Defining TIME – Critical Element for Families With ‘Special Needs’

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artsy clock image

Time is a critical commodity in the homes of  ‘special needs’ families.  When you think of the time you have, do you sometimes feel like you don’t have enough time?  Well, ask yourself “How do I define time?”

As we seek to care for the needs of our very ‘special’ person and the necessary needs of a family, knowing and embracing how we view time and how it is used in our lives is critically important to the maintaining balance.              So what kind of time do you have?

cascading waterfall

Is your time flowing out and away from you?


There are only two kinds:

Clock Time
Real Time

We all have clock time. Its that 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year … time. We all have it! But you know we don’t experience time in clock time….


We experience time in “Real Time”. That’s the time you are standing in line at the Motor Vehicle department and its only been a half hour but it feels like 6 hours. That’s the time you are looking at your 6 year old, realizing she will be in the first grade soon and wondering where the time has gone; those six years feel like they have gone by in 6 hours. So, when you think about it, time is totally relative, relative to what is happening in your life and how you are responding to it.  Its REAL and it’s relative, relative to whether it feels like its dragging by or flying by.

How does your time feel to you’?  Are you feeling like you are often ‘pressed for time?  Does it fill like a constant drip away?

When time feels like it is slipping away this becomes a contributing factor to the stress we feel.  This is especially true if  time feels like an exhalation and oh my goodness, its 7 pm, the day has flown by and you still don’t have dinner done.

Time gradually dripping away from you?


Do you want 32 hours instead of 24? Maybe you would get that load of laundry folded and put away.  Maybe you could get the floors not just swept but mopped too.  Maybe you could sit and have that important discussion with your teen or mate?  If you feel that there just aren’t enough hours in the day…

the earth and land and sky

The world and its elements seem timeless and their ebb and flow, endless.





Then … think on this a bit…time is relative and it describes, even defines, the world in which we live.



Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary has 13 definitions for time.  Here are two of them:

1 a. “the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues” or b. a continuum which lacks spatial dimensions and in which events succeed one another from past through present to future”

1 b. “the point or period when something occurs”

So then, consider this when it comes to managing time.  Are you using what  I think of as an ‘old school’ time management tool, an electronic or paper based planner to organize, prioritize, and schedule your day?  Do you still feel like you aren’t getting everything done?   There’s a reason for that.  The reason? Well, these tools are working with “clock time” and you are living in “real time”.  If a planner didn’t work well for you, then lets be clear, that planner was a ‘waste of time’, right?




So what’s a person to do? Does it feel a bit like a conundrum, like time is going to just slip away and well, there you are again having lost time to do what you want to do, with your kids, with your wife, with your business, with your life.



Let’s approach it this way. Keep in mind that since time is where all of life is happening, “the point or period when something occurs”, then we don’t want to create a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ about not having enough time. Remember time is relative. We all have the same time, 24 hours in our day. What we have to get our heads around is how we are experiencing events during our 24 hours. Is time dragging on or evaporating gives us the clue on managing and investing our time to maximize it. If we don’t want to feel that time is ‘slipping away’, then we need to put on our thinking caps and get above the feelings.

Here’s what I mean. Since we live in “real time”, then how we manage our time is to recognize that we spend our time in three ways; in thought, in conversation, and in action.

So…Its a brain engagement, an exercise if you will, in not making longer and longer ‘to do lists’, but getting that we work better perhaps in the early morning hours, or if you are a ‘night owl’ maybe in those late night hours.

Examining how we use our time in conversations, thoughts, and actions will clarify where we need to manage our time.

Its examining how we use our time in conversations, thoughts, and actions that will clarify where we need to manage our time.


Its understanding how we use our time to get the most benefit from it. We spend our time on thoughts, conversations and actions and mastering these maximizes our use of time!




AND … Let’s face it, life is full of interruptions.

Then there are those responsibilities we have embraced that will tug on our heart strings and pull us in a host of different directions, major ‘interruptions’ of another kind.

Think of this….We cannot eliminate the interruptions but we can decide and say

  • how much time we will spend on our interruptions
  • how much time we will spend on the
    • thoughts
    • conversations and
    • actions

Now we can embrace how we are using time for ourselves.   We want to do what is right by our loved ones, ALL of them.   So, here are 10-Tips, a different approach, for better management of our time.  These ‘Tips’ were modified from a business journal, the Entrepreneur.  I have modified the points as necessary to be applicable to our family and special needs.

  1. Try to record thoughts, conversations, and activities to determine where our precious time is going.  If not able to record, just start taking note of this time expenditure.
  2. If a conversation or activity is important, assign an alloted time to it.
  3. Plan to spend 50 percent of our time on the things that are bringing the most results into our day.
  4. Schedule in time for interruptions.
  5. Take 30 minutes at the beginning of the day to plan our day.
  6. Take 5 minutes before each call or task to decide the results we want to achieve.
  7. Use a “Do Not Disturb” sign if you simply can’t be interrupted.
  8. Practice not answering the phone just because it is ringing and emails just because they show up.  Disconnect instant messaging.
  9. Block out other distractions like Facebook or other social media.
  10. Remember its impossible to get everything done.  Its good to remember that 20% of our thoughts, conversations, and actions will produce 80% of our desired results.

Time is precious to us as we care for our loved ones and ourselves.

I hope this spiraling clockapproach will help you manage your days more effectively.  If you have suggestions or wish to contribute something you feel has served you well, please leave your comment here.

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