“Time is non-refundable. Use it with intention.”
Do you remember the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland who Alice follows down the rabbit hole? That cute, bespectacled little guy wearing a waistcoat, who mutters “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!”
That was me not too long ago – restless, exacting and acutely time-conscious. Always on the run and juggling multiple projects., I felt like I was constantly short on time.
While a lovable furry rodent like the White Rabbit is endearing to watch on screen, I can assure you that if you were in his shoes you would be heading toward a burnout. Before you know it time will have flown, and you’ll wonder where all the years have gone.
I was getting a lot done during the twenty four-hours allotted to me. I was productive and efficient and, on the surface, I looked like I had it all together. But on the inside, I felt hollow and unfulfilled because I yearned for more meaning.
The only times I would slow down and smell the roses, so to speak, were during my vacations. Like so many people, I was able to release all my worries only once I got off the treadmill of my daily routines and submerged myself in new experiences, new faces and new places.
Recently I returned from a three-week vacation where I engaged in soul-enhancing activities that gave me precious memories that I could coast on for years to come. I relive those moments by looking at the pictures that I took during the trip. One night, while sipping tea and looking through my album I had a breakthrough about time and how we experience it..I realized that, although time is a limited resource, all of us have the capacity to enhance it based on our attitudes and the experiences that we choose to engage in. Time, is a universal phenomenon, but it’s also a psychological construct that we can alter.
You’ve seen this play out in your life multiple times. When you’re out with friends, watching a great movie, absorbed in an interesting novel or spending a romantic evening with a lover, time seems to speed up. On the flip side, if you’re stuck in a boring job waiting for the day to end, or waiting for a bus in the cold, the clock becomes sloth-like. The time period may be the same but your experience of it was different in each case.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could be in ‘vacation mode’ during our daily routines? Is it possible to capitalize on every moment so that it adds to the adventure that is life? Isn’t the fact that we’re living here in this mind-boggling universe enough reason for us to make the most of our days on Earth? Absolutely! But for that to happen, it’s going to take some work.
First, we need to understand the difference between the objective and subjective nature of time. From an objective point of view, time is a limited resource. As Thomas Edison once said, “time is really the only capital that a human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose.” We’re all given 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. The average human lifespan today is about eighty years, which gives us a total of 29,200 days to live, if all goes well.
Being aware of our mortality doesn’t have to be depressing. Many terminally ill patients become exceptionally judicious when it comes to planning for the remaining days of their lives. Some of the healthier ones actively check off items on their bucket list, while others prefer to rest, reflect and spend time with their loved ones. This shows that even though we don’t have a say on how many years we have, we do have absolute control on how we choose to spend them. Like money, you could choose to use your time on enrichment, or squander it.
Time is a subjective tool that can be shared, saved, shaped and divided once we know how to use it.. We can slow time by no longer measuring our lives by the clock, and realizing that time is a state of awareness that should be psychologically measured by how it feels.
The optimum way to manage time is to make every moment count; by being deeply rooted in self-awareness. The more you immerse yourself in emotionally-rewarding activities, the more meaningful and rewarding your life will be. Being engaged in the present moment and nullifying thoughts about the past or the future will increase you creativity and receptiveness towards life.
Understandably, this can be hard to achieve, especially when we’re caught up in our daily routines, trying to keep up with our responsibilities like paying bills and maintaining relationships. We have to take real-world practicalities into consideration.
The majority of us need to find a balance between what needs to be done and what we would like to do, which is something that is unique to all of us. That’s where self-knowledge and having a sense of what’s important to you is essential. Setting your intention, knowing what you’re going to do with your time, and having the right structures and plans in place to execute it is all you need.
Here are some ideas on how you can help you get the most out of your days:
1. Let your inspirations (and not the clock) run your life: There is evidence of “time sickness” everywhere in our society. People are constantly battling with the clock as they struggle to beat it. They rush to make meetings and gym classes on time, stress over long-winded morning commutes, feel agitated while waiting in long lines and find hardly any time for relationships, relaxation and fun-filled activities.
You can take back control of time and overcome this cycle by spending more time on the things that actually matter to you and minimizing time spent on the things that don’t. Once you reclaim your priorities and are guided by what inspires you, you beat the clock.
Set an intention for yourself each morning about what you would like to achieve and feel during the day. You can even close your eyes and visualize how you would like your day to move forward. Prior to making decisions about a course of action, begin with an end goal in mind. The purpose of your life is to appreciate all that it has to offer and experience it fully in all its ambiguity and complexity.
2. Live with a sense of curiosity, openness and wonder: If we’re able to slow down, take our eyes off the clock and look at what’s around us, we’ll see that there’s a cornucopia of beauty to indulge in. While walking down a street on the way to work, bask in the glory of the morning light, watch kids scamper as they get ready to board school buses, behold the gorgeous blooms in the gardens – let it all remind you of the gift of being alive.
Always be on the quest for learning opportunities wherever you are. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to get insights into new subjects or hear the personal story of a stranger. Let go of expectations, rigid personal rules and stay open to everything that crosses your path.
3. Maintain inner harmony and balance: You can be the most efficient planner and complete all the essential tasks, but if it leaves you feeling exhausted, unbalanced and drained, then it’s all for nothing. It’s not possible to enjoy all that life has to offer if your internal world is in disarray.
You can avoid wearing yourself out by prioritizing your health so your inner domain – mind, body and soul – remains in a steady state of harmony and alignment. Free your mind from unhealthy thoughts, nourish your body with healthy food, exercise, and live a lifestyle that honors your heart and soul.
4. Arrange a schedule that gets you excited: I’ve always been a big fan of planning, but what I’ve grown to appreciate over the years is having plans that get me excited. You want to be able to look over your calendar and feel a sense of positive anticipation.
Creating a schedule that’s personalized to meet your needs and wants needs a certain level of self-awareness and internal excavation. Start by looking at the big picture and asking yourself: What is the vision for my life? What are my short-term and long-term goals? What is it that brings me happiness and inspires me creatively? Based on your responses, create a strategy with flexible timelines and tangible steps that you can gradually take on and realize over time. Pepper your schedule with these activities alongside your responsibilities.
5. Soak in every moment by being present: Many people seem to forget that the present moment is all we have. All the living that occurs can only happen in the now. Yet so many of us are tempted to get stuck on the past or fantasize about the future.
In his book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle says, “the only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.” We can practice present-moment awareness by being conscious of our thoughts and interjecting whenever we sense that they are drifting. During our days, we can stay fully present by engaging all our senses so we can fully embody whatever we encounter.
No matter how mundane or boring the task is, you can always put an interesting spin on it. For example, when you’re eating a piece of cake smell it, take it in visually, taste it, feel its texture and hear yourself chew every bite. In this way you make it a sensory treat as you delight in its decadence.
Meditation is also a powerful tool to calm down a restless mind. It’s the closest anyone can come to experiencing timelessness and accessing a region of the mind where silence is the foundation.
I’m glad to say that after all these years, I’ve finally learned to slow down and I’ve shifted my relationship with time for the better. I now view each and every day as an important gift and embrace the potential that each one holds. Some of us will get more days to live than others, but it doesn’t change the fact that each one of us has been given today. We can squeeze all the goodness out of it, if we choose it.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What are some of the things that you do to get the most out of your days? Are you satisfied with how you spend your time?