"I struggle least with time when..."

This week, I’m curious to find out what’s easy for you, when it comes to time…

To get the conversation started, I’ll tell you some of my fill-in-the-blank answers.

I struggle least with time when...

  • I plan backwards from the time I need to be somewhere, and
  • I round up in considering how long each activity will take.
  • I bookmark possible distractions for later instead of reacting in-the-moment to every interesting thing I encounter.
  • I’m truly present to the task at hand, immersing myself completely in what’s right in front of me.
  • I consider how I want to feel as I arrive at each appointment or commitment (not frantic and frazzled, I’ll tell you that much!), and use that as my guidepost for how I spend the time I have.

What about you? Tell me about your time successes in the comments, or email me if you prefer a little privacy.

The only way I know to ensure I'm using my time wisely

The only way I know to ensure I’m using my time wisely is to be all HERE.

Wherever ‘HERE’ is, I’ve realized just how important it is to locate myself mentally and physically in this exact moment (physically is obviously easier...until teleportation becomes a thing)—and to try my damnedest to be as stunningly present as possible.

This is not an easy task for me.

I know you struggle with it, too.

We live in our heads (though I prefer to say we “have rich, inner lives”). Where our bodies are located is sort of an incidental, right?

But it gives you the feeling that you’re not really living...because, while you’re HERE in a physical sense, you’re THERE in a mental sense...and THERE isn’t located in the present moment.

(Stay with me.)

THERE is either someplace that already happened or has yet to happen. (Yesterday or tomorrow.)

So it doesn’t actually exist. (How could it when it’s either history or future?)

HERE is the only thing that exists.

And time doesn’t pass you by when you’re HERE. Because your body and brain are present, together, in this exact moment—you don’t get that loopy, oh-my-god-I-spaced-out-where-the-hell-did-the-day-go feeling that happens when half of you has been living HERE and the other half THERE.

Are you willing to be all HERE with me? To slow down time and make the most of whatever we’re given?

(#tbt to August 20, 2016, when we located ourselves all HERE at my parents’ cottage in coastal Maine. Jigsaw puzzles make for excellent HERE activities—you’re physically HERE, naturally...but you must also bring full mental presence to the table; your mind has to stay HERE in order to make sense of the colors and shapes, and even the bigger picture.)

For when you're feeling existential anxiety

“Always find time for the things that make you feel happy to be alive.”

This is one of those unattributable, inspirational quotes that floats around in various hand-lettered memes—and I love it. It isn’t too lofty; it isn’t idealistic. It nails what I believe when I think about our relatively short lives—and how important it is to remember the bigger picture goal: to enjoy your existence while you’re existing.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal (a wildly quotable woman who left this earth far too soon) is known for a lovely variation of the above: “Make the most of your time here."

What makes you feel happy to be alive?

How are you making the most of your time here?

Share with me by leaving a comment. I always write back.

(#tbt to July 30, 2016 when my husband and I were full-time vagabonds...but without a house or motorhome. We lived out of backpacks and tote bags, and we got very well-acquainted with hotels. Travel still makes us feel happy to be alive—though I gotta say, we’re really glad to have a home base to travel FROM these days.)

Reacting vs. creating: a client story

She came to me wanting to feel good about how she used her time on this earth. She was craving the reassurance that she was spending it wisely—but she had a skewed idea of what ‘wisely’ meant. And she didn’t know it at the time, but she was seeking permission to adjust her definition.

Her actions told me she believed ‘wisely’ demanded breakneck productivity during all waking hours; an inhuman amount of creative focus; and regular recognition for her work, in the form of clients and opportunities, accolades and income.

This unrelenting pressure she put on herself often wore her down. Thoroughly exhausted her. Drained her reserves of energy and motivation until there was nothing left. At which point, she required even more rest than she would’ve needed had she built it into her days from the get-go. This inspired guilt and endless self-flagellation. It also made her want to numb out with bad TV and naps.

She perceived the fleetingness of time in the way we all do—only she was REACTING to it (by letting it scare the stuffing out of her and then inspire a frantic scramble to do All The Things, right now...something she absolutely couldn’t sustain) instead of CREATING with it (by leveraging the present moment, the only thing any of us has to work with, while also honoring her humanity).

She was driving herself so hard to get results in what she deemed a timely fashion that she drove right past the destination she desired and into burnout. And numbing out. And generally feeling as though she was on the world’s shittiest merry-go-round: fighting time...and herself in the process.

When our work together was complete, she told me the guilt was gone; she knew she needed to keep building those breaks into her days. She wasn’t a robot, so she couldn’t attempt to operate like one. Certainly not if she wanted to create real ease and success for herself in her time here on earth.

Are you ready to reconsider how you use your time AND find a sustainable and rewarding way to create what you want with the time you have here? Reaching out is the first step. Leave a comment below to continue the conversation. 

Whatever you do, please don't call me and say this...

As a human and as a coach, I stand against killing time.

I abhor the phrase, but more than that, I detest the concept and the thinking that’s behind it—a careless belief that the (hopefully) long string of minutes that make up a life are so excessive as to be disposable.

If you find yourself with a funny, little pocket of extra minutes between activities, why not see it (and whatever you choose to do with it) as a celebration of time? Why not show gratitude for those bonus minutes? Why not spend them, AND VIEW THEM, as invaluable rays of sunshine that are pouring through a sudden break in the clouds—a blessing you did nothing to receive, but were showered with anyway?

Or, if you have that much extra time that you’re inclined to kill it (‘kill it’ being a mindset that what you’re doing is better than doing nothing at all, but isn’t so worthwhile as to be something you’d choose if you had a better option)—I ask you, please, for the love of all that’s holy, to refrain from roping in another human being to your killing spree.

(Ever had someone call you, and when you try to find out what she needs or why she’s calling, she says something along the lines of “Oh, I’m just killing time between [x] and [y]”? You mean you’re killing your time by stealing mine?! No, thank you. I don’t have an excess of time! I value each and every minute I’ve got—which doesn’t mean I don’t have any minutes for you; it just means I don’t see talking to you as throwaway time. It’s precious. And nonrenewable. Let’s treat it as such.)

Raise your hand if you feel me.

P.S. Do you have any time-related gripes? Share them below.

Three mindset shifts that might help you realize RIGHT NOW is the perfect time to start

1. You’re guaranteed a RIGHT NOW. You’re existing in it as we speak! You don’t have a LATER or a TOMORROW or a ONE DAY. Nope, not yet. You have a RIGHT NOW, and only a RIGHT NOW.

2. You had a YESTERDAY and a LAST MONTH and a THREE YEARS AGO. And if you didn’t like what you did with them, how you spent those specific periods of time (periods that were, at one point, RIGHT NOWS, but have become things of the past), you can choose differently today. You can create the RIGHT NOW that YESTERDAY wasn't.

3. If—and I really mean if—you’re going to be gifted with a LATER, a TOMORROW, a ONE DAY (lucky duck, not everyone gets those), don’t you want to be at least a little bit past the first step by then? Wouldn’t it be awesome to be someplace beyond the starting line, when and if you get more than a RIGHT NOW? Doesn’t that simultaneously honor the RIGHT NOW and the potential, not-yet-promised TOMORROW?

Which one of the above turned on a little lightbulb over your head? Tell me in the comments.

What you don't know is waiting for you

Have you given any thought lately to how far you’ve come?

I’ve found that this can be a difficult exercise without photographic proof—so you might want to scroll through your camera roll or wherever you keep your pictures to see what was actually happening this time last year...or the year before...or even five years ago. Pictures tend to really jog our memories in ways that not much else (except maybe for music and smells?) can.

Sure, time goes by fast. There’s no doubt about it. Whether you’re having fun or not, the years that make up adulthood are smaller fractions of your whole existence, so they appear to pass with increasing speed. (Remember how summer stretched out like a lazy cat when you were eight years old?)

But, though it goes fast, so much more happens—we, and our life situations, change in such significant ways—from one year to the next.

So, if you feel stuck right now, if you fear that nothing much changes, or at least not with any real speed, rest assured: In 365 days, you might remember feeling this way (especially if you document it in some way today)...but the feeling itself will be mostly unfamiliar, very likely replaced by a new set of circumstances, challenges, excitements, accomplishments.

And you’ll have done it. You’ll have made that future life for yourself. Crafted it day by day, not knowing exactly how it would unfold, but taking each step forward anyway.

(#tbt to April 22, 2016, moments after we sold our motorhome and before we knew what was next for us. My husband had to help me stuff myself into the passenger seat of our Corolla, and then he drove us east. We had no idea that just two years later, we’d own a sweet little house in Wisconsin, both of us completely self-employed. Big stuff can happen over not big periods of time. Wherever you are in your journey, keep going.)

You're attacking the WHAT when you need to be looking at the WHY

Though I write quite a bit about time—how we value it, relate to it, spend it, and manage it—the coaching work I do one-on-one with clients is much less about WHAT they’re doing with their time, and much more about WHY they’re having trouble with their time.

Probably sounds like I’m splitting hairs, but it’s an important distinction. Let me explain.

Folks who want to achieve something and are struggling to achieve it are typically focused on WHAT’s filling their schedules, WHAT’s standing in the way of their realizing long-held dreams, WHAT time management systems they’ve tried, WHAT time management systems they might still need, etc. They come to me wanting a planner and an enforcer, someone who will tell them WHAT to do, and when; someone who will help them get WHAT they want by helping them to change WHAT they do.

In my experience, the WHAT is a red herring when a client puts it first. Clients see the WHAT as a fixable problem, so they attack it first (with new day planners, new apps, new systems)—because they believe that if they can just make the necessary tweaks in the WHAT realm, everything else will fall into place. My methodology isn’t centered around the WHAT. I mean, sure—that’s definitely part of it, but it’s never the backbone; it’s never the linchpin of our coaching work together.

In my experience, excavating the WHY is the only thing that gets a client closer to what she wants. Even as early as our first conversation together, I help folks to retrain their focus on the WHY: WHY they want to achieve the thing in the first place, WHY they haven’t yet achieved it, WHY they’re choosing other things first, WHY they’re creating a struggle that only looks like a time management issue (but isn’t really one after all).

In every single instance, the WHY goes deeper than the WHAT. And once we understand the root, the core, the heart of the time issue (WHY it’s an issue in the first place), we can examine the WHAT in a more thoughtful and informed way.

If you’re ready to take your eyes off the WHAT for a minute, and to dig into the WHY like never before, email me. You’ll be floored by what we can accomplish together in 90 minutes.

Is your time scarcity actually existential anxiety?

At the core of time scarcity (“There isn’t enough time for me to do everything I need to do!”) is, I suspect, full-on existential anxiety (“Why am I even here? What’s the point of life?”).

If we truly believed that, mysterious as it might be, we‘re ultimately purpose-full just as we are, we‘d realize that we have all the time that we need to do all that we’re meant to do in our lifetime.

Do you believe that, just by existing, you’re purpose-full? Why or why not? Comment below; I’m really curious to know your thoughts.

Three ways to ensure you're living your best life

1. Inquire within as to what the trendy directive “live your best life” even means. And more specifically, what it means to YOU. No sense keeping it a mystery to yourself; vagueness helps no one here.

2. Whenever you start the day uncertain—or, perhaps, despairing—about living this elusive best life, try asking yourself, “What feels like a good, conscious way for me to use my time TODAY?” Ground into the present (which is all that exists; that future best life you’re seeking doesn’t even exist—it’s just an image in your mind, a product of your imagination) and then slow the hell down. Which brings us to...

3. Try TAKING your time instead of MANAGING it. Once you’ve grounded yourself in the present and slowed the hell down, milk this moment on this day for all it’s worth. If you won’t get another today (and I promise you, you won’t—once today’s over and done with, it’s...well, over and done with), how do you need to operate within the sixteen or so waking hours you have? And I’m not talking about maximizing your productivity. I’m talking about answering for yourself questions such as: What matters most right now? Who matters most right now? How can I use my right-now moment within this one today to give and receive the maximum love, satisfaction, healing, creativity, comfort, change, etc.?

Does this resonate with you? If so, I’d love to hear what thoughts it stirs up. Comment below, and let’s jam.

How do YOU value the time you have here?

I often think about time and how we choose to use ours.

I love to read interviews with and profiles on people who are particularly candid about how they establish their priorities in work and in life, and then how they structure their days accordingly. It’s something we all have to do, and yet, it’s not something we’re taught in school (at least, I wasn’t), nor is it something very many folks talk about outside of philosophical discussions and professional development seminars.

So, today I’m wondering: How do you make sure you’re valuing the time you have here?

Do you live by a motto of some sort?

Do you keep a bucket list, or write and revise five- and ten-year plans?

Or, do you pretty much roll with the punches and course-correct where necessary?

I’d love to know, so leave me a comment below.

Time Tip #1

We can do anything, but we can’t do everything.

Remember, time is our most precious resource, and it’s non-renewable.

This means we have to choose. We have to figure out what our priorities are, what we’ll regret not doing in this lifetime, and do those things more than we work our to-do lists like diligent, little minions.

If your priority is to stay in touch, stay in touch. Pull out a notecard, take five minutes to write a thoughtful sentence, and drop it in the mail.

Do one thing today that gets you closer to what’s most important to you in this one life.

An important postscript:

Don’t immediately go into the headspace of, “Oh, I really should do that” (“that” being to write a note to someone you love); instead, try tuning in to find out if it’s even a priority of yours, something you want to make time for. If it is, great—add a recurring monthly appointment to your calendar for snail mail correspondence. If it’s not, great—give yourself the gift of two minutes to think about what might be a priority of yours that you haven’t made time for lately. THIS is how we live lives of meaning—by doing more of what’s important to us with the time we have here.