Thursday, September 4, 2014
It’s the beginning of September. School is starting, summer is over, there are hectic vibes in the air. Even if your life isn’t ramping up right now – even if you and/or your kids aren’t starting a new semester or you’re not picking up where you left off before your summer vacation -- it’s hard to ignore those hectic vibes. What could be a better time to start harnessing time?
What do I mean by harnessing time? For a long time I knew that I wanted to slow down and stop feeling so rushed and busy all the time. But I also knew that I had to continue doing everything I was doing and maybe even become more productive, and that I probably had too much to fit into the time I had. And then, at some point a few years ago, I figured out how to stop rushing, slow down, and still get done everything I needed to do and then some. I figured out that time is a resource, sort of like the wind, and I could harness it and use it – I could get it at my back and let it propel me along instead of walking into it, fighting with it. Instead of feeling like there wasn’t enough time and therefore I had to rush to get everything done, I figured out that I did have enough time: I just had to consider how much time I actually had – during any given day, morning, hour – and decide how I was going to use that time. Because, it turns out, the problem isn’t that there isn’t enough time for everything. The problem is the feeling that there isn’t enough time -- it’s the anxiety, the rushing, the frustration and irritability that comes with the rushing. That’s the wind you’re walking into, the wind that’s blowing in your face, making everything harder.
The way I harness time is very simple. Every day I sit down at the beginning of the day and write down on a piece of paper in the notebook I keep for that purpose, what I’m going to do today and when, roughly, I’m going to do it. It’s the when that’s most important, because that’s what gives you a sense of how much time you actually have and whether what you have to do can fit into it. If your to-dos fit into the time you have for them, you can relax and go about your day, feeling peaceful and confident that there’s enough time for everything and you don’t have rush or twist yourself into a pretzel, as my former Czech boyfriend used to say, to get it all done. If everything you have to do doesn’t fit it into the time you have, you can just make a few quick decisions – to postpone something or things till tomorrow or whenever, to cut out something that’s not absolutely necessary.
You’ll know you have the right plan for the day when you feel calm, peaceful, and satisfied – and then you can go about your day feeling relaxed and confident that you’re getting what you need to do done. And if at any point you start to feel rushed and anxious, you can just look at the time you have (say, one to three) and think about whether you can realistically fit what you planned for this part of the day into that amount of time. If you can you can relax (will relax, automatically) and if you can’t you can make a few decisions about what to postpone to when, et cetera, and then you’ll relax.
There’s a lot more to how I harness time than just that – for example, I have a partner I share my plan with every day, and I work on staying present in the moment, making time for relaxing and having fun, not getting too hung up on what I should have done but didn’t, and a lot more -- but the above are the basic essentials.
One of my favorite quotes comes from the Roman philosopher Seneca: “As long as you live, keep learning how to live.” Harnessing time is helping me learn how to live -- how to get the most out of my days, how live -- really live -- in the time I've got instead of rushing through it, feeling anxious about what I'm not doing, hurrying to get to the next thing.