On Being Time’s Friend.
“I don’t have enough time!”
This is one of the most common phrases I hear from clients. What, with managing work, relationships, homes and families, there just isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. Let alone find precious hours to work towards new goals and implement changes for a happier life. It is an endless list, for some, on what needs to be done, can’t be done and what we would get done if only we had time. Our frustration targets time, as if it is actively working against us or somehow shrinking or running out. Why do we often feel like time works against us? To stop us from reaching our potential?
The reality is time is a construct that we can manipulate, expand and utilise, if we think about it differently. Time is our friend, as long as we respect it and use our time wisely. Having said that, knowing this is much harder than doing, isn’t it?
So why do we allow ourselves to idly let time drift by, when we could use it so much better?
Most time wasters are caught in a cross fire between a lack of self-discipline or control and unrelenting standards. On the one hand we are trying to avoid responsibility for our actions. We struggle to restrain ourselves from the more pleasurable, instantly gratifying, activities we enjoy. Some excellent time wasters like social media and watching any screen, are resources that may offer some fun, happiness and downtime, but if not restricted become vacuums for creativity and enablers of inaction. We can get lost in the comfort of mindlessness and although fine for brief periods of time, it can be highly addictive. Our own inability to be disciplined about what we do and how we do it, leads us down the path of losing minutes, hours and days of very valuable time. This, at the expense of personal fulfillment and achievement.
On the other hand, many of us have inbuilt, unrelenting standards that drive us to excessive worry and pressure to perform and achieve beyond that of normal expectations. On the surface, this drive can produce optimum performance at work and in our leisure life. If we look underneath excessive standards, maybe that high internal drive is more about fearing failure then seeking success. If so, then we struggle to take it easy, become negative and critical about what we are doing (‘it’s not good enough’), and start to focus on perfect instead of achievement. Worrying about the end result and sacrificing starting, is a time waster. Our preoccupation is about doing it right, rather than just getting in there and giving it a go.
Now, couple that anxiety about perfectionism based on unrealistic, unrelenting standards with lack of self-discipline and time becomes the enemy. There is not enough of it and even if there is, it is impossible to do it all perfectly anyway. If we can’t get it done perfectly then why bother trying and then we let our minds get preoccupied with other things that give immediate rewards, (jump back on that social media, start cleaning the bathroom again, turn the TV on).
Being time efficient is the ability to do things well, successfully, and without waste. Using time to get the best out of your life, work and relationships means you need to have some level of self-discipline, realistic standards and expectations of what you can achieve in every moment.
Think about your day.
Get a timetable and break that 24 hours into hours and then into minutes. How much time do you spend being productive and how much time is spent avoiding getting things done, that will make your life happier, more fulfilling and smoother?
Spend a week tracking what you actually do, and you will find hours and minutes that could be used to enhance your life and work towards your dreams.
Now if you could move those hours and minutes around, you might discover you have the equivalent of days in time, to start a new path forward. Imagine if you applied self-control and avoided perfectionistic standards, how much time would you have to get things done. How that feeling of accomplishment could lead to fulfillment.
Try it. It is an exercise I insist my time poor and time angry clients engage in. Changing our concept of time and how we can control it, is an important stage of self-growth. Rather than running after time waving our ‘not done list’ madly in the air, try to befriend the time that you have and be realistic about when and how you can use time efficiently. Aim for starting instead of finishing perfectly. Be disciplined with your downtime, it should only be used in short bursts to calm down, be distracted for a little while and enjoy life. Find the minutes and hours when you could start something and begin chipping away at your goals and dreams.
Well, I’ve run out of time and I have to go.
The spare hour I put aside to write this, before I checked on my 3 businesses, made breakfast, spent time with family and watched another episode of an old series, is done.
Okay, I’ll come back and edit this and maybe add or change some things, (I struggle with the unrelenting standards too), but I’ll work out when I have time to do it, arrange those minutes and hours in my day to make that time. And if not? Well, imperfect as it may be, this blog will be uploaded and shared.
That’s the way to do it.