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Tick Tock: Your Time Is Your Life

A cancer survivor and clutter-clearing author shares autumnal time management tips.
PUBLISHED October 05, 2019
Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools–We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
I will say what no one wants to hear or think about: Your time is your life. Use your cancer-enhanced awareness to make the most of it.

As a speaker and author who specializes in the concept of clutter, I don’t just talk about stuff management, I talk about time management (also known as life management) too. The weird thing that seems to happen with aging and for someone with a cancer diagnosis is that time speeds up just when we want to savor it the most. Spending your life and time wisely comes down to your priorities.

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, many of us are confronted with a lack of time and energy. What do you do when you feel like you’re struggling to keep up? Are you guilty of making these common time management mistakes? As the fall season approaches, time management can feel more difficult as summer’s warmth, energy and daylight trickle away. As people with cancer, it can be challenging to try to appreciate and live in the moment when the future is one big question mark. Here are a few of my own suggestions based on trusted time management principles and my experiences with cancer.

Weed out clutter—all kinds.

Clutter can be physical, mental and even emotional. Who has time for it, in any form? We don't have time to let cancer drain our thoughts and feelings or bind us to things that nibble away at us. Start the clutter clearing today that you have been putting off until tomorrow. There are many good books and videos out there to help motivate you—find one that fits your style if you are in need of a little more specific direction. Tip: When weeding out clutter, do it during your personal best time of day. If you are a morning person, weeding clutter early will leave you with a sense of accomplishment that can energize you for the rest of the day.

Put people ahead of stuff—always.

Since you are a person, this includes first taking care of yourself (ample sleep, doctor appointments, projects that soothe you or fit your passion) and then the rest of the people in your life. I am serious. The boxes in the basement, attic, or garage can wait until after reaching out to someone for a visit, phone call, text or email. Tip: Keep a running to-do and who-to-contact list to jot down your priorities when they pop into your head. Lists can be lifesavers especially if, like me, you feel like you are struggling with fatigue and chemo brain.

Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize.

 You know the drill—tackle your to-do list in terms of priorities. Prioritizing is a classic time management technique, still, we all manage to waste time sometimes. Tip: Keep a time management log in 15- or 30-minute increments for a week. Just like keeping a food diary, it will help you make better choices, like less time sitting on the computer or in front of the television.

We all struggle with overload at times, especially as cancer survivors. Let's face it—cancer puts a lot on our mind and it can be hard to see around it. If we can reduce the clutter to simplify our lives, put people first, and make choices based on our own priorities, we can work through cancer and our lives a little more easily.
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