Create a loving relationship with time, and you’ll always have enough.
An Unsettling Realization
And so it was at last in that moment, at 7:25 am on a Monday morning, pajama-clad and curled up in my home office reading chair on the second floor gazing out my window at the squirrels below, that I finally realized: time wasn’t the problem. Time had never been the problem. Nor had the tasks, meetings, and events that filled it, either in their absent scarcity or overwhelming population.
In fact, I was the problem.
But – forgive me – I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up a bit…
My Relationship With Time
Reaching as far back as I can remember, I don’t ever recall waking up with the feeling that I had plenty of time to do everything I wanted to do that day.
I mean, can you imagine? My, look at this vast day ahead of me, filled with all the hours I need to do everything I desire and more. How will I fill those leftover hours when I finish? I guess I’ll just have to decide when I get there.
(Said no one, ever).
I don’t know about you, but conversely, I always seem to wake up with some sort of panicky feeling around having enough time that day – whether that means a subtle but nagging 2 on the panic-o-meter, or a full-out survival mode 10.
But I’ve always believed, and I mean truly believed in my heart of hearts, that if only I could figure out that perfect system through which to a) determine which requests and invitations to say no to, and b) arrange and schedule those things I do say yes to in just the right way – I could without a doubt feel relaxed and peaceful about time, knowing that there would always be enough and then some.
And so, when COVID-19 hit, and the world shut down, and our calendars cleared themselves completely in the span of a few hours, one of the hundreds of thoughts rolling around my mind was, inevitably, My gosh, look at all the time I have.
I could see it stretching out before me and it filled me with a strange and profound sense of wonder. Now don’t get me wrong – I’d certainly had periods of free time in the past – but looking at my next three weeks and realizing that nothing (and I mean nothing) required me to leave the house? This was unparalleled. In my blank calendar, all I could see was the grand potential to finally, at long last, wake up with that feeling of vastly abundant time that I’d always longed for.
Imagine my surprise then, when on Monday morning, literally nothing but time all around me, gazing out my window, I began to feel a familiar notion creeping into my consciousness, sort of like an old friend who drives you crazy but who you like being around just because they’re familiar.
The familiar voice whispered to me: You don’t have enough time today. How are you going to get everything done? You really shouldn’t be sitting here gazing – you’d better get to work!
Now I’ll admit that normally when this time panicking voice speaks to me, I instantly obey it wholeheartedly. You’re right, I’d typically respond quickly, not wanting to make the voice any more agitated than it clearly already was. I’d better get to work this instant!
But on that day, with literally nothing on my calendar, I knew better than to listen. So instead, I took my rightful place as the observer and began inquiring as to why this voice was there in the first place.
How can this be? I thought. How is it that on a day when I have more time than I’ve ever had in virtually my entire life, I’m still worried about time?
And that’s when I realized: time wasn’t the problem. Time had never been the problem.
In fact, I was the problem – and by “I” of course – I mean my mindset.
A New Time Paradigm
Would you agree with the statement that whether you wake up convinced beyond a doubt that you don’t have enough time in the day, or convinced beyond a doubt that you do – you have the same number of hours ahead of you, either way?
What sense does it make then, to torture ourselves day in and day out with a complete scarcity mindset around the time we have in our lives?
None. It makes no sense whatsoever.
Upon experiencing my COVID-19 time epiphany, I made a promise to myself to stop worrying about time once and for all. If how we relate to time is a mathematical equation, time is not the variable – time will never change. We are the variable – we can change. We can change our thoughts –> feelings –> actions –> identity –> beliefs –> reality. So, on this day, equipped with this newfound timely wisdom, I vowed to shape a new relationship with time, one in which I would love time, and time would love me right back.
Turning Concepts into Action
But enough talk – let’s get to the doing, shall we? Here are the three steps I took to put my new loving relationship with time into action.
Step 1: Begin Each Day with a Time Mantra // Each day when I wake up, I say to myself: I have vast and abundant time today for everything I want to do. I say it as many times as I need to for it to sink in and for me to begin believing it. This might sound a bit nutty but just try it. Tune into how you feel physically as you say this mantra over and over. Does your body relax? Do you feel a pleasant sense of relief begin to wash over you? If so, you know you’re on your way to reshaping your relationship with time.
Step 2: Make a Desire List // Although I no longer abide by scheduling out my day hour-by-hour (I find this to be anxiety-inducing and therefore damaging to my relationship with time), I do find it helpful to create a simple daily list of everything I desire to get done. I keep this list in view at all times (I like to tape mine to the bottom of my computer monitor), and each time I look at it, I say to myself: I am going to feel so good at the end of today when I’ve gotten all these things done. Then I simply return to my work. Crossing off items as the day goes on brings positive reinforcement, and although there are days when I don’t get everything done on my list, when I commit to this daily practice, I am consistently amazed by how much I accomplish.
Step 3: Be an Observer of Your Thoughts About Time // If you are to cultivate a truly healthy relationship with time in which you love time and time loves you back, no longer can you let those time scarcity thoughts slip by unnoticed. Like a puppy who’s beginning to form bad habits, these thoughts must be immediately addressed when they come up. This means that if and when you hear that voice in your head saying, “There’s no time!” or “How in the world am I going to get everything done?” or “Why can’t there be more hours in the day?” – you acknowledge that this is your former unhealthy relationship with time talking, and you gently but firmly replace those thoughts with your new mantra: I have vast and abundant time today for everything I want to do.
The Heart of it All
There’s one more aspect to cultivating a loving relationship with time that’s worth mentioning. If you truly love and respect time, how can you fill it with things you hate doing? That’s like claiming to love and respect your body and then feeding it nothing but Twinkies all day every day (although come to think of it, that doesn’t sound all that bad). To love and honor your time is to love and honor yourself, and the greatest gift you can give your time (and therefore yourself) is to fill it with things you love doing.
As an initial first step towards putting this into practice, try this: take an inventory of every activity that takes up time in your life. This means sleeping, eating, working, phone calls, meetings, events, volunteering, leisure, and everything in between. Next, put each activity into one of three categories: I love doing this, I like doing this ok, or I don’t like doing this. Once you’ve finished, take a look at your numbers. What’s your overall ratio of activities that you love to ones that you don’t? Most likely you’ll have an immediate reaction at this point and know whether or not you need to make a change.
As a third step, ask yourself how you can stop doing some of or all the activities that you don’t enjoy. Obviously, there are certain things in life we have to do whether we want to or not, but the truth is we have a lot more control than we think. Sometimes it’s a matter of learning to say “no.” Sometimes it’s a matter of asking others for help. Sometimes it’s a matter of shifting our direction. And for many of us, most of all, it’s a matter of ending the habit of putting everyone else’s needs before our own. Hear me and hear me well: selfishness can be a beautiful thing.
The Flow Factor
It’s a strange but all-too-real phenomenon that when we fill our days with things we love, there seems to be time for everything, and conversely, when we fill our days with things we hate, we’re fighting against the clock tooth and nail. It’s my belief that one reason for this is something called flow, a state when our outside world melts away and we become singularly focused on what we’re doing, unaware of our environment, our bodies, and even time itself. Achieving frequent and prolonged states of flow in our lives is quite simply the holy grail of time abundance. For when we’re in flow state, time becomes like the great Sahara, stretching out endlessly in all directions as far as the eye can see.
My Challenge to You: Your Relationship With Time
Don’t just think that you are vastly abundant in time – know that you are. Decide that you are. Wake up each day and get clear on the things you desire to do, knowing that when you love time, time loves you back. Respect and honor your time by filling it with activities you enjoy. Get lost in flow. Lose track of your environment, your body, and time itself as you fully immerse yourself in the activities that call to you. Know that in the mathematical equation of your day, time is not the variable – you are. Change your mindset, thoughts, and beliefs about time and I promise you, the way you perceive time itself will begin to shift. It will cease to be that rare commodity you were always chasing and that was constantly in such short supply, and instead become something fluid and overflowing that you know you will never run out of.
And honestly, amidst COVID-19, knowing the myriad challenges that lay before us, can you think of a better setting in which to begin a time mindset transformation? You have the means, the space, and the steps laid out before you. Now the choice is yours. Will you take that first step?
Your time is waiting.
Looking for more?
If you loved this post, you might also enjoy these other posts from Janelle (that’s me!) at Ellanyze on personal growth:
Life Lessons Learned: How a “Lesson Journal” Will Change Everything
Personal Inventory: Find Out What Is and Isn’t Serving You
Mindful Self Compassion: Give Yourself Permission to Feel _________.
Lu Parsons says
Thank you Janelle for sharing your time perspective. I whole-heartedly understand your thoughts and experiences. I would add that having a priority is a way to get flow.
There are times when choosing the most important thing just allows time to flow and the flow becomes contagious for others.
Thank you, Lu for reading and for sharing your perspective. I agree that certainly choosing what is most important and letting all else wait for later is a fantastic way to get into flow 🙂
Great article Janelle – although it distracted me from what I was telling myself I should have been working on! I’d come to similar conclusions about time, but you put it very eloquently. I’m working from home and my boss has allowed time to work on getting better/faster/more advance on some design software we use at work. He said, “I can’t imagine sitting and working on that all day,” but for me – that’s my “flow time” – doesn’t even feel like work! So I’m happy to have this opportunity.
Suzanne, I’m sincerely sorry to have distracted you! 😉 I am SO happy to hear that your work doesn’t feel like work – that means you’re definitely doing what you should be doing 🙂 Thank you so much for reading.
Teresa Pilarz says
Thanks for these thoughts, Janelle. I’ve felt the exact same baffling feelings during the COVID crisis… apparently having so much more time, but still not feeling like I have enough to get things done. I’m going to try your approach 🙂
Let me know how it goes, Teresa! 🙂