“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” ~William Penn
How often do you catch yourself saying ‘I don’t have enough time for …‘?
Could it be possible that the things you believe you don’t have time for, are the very things most likely to increase your happiness?
Which of these, do you regularly say with conviction:
“I don’t have time to …”:
- Shop for fresh fruit and vegetables
- Cook healthy meals from scratch
- Take regular exercise
- Spend time with my family or friends
- Talk openly with my partner about what’s important in our lives and relationship
- Enjoy being outside gardening, or playing games with my children (or grandchildren/nieces/nephews)
- Sit still and be mindful
- Read that book
- Go dancing
You may be able to add many more pleasurable and uplifting things to the list. Or even start your own?
The question I put to you is, “What are you spending the 24 hours of each day doing, and prioritising that leads you to really believe you’re deprived of quality time”?
Possible time ‘wasters’
Let’s consider three possibilities.
Progression in the 19th and 20th centuries brought with it an increase in machinery, and subsequently computers and other technology. It was believed by the 21st century we’d be working less hours, freeing up more time for leisure. Is that true? It certainly doesn’t appear to be – but do correct me if I’m wrong. Or maybe we could be, but the pay has decreased disproportionately so to keep up with the lifestyle we aspire to we feel we have to continue to work long hours?
Or are we led to believe by subtle (but very clever) marketing messages that it’s important to have bigger and better careers, houses, cars, computers, phones, clothes, holidays in the exotic places, etc. We then find ourselves living to work, rather than working to live.
Maybe it’s time to ask whether we really need to?
What if each individual stopped trying to keep up with, or impress, anyone else?
Would you still need to earn as much as you are now?
What could you cut back on to release some expenditure?
One of the uplifting things for me about living in New Zealand for eight years, was most people’s lack of attachment to material possessions. It seemed accepted as ‘the norm’ to work part time, i.e. less than a forty hour week. And these were some of the happiest people I’ve met.
The other thing I’ve noticed since returning to England to live, is the excessive number of shops and shopping outlets. Now I realise there’s a dichotomy here in that if people don’t shop, businesses don’t survive. But how much of it is a catch 22 situation?
The more people shop, the more shops are needed. The more shops are needed, and the more money people spend on things they don’t need, the longer people have to work to keep said shops open.
I’m currently living on a very tight budget, as my husband and I have chosen to leave our ‘proper jobs’ to travel the waterways of England. This has really opened my eyes to how much money we used to waste on unnecessary ‘stuff’ – even when living in New Zealand!
As Will Smith says: “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.“
I challenged a client recently to consider giving up watching the television for one night of the week. She was initially aghast at this suggestion. Her relationship wasn’t going well, and she believed her partner didn’t love her ‘enough’ – what on earth would they talk about? They both worked full time and had different interests that kept them occupied at the weekends. I’d asked what they did in the evenings after work. They generally ate ‘fast food’, as they didn’t have time to shop or cook ‘healthy’ options. They then flopped in front of the TV until bedtime, when they were so exhausted and sluggish they just slept.
She took up the challenge. Next time we met, her energy had changed dramatically, and she excitedly informed me her relationship had turned a corner. They’d begun to talk to each other. They’d made a plan to exercise together in the evenings – walking or running. They’d reconnected, found themselves and each other once again. Within six months they’d unexpectedly changed jobs – and countries.
This may be an extreme example. But ask yourself how much time you spend each day, week and month watching ‘the box’. What are you watching? How is it contributing to your happiness? Is it instead giving you the impression that the world is full of terrorists? Or conversely that everyone else is happier, richer, smarter and luckier than you?
Making time count
Imagine being diagnosed with an debilitating illness. This could be something mild like a migraine, or a life threatening diagnosis. Consider whether you would continue spending your time in the same way you are now?
If you had a migraine, you’d have to take time off work, you’d have to get someone to look after the children and do the shopping and cooking. If you hear the worst and find your days are limited – will you feel as though you’ve spent your time wisely?
Ask yourself today the following:
- Is everything I do absolutely necessary? Write down each day how you spend your time, and keep this going for a month. At the end of this time, highlight those things that were essential and which were desirable, which ones you did out of a sense of duty or habit. What could you let go of?
- Do you have to do everything you do, or could you ask someone else for help? It’s true that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Do you enjoy playing ‘the rescuer’, and need to feel needed? Do you take over and organise everyone else so they feel they can’t possibly live without you? How does that help you or others? What would it mean for you to hand some things over?
- If you knew in advance the day and time of your departure from this world, what would be the most important things for you to spend your time doing? A mantra of mine is ‘carpe Diem’, seize the day, from that wonderful film ‘Dead Poet’s Society’. None of us know what’s round the next corner. The world could be struck by a meteorite at any time and in an instant we’d be wiped out. Are you spending your valuable time trying to be someone you’re not, trying to please everyone, spending money on things you don’t need so you have to work longer? How can you begin to change this?
I’d love to hear from you about the ways you’re spending your valuable time, and where you could change to accommodate more of your pleasurable and heart-centred activities …