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Broadening Our Horizons

Why not make our leisure time more productive ?

We all know people who seem to be filled with boundless energy. They hold down busy jobs, bring up several children, run half-marathons lead active social lives, keep pets AND take the lead in organising clubs, societies and other group activities for themselves and their children. The rest of us just look on admiringly, wondering where they get the energy.

In fact highly active people are not different from ourselves - they are just better motivated and better organised. They have discovered that we are all capable of a more energetic, more productive lifestyle. Part of the secret lies in the amount of time most of us waste in inactivity (or, more accurately, pointless activity). We tell ourselves that we need 'quality time for ourselves' to sit about and catch our breath. In reality we prefer to potter around - achieving nothing, not even relaxation !

If we want to assess our own capabilities in this area we might start by talking to some of these super-mums or super-dads. How do they fit so much activity into 24 hours ?

One traditional approach is through the well-known procedures of 'time management'. Once we have determined a few 'objectives' or 'targets' for achievement in various fields we draw up charts showing 'available time, by day' and allocate time slots to various activities.

Say we choose three (daily) objectives for the time management exercise: read a serious newspaper (front page and op-ed page); exercise for at least 20 minutes; attend a live music or 'visual arts' event.

We might look for a half-hour period in the day - perhaps mid-morning - when we could switch our attention from work to another subject. In that period we might read the front page and op-ed page of a serious newspaper.

We might also identify opportunities for achieving our remaining 2 daily objectives by using our midday break to attend 'lunchtime concerts' or or make short visits to local art galleries. We might jog to the venue, attend the concert/gallery, and then jog back. By that means we would have used the hour 'more productively' and accomplished our objectives.

This is all a bit obvious - I can hear you say !

Maybe so. But those very active people have achieved their high-scoring lifestyle by just those methods. We can achieve even more if we begin to 'sequence' our activities in a more intelligent manner, creating additional 'available time'. Here we use the concept of 'available time' in planning our days: work days and free days. By consciously seeking to increase 'available time' by intelligent planning we will achieve more opportunities to accomplish those additional tasks we set ourselves.

For example. Instead of always accepting other people's timings for meetings at work, why not try and persuade colleagues to hold meetings in the first and the last hours of the working day. If we try this we might succeed in freeing up the middle hours of, say, 1 or 2 days in any week. Suddenly our 'available time' expands dramatically. Likewise we might coordinate our children's evening commitments to leave one or two early evenings free. Thus 'available time increases.

More ideas on this theme in subsequent articles.

Ivor Palette