If your relationship with time were a marriage, would you want a divorce?
We can look at time as objective and non-negotiable. And it is. You get 24 hours each day. Your friends and co-workers get 24 hours. The barista at Starbucks and the DPW worker that collects the trash get 24 hours.
Despite countless books and seminars and workshops dedicated to “time management,” you can’t actually manage time. No matter how important every item on your to-do list is, you only have so many hours in a day.
There are plenty of practical solutions to this struggle against time. Prioritize your tasks, do less, and look for efficiencies. You can breakdown tasks into achievable parts and schedule every item. You can use technology and apps or get an accountability partner. All very helpful.
But a more profound approach is to explore your relationship with time. What emotions are stirred up when you reflect on how much time you have? Anxiety? Excitement? Fear? Gratitude?
What is the language you use around the abundance or lack of time in your life? “There’s never enough time!” “I have so much free time.” “I’m running out of time.” “I’ve got nothing but time.”
And what actions do these emotions and thoughts trigger or inspire? Is it paralysis or rushing or writing to-do lists or multi-tasking?
If you were in an intimate relationship with time, would you consider it a healthy and loving relationship? Or would you be contemplating a breakup?
With that metaphor in mind, here’s how I’ve tried to improve my relationship with time. Accept its limits: No matter how much I plan, organize, schedule and prioritize, there’s always going to be more to do. Regardless of how much I anticipate and predict, there will be things that come up that require my time. I get 24 hours just like everyone else. Anger, whining, and temper tantrums have yet to change that. Stop comparing my relationship to others This took a lot of work, but I now avoid the temptation to judge my use of time based on how other people spend their time. There are people out there who have a clearly defined partnership with time that includes weekly exercise, reading, and volunteer work, all while holding down a full-time job. There are other people who have a more “open” relationship with time where things happen when they happen... or not, and no one's too worried about it. There's no wrong relationship as long as it’s serving the person in it. Share my time generously to those who respect it. Shared time is a gift that is often appreciated by the recipient more than you realize. Offering someone your time to listen or tell a story or simply give companionship can build community and improve your mental and emotional health. Protect my time from those who don’t respect it. I would hope most people wouldn’t let someone take advantage of their romantic partner. I’d like to think most of us wouldn’t agree to something on our partner's behalf without their consent. Treat your time with the same care. Time is one of your most precious commodities, and it will get stolen by “time thieves” if you are not mindful. Learn, change, and grow with my time. I can look back on my time and think of ways I could have spent it better or more wisely. I’m trying to be a little more kind to myself. As I’ve gotten older, my priorities and goals have changed, so spend my time differently. It will continue to evolve. When I notice something isn’t working, I look for a different way. When life is good and I’m feeling on track, I take note of how I got there. What is one thing you can do this month to strengthen your relationship with time?