My friend Dan Curtis is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, an adult educator, a certified life coach, and all-round lovely person. I first met Dan when he showed up on our hospice palliative care unit many years ago to film part of a documentary he’d been working on for three years, following the end-of-life journey of Robert Coley-Donohue, a man living with ALS (whose wife Barbara had also, tragically, died of the same condition).
Unfortunately, because I was new at my PR position at the time, I knew nothing of this project – so I tried to sternly hustle Dan and his intrusive camera equipment right out of the building, thus inadvertently threatening to ruin forever an especially poignant scene in his documentary. Despite this, he forgave me my bossy ways and we went on to become friends, and his moving documentary about Robert went on to become a popular National Film Board of Canada film called Bearing Witness: Robert Coley-Donahue, and then Dan went on to become a professional personal historian, one who helps record the life stories of others for posterity.
Dan also has a cat named Annie. She is an endless font of useful life lessons, according to Dan. I loved his essay on Annie’s tips for good time management so much that I asked his permission to repost it here for those of you who have ever wished there were more hours in the day.
So with a grateful hug aimed in Dan’s direction, here’s what he writes about Annie and her lessons on good time management:
1. Decide what’s important and drop the rest.
“There’s always time to do the important things. Annie has clear priorities – sleeping, eating, observing, playing, and snuggling. Anything else is of little interest to her and she doesn’t do it. Take a moment and make a list of things you have to do today. Now put an “A” beside the absolute must-do items. Drop the rest. This may sound drastic – but you can’t humanly tackle everything you think needs doing in a day.”
2. Learn to say “No”!
“Ever try to convince a cat to do something it doesn’t want to do? It’s taken me a while to do what Annie does really well, and that’s to say “No!” and not feel guilty about it. “No!” is a very powerful word. It helps you set boundaries and drop those time-sucking activities.”
3. Concentrate on one thing at a time.
“Annie never multi-tasks, and she’s wise because studies show it doesn’t work.”
4. Reward yourself.
“Annie has learned that good behaviour, like coming when I whistle for her, comes with a small treat. It reinforces good habits I want to instill in her. When you’ve completed a difficult task, make sure you give yourself a treat – maybe a good bottle of wine or fine chocolate truffles.”
5. Establish routines and stick with them.
“Annie is a creature of habit. She thrives on routine. She expects me up at 6 a.m. to feed her. While my porridge cooks, we have a 10-minute play time. This is usually followed by her first outing of the day. If we know how our day is structured, we can better fine tune it to meet the demands that arise.”
6. Start your day right.
“Annie has a good breakfast followed by 30 minutes of meditation. For some reason she loves to curl up with me as I do my daily Vipassana meditation. If you’re too rushed to find a moment of calm in the morning, the chances are you’ll start your day stressed. This in turn will lead to poor decision-making and ineffective use of your time.”
Dan adds: “While we can’t create more hours in a day, we can manage our time so that we create the space we need for those important projects, like our life story.”
Q: What are you doing to manage your own time more effectively?