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If too many hassles and too much routine are taking the joy out of your life, perhaps you should rethink the way you view time.

Fam Pract Manag. 2000;7(10):64

As a time management expert, I'm often asked, “Can you give me more time in my life?” So many of you are looking for more time to do more of what is already exhausting you. How about spending more time “creating the time of your life?” Several of my clients have told me that the time of their life would have no deadlines, no expectations and no responsibilities.

Think back to a great time in your life. It probably had more substantive qualities than simply the absence of deadlines, expectations and responsibility. For example, remember a time when you were in love — romantically, professionally or artistically. You might say, “Time stood still,” or “I had no sense of time.” When you feel that much joy, you focus on the moment. A busy life makes it hard to focus, but it doesn't make it impossible. Try these approaches to experience more joy in your life.

Be in the moment

In today's fast-paced world, many of us feel forced to do two or three things at once and to think about what's next instead of what's now. This mindset can make us feel out of touch. Instead:

  • Practice “mindfulness.” Really be in the moment with a patient, a staff person, a friend or a family member. Concentrate your entire attention on the encounter, and try to push everything else out of your mind. Don't think of the future or the past. The deadlines, responsibilities and expectations will remain, but because you've given yourself the opportunity to enjoy the present, you may find yourself better equipped and more willing to deal with them later.

  • Imagine you're in slow motion. It sounds silly, but that's the strategy moviemakers use when they really want you to pay attention. You will see things you would not have seen if you were anticipating the next step or next obligation in your day.

Increase “response-ability”

Having the time of your life is less about getting rid of responsibilities and more about increasing your “response-ability.”

When faced with a situation that you're less than enthusiastic about, such as serving on a committee, ask clarifying questions and assess your priorities before responding. Physicians are generally quick to help out others, often to the detriment of their own needs, so seeking clarification is always a good approach. Regardless of what you decide, you'll feel more in control of your actions and your attitude when you ask clarifying questions.

If you decide not to serve on the committee, the answers you receive to your questions will give you the information you need to respond appropriately. If you find it difficult to say “no” or are unsure of the approach to use, see “Five Ways to Say ‘No’ Effectively,” FPM, July/August 1998.

If once you've asked clarifying questions, you agree to be on the committee, don't complain about your decision. People who create the time of their lives find the good in the commitments they make and then enjoy those aspects of the experience.

Break rank

Some time management experts think that sticking to a routine reaps greater productivity. There is truth to that. But do you recall following a routine when you were having the time of your life? Probably not. Consider the role spontaneity has in the time of your life and break rank today:

  • Surprise yourself or your staff. Tell yourself, or a colleague, “It's time you take an extra 30 minutes for lunch today.”

  • This weekend, get in your car — alone or with friends or family — and just start driving. Don't plan where you're going to go or even where you're going to turn. Just see where the road takes you.

  • Stay at home. Rent foreign movies and pretend you're somewhere else for the evening.

  • Do just one thing — anything — differently today.

It is infectious when people see you “having the time of your life,” both personally and professionally. So be contagious. Now, wouldn't that be breaking rank from your usual modus operandi!

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