Each day has 24 hours. Regardless of who you are, how much you have to do, and how important your tasks may, be the 24-hour day is a reality. Many people seem to ignore that simple truth, or they believe that it doesn’t apply to them. They are constantly looking to find the 25th hour.

You may be one of those people trying to push the 24-hour limit. If you are you know the drill. You’re constantly fighting the clock. Over filling your days and frequently jamming things in is your routine. Time becomes an enemy to be beaten and conquered. As you fight this ongoing time battle you feel the frustration that a fruitless fight usually produces. You’re almost always rushed, and you’re frequently late. When you do arrive on time, it’s only by a minute or two at best. You’d like to change, but for numerous reasons you never do.

Some people who search for the 25th hour do indeed enjoy the hunt. They love pushing the clock and driving themselves. In fact, there are those who thrive on such a schedule. Thomas Edison, for example, invented the light bulb during a period in his life when he seldom got more than four hours of sleep a day. He drove himself and he pushed those around him. For Edison and those who worked for him, this was a comfortable schedule. For others, such a schedule would cause exhaustion and frustration, and would severely limit or destroy their productivity.

If you are a time pusher and you are happy, keep it up. If you are always searching for the 25th hour, and you are not happy, stop it. If you want to slow down a bit, start by asking yourself four simple questions.

1. Am I being used? Some people are easy marks. Friends, family and associates see them as doers, and they don’t hesitate to ask them to do even more. It’s often said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person, and it will get done!” Learn to say, “No!”

2. Do I have to do everything I’m currently doing? Have you ever heard someone say, “If you want something done right, do it yourself?” Well, that may be true, but if you live by that philosophy, you’ll probably be a one-person show. You don’t have to do everything. Learn to trust others and look to them for help. By delegating or sharing some responsibilities, you may be able to devote more time to other tasks and end up with a little free time in the process.

3. Do I have a list of priorities? Most folks do not attach the same degree of significance to everything they do. For example, a meeting at a social club is probably not as important as preparing a presentation for an upcoming business meeting. However, if you look at a crowded weekly schedule on Monday morning, and all you see is a list of things to do, places to go, and people to see, you could easily feel compelled to stretch every minute of every hour. The next time you look at your schedule, prioritize what lies ahead. Instead of creating a time panic because you think you have to accomplish everything, selectively designate those people, places, and events that are musts. Although the others may still be important to you, don’t work your schedule around them, but instead, try to work them into your schedule.

4. Do I take time to plan? “Plan your work, then work your plan” is a powerful bit of advice. It isn’t essential that you have every minute of every hour of every day planned, but without a plan, you could be wasting a great deal of time doing nothing. If you find yourself calling the same person twice or three times in the same day, or if you make numerous trips to the store each day, you may want to do a little more planning before you act, consolidate your efforts and save some serious time in the process.

Time is a precious commodity. It cannot be bought or sold, it cannot be stored up for use at a later date, and once its gone its gone for every. Regardless of how hard you try, you cannot create a longer day, a longer hour, or a longer second for that matter, so stop trying. Learn to live within the reality of time. Assess how you use your time, set some priorities, make a plan, and above all, learn to enjoy some free time. Without some free time, there may be no time in your life for you. And above all else remember, you only have 24 hours in each day, just like everybody else!

Dr. Mike McGough is a York College professor who lives in Abbottstown.

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