~ JOURNEY OF SELF-DISCOVERY ~
If only I had more time… Sounds familiar?
Good morning or afternoon or evening. Whatever time it is right now, you’ll probably agree that more than once you wished to add a few more hours to a day and a few more days to a week (or at least a weekend). But just the opposite is happening. You seem to have less and less time to accomplish everything on your agenda. And the older you get, the faster the clock ticks. You try to organize and plan, but years run through your hands like water.
Wouldn’t you want to control time? Rewind it when you make a mistake or want to redo something. Fast-forward through the boring stuff. Pause it and enjoy the moment a little longer. Fall into the “no time” zone to relax and fully enjoy your favorite activity without feeling rushed. Is there a way to rule over this unyielding element of our existence without the supernatural ability?
All of us are in various seasons where time behaves differently. We have priorities, responsibilities, commitments, and goals that change over the years. When I was attending nursing school with a toddler and a preschooler, a part-time job, and a husband who was constantly deployed overseas, my only objective was to survive. Now eight years later, I can spend hours doing what I love most—thinking and writing. Time is definitely more gracious to me now, and somehow even more valuable.
But no matter what phase of life you’re in, hectic or slow, stressful or non-eventful, a time of waiting or a time of opening doors, you can go through life enjoying every day, living to the fullest, and moving forward each year. How do you do this? By knowing how to handle TIME.
First, let’s change a few wrong perceptions, just in case. Time is not your enemy, and you are not its prisoner. You need to view time as a precious irreplaceable treasure that needs to be guarded against the thieves. There is nothing more valuable than time. Once lost, you can’t get it back. You are given twenty-four hours to invest or squander, and today you’re going to step in and take control of your most valuable asset.
Centuries ago Seneca wrote: “Life, if well lived, is long enough.” Even though our existence is finite, how much we accomplish is not measured in years. Some people die young but leave an impact for generations to come. Writer Maria Edgeworth said: “If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.” The question is, how to make every moment count?
Before we talk about a solution, let’s identify the problem. First of all, you need to examine your week and find out where your time is going. Right now do the following:
Get your phone calendar out, and start entering your every activity today by noting when it begins and ends. I know, it’s a pain to do, but it will give you a lot of information. Write down everything—eating, looking at social media, talking to a friend, picking up kids. Every minute needs to be accounted for as much as possible.
Starting tomorrow, write down all the major activities for the next seven days. Indicate how much time each one took. You can be as detailed or as broad as you want to. The more you write down, the more revelations you’ll have. You’ll be surprised how much time you spend on some things.
Sit down and read through your notes. Add up the time for each activity you’ve done more than once. Where do the biggest time slots go? How many hours do you spend on social media? TV? Meals? Shopping? Kids? Getting ready? Being active? Relaxing?
Once you do this, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is there something I want to be able to do but never seem to have time for?
Your personal dreams and goals are probably the ones that get delayed and pushed back the most when you get busy. And, I am guessing, the time spent taking care of yourself is next to go downhill when your week is swamped.
Would you want to take a few steps each day to move toward your calling? Would you like to work out or go on walks more? Spend more time praying, thinking, relaxing? Meet up with your friends more often? Pick up a hobby? List all the things that you wish you could do but rarely if ever get to.
2. Is there an activity that I can cut down, eliminate or make more efficient?
In our society, we have a lot of “time eaters”—things that don’t benefit us but just fill our time. Media is one of them. Do you ever catch yourself going on the rabbit chase by getting into the shows, videos, articles, other people’s lives only to spend hours reading and watching a ton of useless information? I certainly do. We live in a world full of distractions.
This is what I suggest—eliminate all media completely for a week. Delete the apps from your phone and see what happens. I bet you’ll notice a lot of moments when you wouldn’t know what to do with yourself. Then bring it back with a time limit. Be the boss. Decide when and for how long you allow the Internet to enter your life.
What else fills your time that you can live without? Maybe, you can’t eliminate it completely, like house chores, but, instead, make it less time-consuming. Schedule your meals, allow a little dust to collect, involve other family members. Also, be creative when looking at your weekly activities. Do you need to wake up a little earlier? Delegate some of your business responsibilities? Rearrange your schedule? Eliminate something that doesn’t produce any results? Do you have a time-draining person or an activity that others forced on you? Give yourself permission to say “no”.
Voila! You now have a few unencumbered hours to invest in the things you could never fit into your schedule. You might be able to squeeze a few more minutes out by brainstorming how to combine some tasks.
Now, here is the most important step—you have to fill up the newly created time with the things that matter to you. Put these activities on your schedule and guard that allotted section of your day. If you don’t, it will get replaced with all the busy tasks and needy people that filled it up in the first place.
For example, let’s say you want to finally write a book. You put it in your schedule from 9am to 12pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. When this hour comes, you need to turn off your internet (unless you’re doing research), switch off your phone, and even leave your house if needed. Don’t skip out until this becomes your weekly habit. If you keep at it, you’ll soon have a completed book! Do the same thing for your gym time, friend time, alone time, family time, God time. What are your priorities? What do you want to accomplish this year? Write these things into your schedule and protect them. Even if it’s only fifteen minutes a day, small steps forward are better than standing still.
One more thing I want to talk about is the importance of living in the present. Lao Tzu said that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” But sometimes we go backward by not letting go of our past or focusing too much on the things ahead. In the book, Grace either worried about the future or regretted and wanted to alter her past. But when she let go of both, she had more time and energy to invest in what really mattered—her current life.
All you have is this moment. Give it your full attention.
A few resources to help with effective time management:
The next post in this series is Being Honest with Yourself