In my ongoing effort to live more fully and more consciously, I’ve recently been thinking about time. There never seems to be enough of it. I can’t truly imagine being bored in the sense of not having anything to do. There are times when I can’t do what I want to do and don’t want to do what’s easily done (or what I should be doing), but I can’t think of a time in my life when I’ve had absolutely nothing to do.
I have, however, been guilty of wasting time and complaining about not having enough time. Truly, there is enough time. We all get that lovely 24 hours every single day. Choosing how to use that time is the key. Being conscious of just where the time is going is vital.
If you’ve found yourself saying any of these things:
“I love to (X), but I just don’t have time for it.”
“I’d like to learn (Y) but there just isn’t enough time.”
“I never seem to get caught up.”
I invite you to try an experiment with me.
First, think about what it is that you want to do but can’t find time for. Make a list. Do you want to write? Learn Italian? Exercise more often? Spend more time with your partners or kids? Get to know your neighbors? List it. Acknowledge it. Decide that it, whatever it is, is important to you.
Now, think about your priorities in general. Big and small: your family, your profession, your hobbies, your friends, your health, whatever. Rank them. I’m serious. How important are they to your quality of life?
Next step: how much time do you think you’re currently spending on each of those priorities? Is the time you’re spending in line with their importance? Are you happy with things as they are? (If so, you probably stopped reading already.) Put away the estimates for the next week.
This one is actually the one people resist the most, though it doesn’t take as much serious thought or effort as the first three steps: Keep a time diary.
People who want to lose weight are almost always told to keep a food diary. Financial advisers often advise those concerned about money management to track every penny they spend for a time. If you feel like you don’t have enough time for anything, in particular, I’m asking you to track your minutes for the next week.
Set a reminder for yourself each hour and just jot down how much of that hour you spent on what kinds of tasks. Write down what you accomplished or really did, not what you MEANT to do or were “fixin’ to.” “Getting ready to X” is distinct from DOING X.
Try to avoid changing your habits because you’re tracking them, or at least stay mindful and honest about the fact that you ARE changing how you use your time.
How well do your priorities and estimates of how you spend your time match up with reality?
If you’re anything like me, I think you’ll find a mismatch. It’s very easy to let “little stuff” crowd out the important stuff. Minutes add up to hours, and they matter. We bleed time, and there’s no way to get it back.
Next time I’ll write about some of the ways I’ve found that I bleed time. What are yours?