Slowing down improves life in the fast lane

August 14, 1993|By Guy Keeler | Guy Keeler,McClatchy News Service

Living on the fast track has become a demolition derby for many people, say time management experts Jeff Davidson and Tom Moore.

And the following statistics back them up:

* In a recent survey of 1,200 successful lawyers, artists, blue-collar workers, teachers and students, 80 percent said they enjoyed their work but not their personal lives. Another 15 percent said they didn't like their work or their personal lives, and only 4 percent said they had satisfying jobs and personal lives.

* Since 1973, according to a Louis Harris poll, Americans have been working 20 percent more hours and have 32 percent less leisure time.

* A survey by Prevention magazine revealed 40 percent of American adults suffer stress every day and say they sleep no more than six hours a night.

Americans will spend $210 billion this year on learning how to be more productive in a fast-paced society, says the American Society for Training and Development. Time management books will continue to be strong sellers.

But Mr. Davidson and Mr. Moore say living a balanced life depends more on using time wisely than on trying to cram more activity into a 24-hour day.

Mr. Davidson, a management consultant from Chapel Hill, N.C., and author of "Breathing Space," ($10.95 in paperback from MasterMedia Limited) says the secret to a rewarding life is learning to slow down the clock by adopting a pace that allows time to breathe.

Mr. Moore, founder of a personal coaching service based in Littleton, Colo., helps train people to find balance by analyzing behavior and finding motivation to change.

Mr. Davidson is not a "stop and smell the roses" kind of guy. In a four-year period leading up to "Breathing Space," he wrote 17 books, spoke to more than 100 groups, got married, became a father and moved three times -- without breaking a sweat.

"My peers wanted to know why I wasn't a total wreck," Mr. Davidson says. "They wanted to know how I was able to maintain balance in my life, even flourish. I told them I had a personal system for approaching each day, my goals and my life. They said 'We do, too, but we want to know yours.' "

So Mr. Davidson wrote "Breathing Space," a book that explores the causes of time pressure and offers practical advice on how to master the clock.

The heart of his message involves learning to limit choices and celebrate progress toward accomplishments with self-acknowledgments he calls "completions."

Mr. Davidson says time pressures in the 1990s come from mushrooming volumes of people, information, media voices, paper and choices:

* The U.S. population has increased from 180 million in 1960 to 252 million, with 97 percent living on 3 percent of the land mass.

* More books and articles are published in one day than a person can read in a lifetime.

* In the early 1970s, three networks dominated television. Today, there are 339 full-power independent TV stations and cable systems with up to 140 channels offering more than 72,000 shows a month.

* The volume of junk mail grew 13 times faster than the population during the last decade.

* In 1978, the typical supermarket carried 11,767 items. Today, shoppers can choose from among 30,000 items.

"The number of things competing for time and attention has grown so much that today we have become the most time-pressed, distracted generation in history," says Mr. Davidson.

"Having a lot of choices is a wonderful thing, but too many choices bring on a high level of stress."

Mr. Davidson has a simple solution for coping with today's pace: Limit choices and you give yourself more time to focus on priorities.

He says many people go through life wondering where their time went. Activities flow together and leave them feeling as if they are being swept down a river.

"People feel guilty at work because they aren't spending enough time with their families and then feel guilty at home because they aren't getting enough done at work," says Mr. Davidson.

One way to feel a sense of accomplishment each day is to give yourself "completions."

"A completion is a mental partition between activities," says Mr. Davidson. "It can be created as simply as giving yourself a silent self-acknowledgment that you've completed one task and are ready to move on to something else.

"What you get is an energy boost. You get more done and the clock seems to slow down because you don't have activities sliding together."

Mr. Moore, who was chief executive officer of a mortgage banking company before he founded the Walden Institute, says people can find balance in their lives by using principles from the business world.

"First, you've got to have a plan," says Mr. Moore. "Sit down and say, 'Here's how I want my life to be.' Most people won't take the time to do it and wind up living by whatever comes through the door."

Mr. Moore says writing a personal mission statement -- what you want to accomplish in life -- is the next step. Once your plan is down on paper, he says, you equip yourself to fulfill it through personal development.

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