it in others - that they had no intention of finding the time! Fritjof Capra5 in his discussion of social networks writes of two primary types of action human beings engage in. Firstly involuntary action such as digesting food and secondly voluntary action which involves intent or choice. But there seemed to be more to it than that. Intentional choice can result in an interesting self-contradiction in relation to action. I can choose not to act. Whilst your body treats it as 'no choice' because no direct action resulted from it, nevertheless your mind is making a choice. This distinction began to fascinate me. It seemed that, in regard to Time and our responses to it, there were three sub-categories of intentional action.

1. we can choose to act 2. choose to delay action 3. choose not to act

Within this context then, a choice 'not to act' would be classified as an intentional action. This is what I contemplated as I pondered my own reactions to Time. When I was presented with a task or action which required attention, either from an inner voice or from things occurring externally to me, I intentionally categorised or sorted this task according to the following choices. This is a task5  The Hidden Connections (2002) (Capra F: Flamingo) pp 73-74

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I spend my time on (a choice to act) I wish I had time for (a choice to delay action) I would avoid even if I had the time (a choice not to act) These choices, this sorting procedure, reflects an underlying network of thoughts which occur almost instantaneously under the disguise of 'time related reasons'. On a personal level there is a pattern to this sorting certain types of activities regularly fall into a particular category. The sorting procedure behind my choices went something like this: The things I always had time for: work (earning a living), children, managing the home, quick coffee with friends or family And then there was the things I never had time for (there were two categories in this pile) The things I wish I had time for: visiting my grandfather in Queensland, having a massage, my artwork- specifically lino cuts. The things that I would avoid even if I had the time: exercises, keeping up to date with how much money I had in the bank, any written communication which clarified business relationships/understandings (I would much rather do it by phone or face to face) Despite

the

fact

that

I

kept

jettisoning

these

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(tasks) under pressure, they didn’t ever really go away. They were still there, deep within my thoughts. Over time, these parts of my life became more and more repressed until they became ‘frozen in Time’. I found that it took more and more energy to keep choosing not to spend time on them or to delay addressing them. Ironically, far more pressure was created by my decision not to spend Time on these things than by spending time on them. In other words a choice, even if it is to do nothing, still seemed to be a form of expending energy. These choices weren't taking my time but they were certainly absorbing my energy. Choosing to continually and compulsively repress a particular area of my life was taking a great deal of energy. Maybe there was a way in which time and energy were somehow connected in all this? I started to question my assumptions about Time and looked a little deeper. My current 'time management process' although functioning on a certain level was set up to fail. The values it reflected were not my own; the perceptions it recorded were not reliable; the information it relied on was outdated; and the anxiety which drove its' direction was self-fulfilling. But it wasn't all bad! I began to marvel at the network of interconnecting thoughts the process embodied; the way it appeared to function as a system, a self-perpetuating system, containing distinct patterns and relationships.

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On closer observation of my own thoughts and responses I was able to identify the following five interconnecting elements which were involved in the process of managing Time. 1. A central point The things that are valuable and meaningful to us. This represents what we 'value' and as a consequence determines which areas we act on. 2. A sense of direction The choice of what specific areas we will actually act on, based on what we value. 3. A sense of duration Our perception of the rate at which things are completed; how much time is needed. 4. Our first hand knowledge The information we have at our disposal; how much do we know is involved in a particular task. 5. The cultural context The larger socio/cultural network in which we are participating and the values/activities it validates.

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Diagrammatically it looked like this:2. Sense of direction what we choose to act on

3. Sense of duration perception of how long the task will take

4. Our knowledge of the taskthe chronological sequence the task comprises

1. Central point representing values

5. Socio-cultural climate the social network that surround you DIAGRAM : The self- perpetuating system: containing the five interconnecting elements which comprise the process of managing time.

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Each of these five elements and their relationship with each other will determine whether we make the time for something, and how successful we will be in completing it. It represents a network of interconnecting thoughts that lie at the heart of managing time. In other words: what tasks we believe are important to us and if the value of these tasks are reinforced by our community; how long we think the task will take and what is involved in doing the task. For instance: If we would like a massage but we were brought up to believe spending time on ourselves wasn't justified then we won't make the time for it. (5. culture) or if we want to paint the house but believe it will take a long time to finish then we won't start it. (3. sense of duration) or if we want to start our own business but don't know how or what is involved in actually doing it, then we won't begin it. (4. knowledge) or if we think going to a company conference is more important to us short term than going on holiday with the kids. (1. central values) or if we know we should call our family but calling them will confront us and we don't want to deal with it, then we won't do it (2. sense of direction)

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The self perpetuating nature of the system appeared to indicate that the structure and processes inherent in it had the potential to create an efficient management system. But, it seemed, in order for this to work in the long term, the information it reflected must ring true in some fundamental fashion. I began to understand that my frustrations with Time were really only on the surface of things. It was the simmering situation underneath where the real problem lay: the conflict between what I believed was important or necessary to me on a conscious level and what was in fact important to my balanced growth on another deeper level. This conflict of values became further entrenched by the cultural belief that I had no real ability to resolve this conflict even if I tried, because it was just a 'part of life'. After some time I recognised that the areas where my life 'broke down' correlated to the areas which were being repressed. It wasn't the process or system which was failing, it was the information which was being fed into it - what I was saying about myself, by my actions. Something in the system knew when my actions weren't reflecting what was really valuable to me or when it wasn't based on a factual understanding of the task itself. If this was the case then perhaps it was possible to realign this system to reflect information which was more meaningful and relevant to me on a deeper level, to somehow reflect new information based on a keener sense of observation? I wanted to reclaim some of the other areas of my life - the things I was delaying and avoiding. I was curious to see if this created a more congruent central point of value and if this made any difference to the functioning of the system. 23


So, how could I access a more congruent source of information, in order to test my ideas out - how could I record in a similarly systematic fashion the level of meaning which lay like an aquifer beneath my actions? Firstly, I set about identifying and recording the pattern that was being created by my individual responses to the pressure of running out of time. I included in my recording the specific areas I actually spent time on and then I added the things that kept dropping off the list: the things I wished I had time for and the things I always avoided. This way I was taking note of my time and my energy usage, because I had some sense that they were related but I wasn't quite sure how. I felt too, that this was a more honest reflection of everything that was going on inside me. I wanted to get it all out in the open. Rather than just list everything, I constructed what was to become known as a personal organic time management model. This Model used the visual elements in my diagram of the self-perpetuating system. I was then able to gain some insight into the bigger picture of the way in which time, energy and motion were indeed being 'managed' within me through these choices/actions. My completed Personal Time Management Model is found overleaf. You can follow the process I used and construct one yourself, using the instructions in the following pages.

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My model looked like this;

1.

What are the things I spend my time on?

2.

What are the things I wish I had time for?

3.

What are the things I would avoid even if I had the time?

work

children managing the home

exercise

having a massage keeping abreast of my ďŹ nancial position

clarifying agreements and understandings in writing-speciďŹ cally in business

visiting my grandfather in Queensland my artworklino cuts

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Constructing your own organic time management model

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The Organic Time Management Model differs from traditional Time Management Models because it looks at the patterns that lie beneath our conscious prioritising of tasks. It assumes the things beneath the surface of your life are just as important as the things on the surface and there is a point where they all converge - a central point. The process uncovers the areas which we act on, compulsively delay or compulsively avoid. Consequently it will reveal a pattern no matter what the current situation may be in our life. Fundamental to its success is our ability to be honest with ourselves, to look a little deeper than the way things may appear, but not too deep to get bogged down and serious about it all. For this reason there are no 'right' answers just answers that are right for you.

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Discovering your pattern Constructing a personal time management model enables us to see our own patterns, to uncover the choices that are unique to us, to get a clearer picture of what has being going on beneath the surface. Putting the model together is very simple, coming to terms with the full impact of what it means may take a little time. We begin with a central seem simplistic but it central to any approach things we do, these are

circle representing You. This may is important to see ourselves as to time management. We are not the expressions of who we are.

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The larger concentric circles represent capacity of time/energy over time.

an

increased

Then we ask three very simple questions one by one.

1.

What are the things I spend my time on?

2.

What are the things I wish I had time for?

3.

What are the things I would avoid even if I had the time?

The answers to the three Key Questions help to reveal the sorting pattern driving our current management of Time. Each question is represented in a different colour to make it easy for us to gain a 'sense' of the difference in each category. The answers to each question are not intended to be laboured, they should be the first things that come to mind. Neither are they meant to be exhaustive, you only need two or three answers to each question for the Model to work. However the answers must be honest! The object of the task is not to record what you should be doing or what you would like to think is happening. Nor is it to record a values system which is imposed from outside us. It is to listen to and observe what actually happens in our lives.

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Constructing a personal model

The answers are entered onto the Model in the form of coloured rays moving from the centre out, as shown in the following examples.

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1.

What are the things I spend my time on?

2.

What are the things I wish I had time for?

3.

What are the things I would avoid even if I had the time?

The answers to the first question are usually easy to access. - the things we will always make time for, no matter what. These are the things we fill your time with, sometimes without even thinking. They are represented by a strong clear voice inside us. Remember, only list the first few that come to mind. They could be: taking care of the children, working, house work, or exercise.

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Constructing a personal model

EXAMPLE

1.

What are the things I spend my time on?

2.

What are the things I wish I had time for?

3.

What are the things I would avoid even if I had the time?

work

children

gym

What are the things I spend my time on?

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1.

What are the things I spend my time on?

2.

What are the things I wish I had time for?

3.

What are the things I would avoid even if I had the time?

The answers to the second question are a little harder to access. They are usually represented by a quiet voice inside us, slightly resigned in tone; 'One day I'd like to....', 'When my business is established I'll......' These are the things that we very rarely admit to anyone. They are hard to justify because they don't seem important or they seem way out of reach. They could be: idyll pastimes like walking on a beach, sleeping in, reading a book or practical matters like rearranging the furniture, taking art lessons, learning to play a musical instrument or visiting friends.

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EXAMPLE

1.

What are the things I spend my time on?

2.

What are the things I wish I had time for?

3.

What are the things I would avoid even if I had the time?

Constructing a personal model

singing lessons

recreational reading

What are the things I spend my time on? What are the things I wish I had time for?

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1.

What are the things I spend my time on?

2.

What are the things I wish I had time for?

3.

What are the things I would avoid even if I had the time?

The answers to the third question are buried deep down and may take a while to find. These are the things that we just don't want to know about.They may come to mind late at night when we are alone with our thoughts and they are usually associated with a sense of dread, a sinking feeling. In other words - they eat away at us. They could be: calls not returned, arguments not resolved, debts not paid, jobs not begun, skills needed but not learned, reports not written or any unfinished business of a personal nature.

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EXAMPLE

1.

What are the things I spend my time on?

2.

What are the things I wish I had time for?

3.

What are the things I would avoid even if I had the time?

Constructing a personal model

returning phone calls

ďŹ nancial administration What are the things I spend my time on? What are the things I wish I had time for? What are the things I would avoid even if I had the time?

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Constructing a personal model COMPLETED EXAMPLE

1.

What are the things I spend my time on?

2.

What are the things I wish I had time for?

3.

What are the things I would avoid even if I had the time?

work children

gym

singing lessons

returning phone calls

Financial administration

recreational reading

What are the things I spend my time on? What are the things I wish I had time for? What are the things I would avoid even if I had the time?

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When all the questions are finally answered you have a visual reference for your particular scenario. The model shows us the parts of our lives which are active (blue) and inactive (green and purple).The answers to the third question "what are the things that I would avoid even if I had the time?" are the most dense, compacted, stuck areas of your life. This means they will be difficult to act on. The answers to the second question "What are the things I wish I had time for" are less dense and therefore a little easier to move on. All the answers to the three key questions are important in gaining an understanding of the point of balance which will be right for you and one which you can trust to lead you to a more efficient use of time, energy and motion. In this sense the model acts like a map. It shows you the specific areas which will get you to a point of balance quickest. In order to do this you need to choose one green ray and one purple ray and incorporate these tasks into 'the things you spend your time on'. This will create a true point of balance in your life and a sense of balance within you.

A sense of balance Trying to find 'Balance' is a objective many people aspire to, often without ever really knowing what it means in relation to their particular life. Finding balance is often associated with 'trying not to fall over' when we have too much to do, rather than a point of balance which is a deeper concept and far more useful.

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But this idea of balance isn't just a 'nice' idea, it's actually a fundamental precursor to finding a way through the bind of time. I began to get a sense of this ideal concept of personal balance. It should be known to us from the inside - a reference point with which to negotiate the movement of life without needing it to be the same day after day. It should account for change, cope with the reality of the unexpected, accommodate the idea of evolving personal growth and correlate experientially with the idea that there is always enough time to achieve it. A dynamic equilibrium. How do we arrive at a sense of balance which truly represents our own unique perspective/story? Slowly reclaiming the areas which are inactive connects us with a more relevant and purposeful definition of balance, and as a consequence the growth that occurs from this point is richer and more meaningful to us. If these areas stay inactive then our concept of balance will be based solely on the areas we spend your time on (a pseudo centre). The self perpetuating system will be generating and reinforcing a false sense of who we are, this will create a slow drift from the centre. A life built on a pseudo point of balance will not be able to be maintained in the long run. Something will happen to force us to a true point of balance. We are highlighting a sorting pattern that has gone on for some time unchecked within us, sometimes resulting in elaborate changes to behaviour to enable the avoidance to continue.It can be so entrenched that whole career choices 40


are made to avoid working on these areas. Leaving only the level of 'a dramatic chain of events' in order for us to 'own' this part of our story For example: If the area I avoid is taking responsibility for my financial position then over time this will create a disastrous situation that I am going to have to deal with whether I like it or not. For some reason the three key question are able to get to the heart of the matter without our mind, logic or likes and dislikes getting in the way. Therefore the answers to these three questions not only pinpoint the specific areas which can create efficiency, they also pin point the specific areas which will break down over time if they continue to remain inactive.

Changing direction After I had completed my Model I sat back and ruminated on the pattern the diagram had revealed. "Yeah, this is my life, this is what's going on inside me and it's got nothing to do with 'Time'." I said to myself. I was left with a compelling desire to set aside all my ideas about whether I had the time to do everything and to start instead building my life from the ground up, from an acknowledgement of what was important to me in a deeper sense. I chose one thing 'I was avoiding' and one thing 'I wished I had time for' and focused on adding these to my life. I chose only one of each because I knew it was important to move very slowly and I didn't want to disrupt my existingroles 41


and responsibilities. Furthermore, I believed incorporating only one of each would be enough to give me an experiential understanding of a fully activated model. In other words, I wanted to see if it 'felt' different to build a life from this point. I chose: Wish: visiting my grandfather in Queensland Avoid: clarifying things in writing It sounded simple enough from a theoretical perspective but deciding to do something and actually doing it were two 1.

What are the things I spend my time on?

2.

What are the things I wish I had time for?

3.

What are the things I would avoid even if I had the time? work

children managing the home

exercise

having a massage

keeping abreast of my ďŹ nancial position

clarifying agreements and understandings in writing-speciďŹ cally in business

visiting my grandfather in Queensland my artworklino cuts

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very different things! Reclaiming these areas was really difficult. I encountered an enormous amount of resistance inside me actually to start. Every time I tried to work on them, I became overwhelmed. I found myself with a fuzzy brain, stuck and unable to make a move. It seemed that these areas had been 'frozen' for so long that I couldn't act on them even if I wanted to. Realigning my life was going to need a bigger commitment than I thought. But I was determined to find a way. At first I thought that feeling overwhelmed was just the stress of not having enough time to do everything but I had a strong sense that there was more to it than that. So, I focused on my Overwhelm. I started to experience it more as a state of Overwhelm, rather than just something I was feeling; overwhelmed. I slowed down my thoughts and responses and concentrated on what the thinking was behind the Overwhelm . I began testing and re-testing my ideas until I uncovered something very interesting about Overwhelm and energy, but the most compelling aspect of this experience was finding a way through Overwhelm, and coming to terms with what lay on the other side. I recorded a number of possible reasons why I became overwhelmed when I tried to reclaim certain parts of my life. These continued to be developed and refined through my own experiences and observing those of others who have used the system. They are now called the 9 Possibilities. They are listed with examples in the following pages. You can try them out next time you're feeling overwhelmed because 'you don't have enough Time'. 43


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Moving through Overwhelm

¬

‘Overwhelm, 1. to come, rest or weigh upon overpoweringly; crush. 2. to overcome completely in mind or feeling......’ Macquarie Dictionary

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When Overwhelm hits you, you know it. It’s different for each person. Some become anxious, some breathless, some yawn and find it hard to stay awake. Others cry. Some scream, others get sick, others freeze. Some call it stress, others, procrastination. Whatever your personal response, everyone knows what its like to be in a state of Overwhelm, and once you’re in it, it can be hard to find your way out. The 9 PossibilitiesŠ are a list of strategies and questions to assist you in navigating through Overwhelm by extracting its hidden messages. Organic Time Management:- choose one task green area (I wish I had time for) and one the purple area (I would avoid even if I time). Concentrate on one task at a time and 9 Possibilities to try to unravel why you much resistance to beginning these tasks.

in the task in had the use the have so

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The 9 Possibilities Š the hidden messages of Overwhelm

1. Physical needsListening to your body 2. ResearchFinding out the facts 3. FeelingsRecognising emotional triggers 4. CommunicationSpeaking up 5. Dreams/PassionsAdmitting what you really want 6. EducationLearning something new 7. LayeringFinding where the anxiety really belongs 8. AddictionRunning away from pain 9. ManipulationTrying to control others

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The 9 Possibilities ©

For Example You’re working to a deadline:you might be working really efficiently and then suddenly you find yourself in Overwhelm ‘I’m running out of time, I’m not going to make it!.” Stop and consider your body. You’ve probably worked through your lunch hour and are about to work through dinner. When Overwhelm finally hits you it's likely to be your body shutting down, trying to let you know that you need water (8 glasses a day!) and a decent meal. If you organise meals before hand, always have a large bottle of water on hand and ensure you take a break to eat, you will use your time more efficiently and the quality of the job will be better.

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1 Listening to your body

physical needs

The mental or emotional Overwhelm could simply be a sign that you need to pay attention to your body. •

Movement Are you using your body? Don’t miss an opportunity to move: run, walk, swim, jump

Hydration When was the last time you had a drink of water?

Sustenance Are you eating regularly? Are you eating food that nourishes you?

Rest Are you sleeping properly? Rather than working late, try going to bed before 10.00 and working in the early hours of the morning?

Still Are you allowing your mind to become still? Try meditating, or walking outside and looking at the sky, or simply taking a few slow quiet breaths.

Eyesight/hearing Perhaps the source of physical overwhelm lies here. When was the last time you had your eyes (or ears) tested?

Cycle (for women) Are you taking care of your body throughout the menstrual cycle - especially pre–menstrually, when unresolved issues can unexpectedly rise to the surface with greater intensity? Keep a diary and record your anxiety levels to see if a pattern emerges.

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The 9 Possibilities ©

For Example: You’re in need of a holiday:you keep telling yourself that you don’t have the money and wouldn’t be allowed to have time off work. But this doesn’t stop the thought from recurring because deep inside you know you need a break. When Overwhelm finally takes hold it’s probably because all your ideas are based on impressions of the situation not the facts. You need to act on your need for a holiday, and seek out some real facts;ring a travel agent, look up a few websites, find out the cheapest time, see if there are any specials, ask your boss for some time off, think about how you could re-schedule work. Build a picture about what is possible from your research not your assumptions. Remember, if your ideas are based on assumptions, and you’re treating them like facts then you won't be able to find a way through and you’ll become overwhelmed.

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2

Finding out the facts

research

Sometimes Overwhelm is the mind’s way of letting us know that we don’t have enough facts to make a move and/or we need to clarify the validity of the information we already possess. Are you confusing FACTS with IMPRESSIONS Both are important but they are not the same. Take a mental note about what your Impressions are and then make a determined effort to find out the Facts. What do I need to know ? What facts/data do I have so far?

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The 9 Possibilities ©

For Example: They keep leaving messages:you just can’t call them back. It's not that making the call is so difficult, it's just that when you think about doing it all the unresolved feelings come flooding back. ‘They’ could be family, a friend or a lover....whoever it is, to you it’s to hot too handle. It reminds you of something back in your past, the same muddled mess of feelings and it hurts. You didn’t want to deal with it then and you don’t want to deal with it now, but it won’t go away. You’re in Overwhelm over a telephone call? No, not really, your overwhelmed by the thick fog of feelings that surround it. So, you don’t call and that just makes it all worse. The only way through this is slowly. You may need some help to navigate but it will be well worth the journey. Try naming a few of the emotions first and see if you can remember other times like this. Gradually the fog will clear and you’ll be able to make that call. Sometimes you have to go through the past to get to a different future.

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3 Recognising the emotional triggers Sometimes the task itself may be quite do-able but it is surrounded by a highly charged emotional field. In such a case, the task and the emotions can become fused, making it seem as though both are the same..

feelings

In this situation, the emotions and the task should be separated and dealt with on their own terms. Once the emotions surrounding the task–and their cause–have been clarified the task itself will seem less daunting. What do I really feel about it ? scared sad angry confused guilty betrayed powerless shamed Do I need some support to deal with these feelings? books, professional support etc Is this a reactive pattern based on a memory of a similar situation ? Can you see how this situation might be different ?

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The 9 Possibilities ©

For Example: You’re really upset:you can hardly talk let alone communicate effectively, and every time you imagine saying something you remember how last time you tried this it just made things worse. It’s almost like you have too much to say and don’t know where or how to start.. You’re in a state of Overwhelm and you don’t know how to get out. The first person you have to talk to is YOU. Get clear on what you want to say. It may come out as justification or blame at first but keep going, you’ll get to what the real issue is. It’s probably going to be a small sentence in the end. Now before you say it in the way you normally do, think again, run through the check list on the right, you’re bound to come up with a different approach. Now go ahead and try it. By now much of the heat around the communication would have dissipated. See what results you get. Now you’re on your way out of Overwhelm.

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Speaking up

4

communication

Sometimes we experience Overwhelm because we have something important to say but don’t feel we are capable of succeeding with the communication or that we have a right to say what we feel. There are five important issues to consider prior to any communication taking place:1. The Message: It is important that we clarify for ourselves what we really want to say- write the message in its raw form 2.

The Environment It is important that we consider the context of the communication. Decide where it should take place;at home, go out for dinner, meet for coffee...

3.

The Recipient It is important that we direct our message to the right person. Consider who that person/persons would be.

4.

The Time of day It is important that we consider what time of day would give us the best chance of success; morning? before lunch? after lunch?

5.

The Communication medium We now have many choices available to us. Consider the right message for the right medium. written: letter, postcard, fax, email spoken: telephone, tape, song

What have you tried so far? What has/hasn’t worked? If you are unsuccessful it may be simply that you need to adjust the environment, recipient, time or communication medium. 57


The 9 Possibilities ©

For Example You’re ‘technically’ happy:you work hard, and you get there. You’ve got the good job, good salary, nice place to live, wouldn’t mind more time for friends but that’s OK. You know how to set goals and reach them, it's just a matter of focus, discipline and hard work. But every now and then, you reach this point where you get stuck; there’s something more, deep down but focus won’t get you there and no amount of discipline and application can make it happen. When the thoughts come up they make you sad, powerless then angry. So you stop thinking about it and work harder. But it keeps recurring – that voice:- ‘One day I’d like a family of my own’. When you think about it for too long you just get overwhelmed. It brings up all these other issues and questions:- the right person, relationship, change of lifestyle .....so you cut the thought off. But it keeps coming back. These inner messages are a part of you - own them. Get it all out. Admit it to yourself and sit down with the whole picture of what you really wish for, with as much detail as possible. Then let it all go. Just because you don’t know how or when or if it will happen doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to admit its importance to you!

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dreams/passions

5

Being honest about what you really want Sometimes the Overwhelm is a symptom that we have been repressing what our heart really desires, or the goal we really seek. This may be because we believe it is unattainable or that we don’t deserve it. It is important to clarify, for ourselves, in as much detail as we can, what we really want. What do I really want to achieve if anything were possible? Do I have a picture in my mind of what I want ? (draw it, write about it) Am I afraid to set a goal ? Is there a sentence I could construct which represents the completion of my goal ?

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The 9 Possibilities ©

For Example: They assume you know:and you can’t admit it. After all with all your experience how can you admit that you don’t know something as basic as that? Somewhere along the line you covered up your lack of understanding but now you really need that piece of the puzzle and ‘faking it till you make it’ isn’t working any more. You need to know but your ego can’t afford to learn. Overwhelm is here and you're in it. Get clear on what you need to know and work out where you can learn about it.. Everyone doesn’t need to know. It can be your private project.. Maybe chip away at it till your confidence builds. Perhaps someone can work on it with you oneto-one or by correspondence, perhaps a book will help. Don’t be afraid to keep learning. Some pieces of information you need just to move forward in life, to make sense of the other bits. Don’t let your ego keep you in the dark.

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6

Learning something new Sometimes, especially when we’re older, we believe that we should already know everything without having to be taught.

education

This means we can be caught in a situation where we are afraid to admit that we don’t know. Is there is a particular skill or subject area that you would like to know more about? Where can you learn this? book college correspondence Is there someone who has experience or knowledge in this area that you can ask for assistance? What stops you admitting that you don’t know?

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The 9 Possibilities ©

For Example: Everyone wants a piece of you:and there’s nothing more to give. There’s the house, there are the meals, the children, and you’re starting to feel resentful towards all of them. You start telling yourself you need some time away from ‘them’, you need some time alone, you’re ‘over ‘ being a mum. Yeah that’s it, it’s about motherhood, about the kids and their endless arguing. You reach breaking point, you’re overwhelmed. Actually, that's not what it's all about. You’ve got a presentation at work tomorrow and you know you’re way out of your depth, frankly–you're scared. So it’s not about the kids at all. You’re dumping it all on them. So, let’s get honest! Stop everything and take responsibility for your insecurities about the presentation and your anger around it. OK now give the kids a hug and let them know what’s going on for you, let them understand how you’re feeling. Now you’re back on track, you’ll be able to negotiate your way through both worlds.

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7

Finding where the anxiety really belongs

layering

Sometimes we feel Overwhelm because we think our anxiety is a reaction to one area of our life, and in fact it belongs somewhere else. After careful reflection it is possible to recognise how easily this “dumping” of anxiety from one area into another can occur and how easily it can render something instantly more stressful than it needs to be. In such a situation it is important to ‘trace the anxiety’ back to it’s origin. Once we take responsibility for the true source of the anxiety, then we can return to the original issue and see more clearly what needs to be done.

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The 9 Possibilities ©

For Example: You’re feeling so stressed:whenever it gets to this level you can’t deal with it all, you need something to keep the buzz up, make you feel in control. It’s so easy to reach for the chocolate, no big deal, its a temporary fix, but it keeps you wired, looking efficient and it takes away the hunger so you can even work through lunch. After a while it’s easier just to depend on it to get through every day. This way you keep riding over the issues, and not dealing with the cause of the stress. It’s not too long before your reactions become so compulsive that they actually prevent you from dealing with the real issues, even when you want to. You get irritable, physically out of balance and find it really hard to wean yourself off the sugar/ caffeine hit it brings. You’re overwhelmed by the consequences of your quick fix. Now you have to take responsibility for the compulsiveness in order to see what lies behind it. Once you’ve done this you’ve started your journey to a better place.

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8

Running away from pain Sometimes we develop strategies of avoidance which end up becoming more complex than the issue we are avoiding.

addiction

An addiction is a patterned response designed to avoid pain (emotional, mental, physical). Sometimes these patterns can control us to the extent that we are unable to deal with the real issues underlying them. Addictions are not always the common ones: alcohol, drugs, sex, cigarettes, chocolate. They can be very particular and personal. If you are feeling Overwhelm it may be because addictions are clouding the real issues which means they are now controlling you. In such a situation, where the avoidance strategy is itself unmanageable, it is important to understand that you may need to seek professional support to break the pattern.

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The 9 Possibilities ©

For Example: You’re letting yourself slide into Overwhelm:before you even begin you know you’re not going to be able to balance it all, and yet you still keep committing to more and more, assuming, needing, someone to step in, take over and relieve you of it all. It’s so exhausting having to be overwhelmed before anyone notices your needs. When they do finally step in you feel kind of strange, because deep down you know that you have set yourself up to fail. Next time you find yourself resorting to overwhelm to get attention–stop, and find another way to ask for what you need. Think ahead, ask for help before you allow yourself to get overwhelmed. You probably already know what you’re going to need ahead of time. Ask a friend to help with the kids, organise a massage, ask for a hug. That way your requests will feel more authentic to others and they’ll feel freer to help. Remember, you always have the right to ask for help and the other party has the right to say ‘yes’, or ‘no’ or ‘maybe later’.

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9

manipulation

Trying to control others Sometimes ‘being overwhelmed’ is a way of exerting power or influence over those around us. It can be used as a passive form of controlling others, by creating a situation where others are compelled to help. This form of convenient Overwhelm can provide you with a temporary feeling of being in control but it doesn’t last. Soon the people around you will begin to feel manipulated and resentful. Underlying this form of Overwhelm is the avoidance of honest communication–taking responsibility for your needs and even asking for help before you become overwhelmed. Another form of strategic Overwhelm is to use it as a way of withholding something (information, affection, support etc) from someone in order to control them. This is a type of power game. Ultimately it can lead to guilt and loneliness as you gradually cut yourself off from those around you. It can also set off a power game chain reaction where each person shuts off to the other when they reach out. To overcome this type of Overwhelm you must be willing to be honest, vulnerable and compassionate.

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Making it work: step by step

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Organic Time Managament Worksheets: The worksheets are colour-coded to match the colours of the three key questions. This is important as it brings to the surface the sorting procedure behind our use of time and highlights our practical understanding of a task. By sorting our 'to do' lists in this way we break through the blockages in our thinking and it makes it easier to face the real issues and move through them.

Organic Time Management Worksheet

Organic Time Management Worksheet

‘The Task’

‘The Steps’

‘The Task’

‘The Steps’

visiting my grandfather

‘The things I spend my time on’

This is where you scribble, draw, write down all the things that the 9 Possibilities has brought to your attention about the task you are focussing on - all your thoughts, assumptions, feelings, ideas etc.

Organic Time Management Worksheet

‘The things I wish I had time for’

‘The Task’

‘The Steps’

call airline cost of airfare possible dates call mum re babysitting organise work

‘The things I would avoid even if I had the time’

This is where you break the task down into the smaller steps which it is comprises - the chronological order from the first step to the last.

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Using the 9 Possibilities The Overwhelm I experienced in each of my chosen tasks was caused for different reasons. Remember, my original objective, which seemed simple enough, was to incorporate a task from the green rays and a task from the purple rays into my life without dropping anything in the blue rays. Firstly, I tackled - 'the things I wish I had the time for' in my case this was, visiting my grandfather in Queensland Note: The green rays are the things that nourish us and sustain us. We need these things to enable us to keep going, to fill our spirits and enable us to feel connected and satisfied with our lives. I created coloured worksheets to help me focus all my answers, thoughts and feelings in one area. On the left I scribbled and drew as the answers came to me and on the right I broke it all down into steps. A chronological sequence of all the steps involved in completing my task. This acted like a 'to do' list. I used the 9 Possibilities to navigate through my Overwhelm and I discovered why I was feeling so immobilised. There were a number of Possibilities involved which was probably why I was so stuck. I have listed them one by one. I found that I was always dropping the task of visiting my grandfather in Queensland off my list of things to do, even though it was important to me because;-

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Possibility No 2 Confusing Facts with Impressions My Impressions were: I don’t have the money to fly up to Queensland I wouldn’t be able to get baby-sitting I couldn’t afford to take time off work Then I went looking for the Facts Cost of airfare? How long do I need to be up there? What date would be best? Who can I get to baby-sit? What would we do when I got there? I could go up on a Friday night (I chose my birthday) and back Saturday morning. So I would only be away one night and I didn't miss any work. My mother was able to take care of the kids. The air fare was actually really cheap. I was so energised once I had the facts that it all fell into place. My grandfather was so excited that I was going to spend my birthday dinner with him. He was so happy! I arranged to meet him at a fancy hotel for dinner. He would catch a cab and I would meet him there from the airport. Possibility No 3 Emotional triggers I was afraid to see if his grandmother died. I was afraid care of himself. I was worried emotion and I wouldn’t be able

home had changed since my to find out if he was taking that I would be overcome by to handle it.

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I wrote down all these emotional triggers that were muddying my ability to act. Once I had acknowledged them in this way I didn't seem so powerless and I felt capable of dealing with it all, because, at the end of the day, my love for him was greater than my fears. I chose to stay the night at his house and I felt OK about it. Possibility No 4 Communication I was worried about what we would talk about. I wanted to say things to him but I didn’t know how without being too emotional. I wrote down what I wanted to say on a card. How much he meant to me, how much his believing in me had inspired me to keep going, how much his love for me touched me and how much his knowledge and wisdom had enriched me. I figured if it was too emotional to say these things then at least I could give him the card when I left. I then sat down with a piece of paper and wrote down all the things I wanted to ask him about - El Nino weather patterns, different types of wood, his life in the country, his relationship with my grandma. I realised we had lots to talk about. Sitting opposite my grandfather, sharing my birthday dinner with him was one of my richest memories, and it heralded a more regular and meaningful interaction between us. The whole experience of reclaiming this part of my life had a deep and profound effect on my thinking. In the end it didn't actually take much time at all!

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It highlighted the importance of these hidden areas in my life and the pivotal role our feelings of Overwhelm play in stopping us until we have the information we need to proceed in an efficient way. I now had first hand experience of a link between time and energy and a sense of what I had been missing by wrongly believing it was always about 'not having enough Time'. Six months later when my grandfather passed away, I was incredibly grateful. I came to the conclusion that Overwhelm is our mind's way of letting us know that we don’t have enough information to move; or our ideas, feelings or beliefs are stopping us from seeing what needs to be done; or our perceptions of what is required is out of alignment with the facts of what is required. I don’t have the Time means - I don’t have the energy which usually means - I feel overwhelmed which usually means I’m stuck for some reason which means - I can’t move/work on this thing! The next one to tackle was the hardest "the thing I would avoid even if I had the time" Remember: The purple rays are the areas where our learning is frozen. We need the skills that completing these things will bring in order to truly advance in the other areas of our life. These areas not only drain our energy they actually create pressure. You will encounter incredible resistance to dealing with these issues. But keep persevering! It's well worth it.

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Organic Time Management Worksheet Organic Time Management Worksheet

Organic Time Management Worksheet

Organic Time Management Worksheet ‘The Task’ ‘The Steps’

‘The Steps’

nd my time on’

e for’

Organic Time Management

‘The Steps’

‘The Task’

‘The Steps’

‘The Task’

‘The Task’ ‘The Task’

‘The Steps’

clarifying things in writing

‘The things I spend my time on’ ‘The things I wish I had time for’

‘The

‘The things I would avoid ev

‘The things I would avoid even if I had the time’

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In my Organic Time Management Model, the purple ray I chose to focus on was Clarifying things in writing, especially in business. Once again I worked through the options presented in the 9 Possibilities in order to navigate through my Overwhelm. I was curious to discover why I was feeling so immobilised about this one, why I was always dropping this task of my list of things to do, even though, on some level, I knew it was an integral part of my ability to earn a living. This is what I uncovered from the 9 Possibilities:Possibility No 1 Listen to your body I observed that the time when I tried to write things down was usually when I was the most exhausted and physically drained at the end of the day. I tried scribbling things down in the morning, after breakfast when I was having my coffee instead of reading the paper. This made a real difference but it was still hard going. Possibility No 2 Confusing Facts with Impressions My Impressions were: I believed that clarifying business understandings/agreements in writing made things too legalistic and would effect the good rapport which existed in its absence, in face to face meetings and telephone calls.

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Then I went looking for the Facts When I really looked at the situation I found that not putting things in writing had actually put an amazing amount of stress on the situation from my perspective. It led to compensatory strategies of too many face to face meetings and led to a great deal of anxiety when things shifted slightly in the expectations which each party held. Furthermore, when the other party didn't keep their agreements I had nothing to fall back on. The fact of the matter was that it was important to clarify relationships in writing in order to reach a shared perspective, build trust, create a framework or structure around the rapport so everyone knew where they stood, no matter what transpired as the business relationship progressed. Face to face meetings and phone calls don't ever provide the detailed exchange of information that a written document does. Possibility No 4 Communication I would always try for a letter but was never able to complete it. I wasn't sure at what point in the relationship to send a written clarification. I didn't know how the written communication should look. I was always trying to address things too late in the relationship when things had already gone astray. How could I make clear my understanding and write in such a way that it opened up dialogue? My written communication could be in little steps scribbled notes to myself which then formed bullet points which then became a casual email confirming a conversation 77


or the results of a meeting at the beginning of a business relationship. This then could open up dialogue regarding specific issues, always clarified in writing, which could then result in a legal document outlining agreements in a more legal sense. The legal document then represented the conclusion of discussion not the beginning of 'issues'. Possibility No 6 Learning something new. I wasn't really clear about the legal aspects of the relationships I was forming. I wasn't sure about my rights as a contractor and I hadn't even thought about the need for a 'Terms of Business'. I was unsure as to how to construct a more legally binding document without sounding too threatening. I was worried about how much this advice would cost and I was too embarrassed to admit that I didn't know this stuff, given the extensive range of my business experience. I found a lawyer who specialised in the creative industries and he taught me all I needed to know about the basic legal rights within my work scenario. He happily agreed to a staged payment plan. Next, over some weeks, we worked on a suite of legal documents personalised to my particular business and covering every possible subcontractor relationship which I was likely to engage during the course of my work. It was a great relief to learn all this and everything in my business shifted as a result of it, my offering, my quoting, my connections, my creative work, my clients and above all, my confidence.

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Bringing it all together

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Tips: Taking smaller steps Every step in a task is constructed of many smaller steps, each representing a small completion. If you can't move or act on a particular task it may be that the step you are trying to complete is too big for the energy you have. So, break the task down into smaller steps. It is important to keep moving even if it is a tiny step because when we finish a step, no matter how small, we extract energy from the experience. 'Not doing' things drains energy from us. For instance: If I know I have to call a company in order to get information which is vital to my understanding of a task, but I keep avoiding it, then I will break the task of making the phone call down into steps. Firstly, I will look up the phone number and write it in my diary. Then I will call them. It may seem ridiculous but tiny steps make progress, 'not doing' gets us nowhere. After each small step your understanding of the next step changes, allowing you to choose the next step with greater insight. After a while this experience in completing smaller steps inches you towards a more 'educated' and realistic appraisal of how much time/energy your end goal will actually take to complete. This develops a 'sense of duration' within you which is very valuable. When this sense is truly developed you can predict with more accuracy the time you will take to complete a task ahead of time which enables you to plan additional support/ organisation around it.

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Sometimes there isn't a natural way to break the task into smaller steps. In this case you will need to determine the steps yourself. An extreme, and amusing example of this is my experiences with my children's birthday parties: At the time my children were quite young (6 and 9 years old) Whenever their birthdays would roll around they would look up to me with anticipation and say "Can I have a party with my friends?" As a single mother and sole provider for my children I could barely keep my head above water, just the thought of organising a birthday and a party would bring on a sensation similar to motion sickness! I would explain my reasons why it wasn't possible and suffer enormous amounts of guilt at my inability to be a 'good mother' This particular year I was determined do look at things in a different way and try out some of these theories about time and energy. As I was trying to think of how to break everything down into smaller steps, it suddenly dawned on me, "Who said you had to have your party on or around your actual birthday?" I sat the children down and explained my idea. In their wisdom they were able to get straight to the point. "Oh I get it, if we have the birthday party at the same time as our real birthday then we get a tired and stressed mummy, and if we wait and have it later on we get a happy mummy. OK lets try it!" Ben's birthday was up first. We had the traditional family gathering on his real birthday and then 8 weeks (!) later to the amusement of all my friends we had his birthday party. It was a huge affair, clowns, hand made party bags, inventive party food. It was a blast.

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The children were over the moon and I couldn't stop laughing!. "I can do this I thought to myself...its a bit mad but it works!' I was able to pace myself financially and I could chip away at the organisational details without getting too overwhelmed. Their parties became legendary not only for their 'lateness' but also for their spectacular nature - Stretch black limos to see Mission Impossible, Spice Girls performers, makeup artists.....the list goes on. Sometimes they would wait months until a break came in my work, but it would always happen, despite the bemused and confused smiles from the other mothers. I was happy and so were my children... birthdays were fun again.

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Tips: Focusing your energy Knowing 'when to push' and 'when to back-off' is a significant skill when it comes to time and energy management. Starting and finishing will always require more energy than the steps in between. Especially the 'starting' step when it is a task in the "avoid" or "wish" areas of your life. Some people find beginning or finishing something really difficult because their expectation of how much time/energy it will take is out of alignment with how much it will really take. When their expectations aren't met they become resentful or give up on the idea saying "it wasn't meant to be". As a general rule then, if it's an "avoid" or a "wish" and it's the first step you're stuck on, then focus your energy and keep going until you complete the first step no matter how small it is and no matter how difficult. It's only when you finish the first step that you can feel the flow on of energy that results from it. I had direct experience of the difficulty of the first step in a particularly stuck area of my own life. It was a legal issue of a personal nature and it was the most confronting issue I have ever had to 'own'. When I came to the point where I didn't want to avoid it any longer, I broke the task down into small steps and clarified my position with the 9 possibilities. The whole issue was bound up in a range of intense emotions. This was further exacerbated by little real information and fierce disagreement from those around me to opening up the 83


issue. I began with an intense feeling of vulnerability but managed to rustle up an equally intense resolve. Making an appointment with my solicitor was challenging enough and then, on the morning of the actual meeting, I dropped a box on my toe and could hardly walk! I was unable to get my foot into a shoe due to the swelling and was limping and in pain when I made my way to the car for my meeting in the city! I could have given up at this point and anyone would have understood, but I knew it was a direction I really needed to go and I was ready for challenges and aware of the extra resolve which would be needed to keep moving on this long-standing issue. On the way there, I was at an intersection waiting to make a right hand turn, and an elderly women turned the corner too wide and bumped into the corner of my car. There wasn't much damage but the exchange of numbers and calming her down took some time. By the time I was in my car again it was clear I was going to be very late. I rang the solicitor and pleaded with her, insisting that I only needed a short meeting and perhaps she could fit me in when I arrive, even if that was really late. To my amazement she agreed. I made my way to the centre of the city, driving round and round for a car park; eventually finding one three blocks away. There I was, limping in my shoe and sandal towards my appointment, determined to see it through. When I sat down opposite my solicitor, one and a half hours late for my appointment, I was overcome with a sense of relief at having actually arrived: accompanied by a realisation that I had broken though 'something' but I wasn't quite sure what. I gathered my thoughts, took a deep sigh and outlined my intentions, eager to learn the facts 84


about where I stood within the legal framework. There was a clear procedure to follow; exchanges of information, notices of intention, but it was equally clear that I had a case and my position was justified. It was strangely 'nourishing' to be presented with the facts; to arrive at an understanding of how I could pace myself through the process, rather than the endless self-talk which had plagued my thinking for ten years while I was avoiding the issue. Eight months later the final step was just as taxing, but in a different way; requiring of me once again an informed resolve in order to complete it. But this time I was prepared for it. I organised for help with the cleaning for that week, booked a massage and made sure my spirit was well-nourished and well-resourced for the legal conclusion, no matter what it may be. And the outcome? Not what I had envisaged at the start; definitely a victory, but not a financial one; something of greater value; ushering into the equation a measure of dignity, respect and another level of relating. And the consequences? The end result over many months was a breakthrough in a completely different area of my life than the goal I had originally set myself. It represented the single most significant step I had made since becoming a single mother and it opened up a more balanced life for my children in every way. The difficulty of the first step was in direct proportion to the reward for the release at the completion of the task. I like to think of the first and last step as representing an octave of energy in the same way as scale of notes in music: do-re-me-fa-so-la-te-do. The first and last note requiring more energy and focus than those in the middle. 85


When people say to me now, "I stopped because it all got too hard" I smile and tell them, "Keep at it and ring me when you finish that first step and tell me what challenges you encountered along the way". (there's always lively story to tell!) At this point it may seem bizarre that a time management system would congratulate you on being one and a half hours late for an appointment! But remember it's not how much time you spend but which part of your life you are spending it on that matters. In this instance, it is strategy which creates efficiency. When it is an 'avoid' or 'wish' and it's the first or last step then time will be saved in the long run through the relinking of elements in your life which occur as part of the process.

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A final note

ÂŹ

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To my amazement the answer to creating a more efficient self-generating time management system was an anomaly: it had very little to do with Time, and a lot to do with factors in my own personal growth and energy. Furthermore, something amazing happened as a result of this process. Completing each step, even if it was really small, connected me to situations and circumstances which saved me time. The 'wish's' nourished me so I could keep going and the 'avoids' taught me things that were vital in the main parts of my life. They took me to a new level. Everything seemed to come together in a new way. Not only did I find I had the time but I found I was energized when I completed the tasks. But I couldn't have foreseen this. Only as each task unfolded, could I see how it linked to the other areas of my life and that's when I experienced the difference. It was as if these frozen areas of my life contained a secret source of energy which, when released, fed to all areas of my life and I felt a sense of balance for the first time, I felt my balance; a central point of balance; and it felt very different. I was then able to understand, in a profound way what the central point on the organic time management model really meant and how compelling a sense of balance really is. There was another strange phenomena which occurred as a consequence of all this: by going backwards and working on the things that I 'avoid' and 'delay' I progressed further in the main areas of my life. In other words, I found myself in a better position than if I had spent all the time on them. It was as if I had changed in some fundamental way by working on these areas and this change was exactly what was required for me to move forward in my work, my mothering 88


and the home management. I found this very hard to explain and even harder to believe but this phenomena repeated itself time and time again. Furthermore, the process itself encouraged the development of more dynamic human qualities within me: courage, perseverance, reflection, discernment to name a few. It appeared that the real key to successful time management was to become efficient in managing Energy. I theorised about how this could come about, that an efficiency of Energy creates the efficiency of Time. The areas where we experience the greatest density or 'stuckness' in our lives behave like a kind of Mass - an untapped source of energy. My experiences of Energy in this context became strangely reminiscent of my understanding of the principles of Energy within the scientific world. "the amount of Mass that's gained is always going to be balanced by an equivalent amount of energy that's lost" 54 In other words the 'avoid' areas were having an effect on the other areas of my life, they were absorbing my energy, and this felt like I was running out of time. But conversely they also held an intriguing piece of the puzzle - they were the source of a tremendous amount of energy. "Mass is simply the ultimate type of condensed or concentrated energy. Energy is the reverse: it is what billows out as an alternative form of Mass under the right circumstances" (69) If this energy is released very slowly through the completion of small strategically directed steps from the areas which 89


are normally stuck then this released energy flows though the whole system and connects things in purposeful and efficient ways. The result? A strangely efficient interaction between Time and Energy, which creates a compelling process through a network of key relationships. This network of thoughts, perceptions, values and actions behaves in much the same way as a spinning turbine, which when correctly centred uses a minimal amount of energy and if harnessed properly can create more energy. Each spin unfolds over time, but it is Energy, not Time which drives it. The Organic Time Management System was formulated from information gained from my own personal reflection. As a consequence of this discovery and the experimentation with ideas and processes which I engaged in, I have come to realise that we have within us the sense of direction, sense of balance, a range of choices and cognitive resources to create a rich and rewarding life in response to enormous amounts of pressure. Managing our Time can become more than dividing our time between the roles and responsibilities we are already overcommitted to. It can be about managing our Energy and discovering or rather uncovering the things that are actually important and necessary to our sustainable growth in the long term. Even though we can't immediately see it ourselves! When I’m overwhelmed in practical terms, it means I can’t move. When I take some Time to look closely at this Overwhelm, I can see that I’m stuck. This gives me the understanding to 90


break the task down into smaller steps. Then, miraculously, I CAN find the Time. It is ironic that until we start things we compulsively avoid and the delay, we may not reach a point of to managing time in the rest of our

spending time on the things we compulsively efficiency in relation lives.

I came to understand that Time was just something that I used, something that I worked with to chip away at all the areas of my life. Time is a never ending source, a creative resource.

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The breakthroughs I experienced throughout this process uncovered and clarified the information which was needed to connect the elements of the original self-generating system in a way which made it 'work'. This is how it came together. The self-perpetuating system: containing interconnecting elements which comprise the managing time.

the five process of

1. A true central point (representing what I value, consciously and unconsciously)

A final note

This is required for balanced sustainable growth and is ascertained by answering the 3 Key questions;What are the things I spend my time on What are the things I wish I had time for What are the things I would avoid even if I had the time. 2. A sense of direction, (what tasks I choose to act on) I chose to act on each of the above areas (to begin with one avoid and one wish area) 3. A sense of duration, (my perception of how long a task will take) I changed my sense of duration to recognize a different definition of completion - I broke down the task into much smaller steps than I had previously considered in order to complete the task, This gave me many small completions. To help me unravel the layers, I used the 9 Possibilities.

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4. Our first hand knowledge (my knowledge of the task, what is involved in doing it) I didn't assume anything about each task, I went after real time information, I went to the source. I did my research. This acted as a small step and helped loosen up an issue. 5. The cultural context (the sociological values which influence me) I decided to set aside the cultural values which inhibited me - specifically, "You aren't allowed to spend time on this" and "There's no point in beginning something if you can't finish it in one step" In fact, if I heard myself saying "I don't have enough time" then I would immediately start looking for the real reason! An efficient use of energy is the by-product of a correctly balanced and integrated system and Time then becomes the resource used to make it all happen. This process is portrayed in an abstract Organic Time Management Model over leaf.

sense

by

the

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About the Model The model records not only our time but also our energy usage. The radiating lines representing the answers to the three key questions and the central point representing us and what is really valuable to our growth on all levels The aerial perspective shows us how Time is used in the Organic Model, - a never ending resource for us to use, spiralling outwards towards our goals. From the central point, you move around the circle, step by step choosing to spend time on all areas of your life. We go 'round the circle' taking a small step (using time) in each area of our life represented by all the coloured rays not just the blue ones, which is what we have done in the past. It can take a week or a month to go around the circle. The time frame doesn't really matter. What is important is that you spend time (even if it's very small steps) in all areas, in order for your time and energy usage to align and integrate themselves. This creates the true central point of balance from which efficiency flows. The nourishment from the green rays sustains your work in the blue rays and the learning from the purple rays underpins your progress in the blue rays. When you return to the same place you began you are at the second step of the task and so on until you reach the last step represented by the largest circle. As you move forward in one part of your life you bring the rest of your life with you.

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The spiral line represents the progress of time in the Organic Time Management Model a never-ending resource which we use to create true balance

These intersecting points represent the process of breaking down each goal into smaller steps than you would normally consider.

THE THREE KEY QUESTIONS

The purple, blue and green rays moving from the centre represent your answers to the these questions. 1. What do I spend my time on? 2. What are the things I wish I had time for? 3. What are the things I would avoid even if I had the time?

The circles moving out from the centre symbolise an energetically lighter & larger image of ourselves. By adding your ‘wishes’ and ‘avoids’ you can gradually increase your capacity to use more time without becoming burdened or loosing balance.

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'The world was made, not in time, but simultaneaously with time' St Augustine 5th century

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references Capra F. The Hidden Connections 2002 Flamingo Hasan, R Ways of Saying; Ways of Meaning 1996 Cassell Lakoff, G & Johnson, M. The Systematicity of Metaphorical Concepts in Metaphors We Live By 1980 The University of Chicago Press Winterson, J. The Passion Vintage 2000 Canada

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Travelling with Time by Cecille Weldon  

A personal approach to time management with the Organic Time Management System, The information contained in this booklet represents my pers...

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