“I might try that later.”
“We can’t do that right now.”
“Now is not the time.”
I encounter statements like this and similar ones in coaching almost every day, and I ask myself:
What if there is no “later”? What if we always try to move challenges, changes and desires to an undetermined point n the future and never get the opportunity to actually experience them?
I then playfully say to my girlfriends, “Life is too short, we should start with dessert.” Although this is meant rather humorously to get to the sweet treat, there is some truth to it. We often follow a predetermined order, even though it may not be what we actually want.
We live in the age of super efficiency. The aim here is to keep busy for as long as possible, whether it makes sense or not. Sometimes it seems as if we spend most of our lives in an unconscious and memoryless state, with the goal of being able to leave it at some point.
Time poverty vs. time wealth
It is not surprising that this development is taking place in all our lives. In the past, our life planning was sequential – daycare, school, training, career entry, marriage, building a house, children, re-entry, retirement. Today we try to achieve everything at the same time and get lost in the abundance of possibilities as well as expectations of us. The stress of life cannot be equalized by determination and thus puts us under considerable pressure. The result is the time poverty described above. We save up our time, like overtime, in an imaginary life account, hoping to cash it in freely later. Meanwhile, we let ourselves be occupied by daily “problems” and do not understand that actively dealing with our lifetime also means actively dealing with the end of our existence. Where is the adventure? The passion? The leisure? Where are the indicators that give us time richness because they don’t involve expectation?
Is it really so easy to give in to the escape reflex, i.e., to delude ourselves into thinking we’ll live forever just so we don’t have to concern ourselves with whether the time our lives mean is actually being used in a fulfilling way? It’s been said, “Live your life from the end and you’ll know how you want to live it.” So instead of indulging in super-efficiency and thereby keeping ourselves “busy,” we should evolve from being busy time junkies to being finite-conscious people and learn to value the seconds that pass.
How to take your time into your own hands with confidence
But how can we prevent time robbers (multitasking tasks, the constant *PING* of social media channels on our phones, people who constantly want our attention, etc.) from usurping our life time and thereby stealing our precious time or even fragmenting our free hours by taking them for themselves as well?
For this purpose, I have brought a few reflection tips to analyze the value of one’s own time once again in detail and to regain sovereignty over one’s own time.
8 tips to become the master of your own time again:
Painting castles in the air is not a waste of time. This activity can decelerate the famous “monkey mind” and give us new ideas. So we should try to let go of our aversion to inertia and devote ourselves entirely to leisure – here, we can clearly learn something from children, because they are true masters of flow and leisure.
Our minds are creative masterminds, so binge-watching evenings are a pretty dull activity to keep them busy. Try to keep yourself mentally moving, either by keeping the body moving (exercise) or by stimulating parts of your creative mind. Examples may include newly learned skills such as sewing, writing, painting, or playing music. You will find that while you are still doing this, you will feel like you have started something exciting and meaningful with your lifetime.
3. balance time and money
Write down what you fill your time with every day. In addition to the things that are essential for survival, such as sleep, food intake, physical needs, etc., there may also be the professional tasks (which are also necessary). But what happens beyond that? What can you delegate, what can you perhaps hand over entirely? What tasks might be repetitive on a weekly basis that they can redesign? Is there an opportunity for them to get tax assistance, employ a cleaner, share parenting duties across multiple shoulders, or adjust job duties in an agile manner? Money can always be earned, but you will never get back the second that just passed, so try to establish a healthy time-money relationship.
Remember when your parents (or yourself) would put out your school supplies and clothes for the day ahead? Let’s return to this planning certainty, because ultimately it “saves” us a lot of time. Of course, not everything can be planned, after all, life should and can also remain unexpected, so that we can always be surprised. However, sometimes it helps to simply plan ahead for daily things (clothes, food, hobbies, etc.) to free up your mind for the things that really matter. By the way: Breaks should also be actively planned, otherwise we will stumble into the “efficiency trap” again.
5. banish time robbers
An old but effective trick. Use the snooze button on some apps to get some distance from the constant ringing. Incidentally, this also applies to people, because we all know that person who likes to spread gossip and thus puts us behind schedule, or that one friend who is always calling to tell us about her challenging life. Of course, you can’t always prevent this and social contact is also very important, but only if you don’t feel like you’ve run a marathon afterwards. You can charmingly plan such meetings, conversations: “You listen, maybe we want to discuss this more intensively over coffee on (day/time of your choice)? I want to give you my full attention there.” Of course, this may entail rejection, but that is also part of protecting yourself and your time.
6. say no
This leads me directly to the next, seemingly banal topic: you know for sure that saying no to other people also means saying yes to yourself and your own needs. Don’t get roped into baking cupcakes, for the swim group, for club leadership, or Project XY if you know full well that they are only doing it as a favor and not out of conviction. They don’t owe anything to anyone (not even to their own parents, by the way, but that would be a different field now). Don’t put off answers until later, because the thought of still having to make a decision here also robs you of time even if you think you have gained some time here for the time being.
7. discover old new
Sometimes our own lives are a little too much for us, which of course also has to do with the eternal comparison on social media. So we feel trapped in our everyday rut: same job, same family challenges, same city, same chores, etc. Imagine you are visiting your own life, how would a tourist look at your life? What would you show someone in your city who is visiting for a day? What would you eat? What would you do? What would you tell each other? Appeal to all the senses and you will notice that that which is commonplace for us gains renewed brilliance through memory and a change of perspective.
8. appreciate the new beginning
Sometimes my clients say to me, “I’ve wasted so much of my time.” Don’t give in to this counterfactual thinking, because you can’t change the past, so focus on the future. If you find that tips 1-7 haven’t found a place in your life so far, don’t worry, because you can decide anew each day how to spend your 24 hours. Even if it sometimes seems so due to obligations (job, family, loans, etc.): never believe the fairy tale that you are trapped in your life. You have all the possibilities to reshape your life, look for opportunities at any time and not for potential reasons why it might be difficult.
If you feel a bit caught now and have the urgent need to want to counteract this unconscious state of living in time, this is a completely natural desire. Sometimes we need a short impulse to remind us what is important to us in life. If you feel resistance, fears or maybe even disorientation here and don’t know how to take the first steps, let’s get talking.
Let’s break out of the learned temporal helplessness together and discover how many wonders life still has in store for you, because as Robert Abraham Moawad said too beautifully:
The best day of your life is when you decide that your life is your own.Robert Abraham Moawad