For those who feel like time is always 'running out'
What does the concept of time bring up for you? Do you lean towards feelings of joy connected to how you currently spend it, or feelings of anxiety regarding all the ways you believe you’re not using it ‘well’?
Like many things connected to our quality (or quantity!) of life, time can be a conversation that brings up discomfort.
Whatever your relationship with time, many of us have been instilled with the belief that ‘time is money’; an aphorism that seems to be the tagline of the business and corporate worlds since the industrial revolution, and one that isn’t going away any time soon.
This ingrained connection between time and productivity isn’t just something we experience at work. So many of us feel this deep internalised pressure to be in high-speed action mode every second of the day. And if we’re not able to keep up?
In comes the fear and self-judgement about ‘wasting our day’, not doing ‘enough’, or being seen as ‘lazy’ – a word that I’ve written a whole blog post on here.
This can lead us to wear our busyness as a badge of honour, as we have made the connection that to be busy is to be important, needed, responsible, useful etc. Which also means we unconsciously look badly upon those who seem to have more time on their hands, presuming they don’t have any responsibilities or don’t live in the ‘real world’.
For sure, the ability to use our time how we wish is a privilege, and some people inevitably have way more on their plate to deal with. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t able to engage with our time in more empowering ways. There is always space for growth, no matter how small we perceive the container of our life.
When we stop thinking ‘using our time well’ simply means increasing our productivity, and instead focus on how we can use time to improve the quality of our life now and in the future, we get to see and feel the beautiful outcomes of what time can truly give us.
Time becomes abundant and nourishing, instead of something that seems to always take from us or be slipping away.
The ancient Greeks had two names for time: Chronos and Kairos. Chronos referred to chronological time, the ticking clock that is always counting what has passed. Kairos referred to the concept of the ‘right moment’, or what could be seen as ‘deep time’ where time seems to stop or slow down when we’re in a flow state.
Chronos is about the quantity of time, and Kairos the quality. And it’s these two concepts of time that many of us contend with when attempting to plan, and consciously create the life that we desire.
They also appear in a question that underpins much of my coaching work:
How can you move towards what you want for the future, while feeling good as you do?
Because as we know but often forget, the majority of our life happens in the journey, not the destination we’re hoping to arrive at.
With that in mind, here are some useful tips to balance the different qualities of time so you can reach your goals in a way that actually support you.
Don’t just focus on your goals, but how you want to feel as you get there.
I’m not talking about feeding control and perfectionism about how our needs are met, as when we follow our intuition, life often takes us on mysterious and exciting paths that we would never have imagined!
This is about prioritising how you want to experience your life day to day, so you don’t do what many of us are ‘trained’ to: completely override our needs while feeling daily stress and overwhelm in order to reach a marker of ‘success’ some time in the future.
I say it all the time but we really need to remember it: Life is happening in every moment and we really don’t want to miss it. Get clear about how you want to feel in your everyday life, and weave this into your non-negotiables as you create your goals.
Create spacious schedules that have room for rest and spontaneity.
If you want to get the most from your overall life, not just the fleeting moments of reaching an achievement, you may have to create more space in your daily schedules.
Yes, I know this can feel uncomfortable, as our brain will tell us “we’ll never get anywhere if we’re not prepared to hustle!!”
Commitment to our goals is necessary, but I want to challenge the idea that stress and the fear of time running out will take us where we need to be. When we create more space in our schedule for rest, slowness and the spontaneity to follow our daily energy and inspiration, our work and action-mode become increasingly more productive.
Not only are we more energised, but we have the mental clarity to practice the next point…
Focus on what is important, not what seems urgent.
When we’re constantly in a sate of stress, busyness or ‘chasing our tail’, we end up simply reacting to one thing after the other. With our head down focussing on simply getting through the day, we get stuck in the details and never have the space to see the wider perspective.
This is our vision – where we actually want our daily choices to take us. When we focus on our vision instead of the details, we can more clearly see what tasks are most important. These are the ones that have the most impact and forward movement.
With this perspective we get more into the Kairos time, as we’re focussing on quality above the quantity of things we can tick off a ‘to-do list’ that never seems to end.
Create and maintain personal boundaries around your time.
This is a big one! Because at the end of the day, we can’t do any of the above if we’re not willing to say No or set limits with ourselves and others around what we are and aren’t available for.
A great place to start is observing yourself. What makes you abandon your commitments? Where do you feel the least powerful? What or who tends to drain more than energise you? What always takes longer than you think?
Consider what limits you need to set and honour in order to protect your time and the promises you want to make to yourself.
Be flexible, but committed.
Finally, this is a reminder to let life guide us. Sometimes unexpected things come up that we do need to focus on, or that will enrich our life and relationships in ways that are important.
Knowing the difference between a lack of boundaries and the need to be flexible is one that will take some practice.
When you do find yourself veering away from your schedule, the best thing to do is simply realign. This helps us to get out of the ‘all or nothing’ mindset that enables us to spiral out of control when one small thing doesn’t go to plan.
Instead simply check in with your ‘most important’ and ‘not urgent’ lists, and re-negotiate your day or week with your new time-frames.
You cant then continue on as normal! This is all part of the process of honouring our commitments – coming back to them again and again no matter what life brings us.