“I don’t have enough time” is a constant complaint these days. Especially when it refers to enough time to exercise, eat the right foods, read, meditate, relax, spend time with family and friends, write, travel, do good things for yourself or do nothing at all. The good news is that we can learn how to make time stretch out and enjoy more of whatever time we do have available to us right now.
Focus on now
As John Lennon said many years ago, “Life is what happens while you’re busy doing other things.” Usually the big wake up call to reclaim your life in the present tense comes when you or your loved one comes down with a terminal disease.
Suddenly, says Stephen Levine, author of, A Year to Live, (Random House,
1997) your whole life comes into sharp focus, dreams unlived, closets full of regrets, unfinished business, tangled and unsatisfying relationships, neglected spiritual growth and lack of authentic joy. Most wish they had more time.
Jean Louis Seran-Schriebner, author of, The Art of Time, (Addison Weseley,
1988) put it this way: “Unlike other resources, time cannot be bought or sold, borrowed or stolen, stocked up or saved, manufactured, reproduced or modified. All we can do is make use of it.”
Stephen Covey, author of, First Things First, (Fireside, 1994) talks about giving top priority to important but non-urgent activities like taking time for spiritual and physical renewal, spending time with family and friends, and planning and crisis prevention at work and at home. Instead, we spend most of our time feeling pressured while handling crises, deadlines and problems and deferring what we really want to do.
The solution is not to become more efficient at doing more and more things in less and less time. The solution involves a conscious shift in priorities, focusing on the large and small joys of the present moment and doing a lesser number of (well chosen) things in a longer time—as Stephen Levine says, slowing down and stopping to smell, if not plant, the roses.
“We have forgotten how to rest.” says Stephan Rechtschaffen in his book, Time Shifting: Creating More Time to Enjoy Your Life, (Doubleday, 1996) “I’m not suggesting we discard the skills of efficiency and productivity... What I’m urging is balance, a mindfulness that allows us to bring a different rhythm to our days. When we give it a chance, we’ll discover a surprising truth, it’s when we slow down that we show up.”
Rechtschaffen recommends establishing your own pause button, figuring out your own ways to slow down and focus on the present moment. One easy way is to stop whatever stressful situation you’re in, and take three or four slow deep breaths. When the phone rings, let it ring three times, pause and take a slow deep breath and then answer the phone. Pause at least two minutes after you finish one task before beginning another. Arrive ten to fifteen minutes early for work, appointments or important meetings and take the extra time to breathe and think. While in the bathroom, take some deep breaths, become aware of how your body feels and stretch.
Take some time
One of the worst health habits that affect women more than men is not taking even 30 minutes a day of uninterrupted time strictly for themselves. Women deny themselves even this small amount of time. Not time to catch up on household chores or prepare an assignment for work, but time to breathe, meditate, daydream, read, take a hot bath or go for a walk.
Rechtschaffen says he would like to see people using holidays as holidays, not as excuses for shopping sprees. Imagine a Christmas season devoted to meditation. He quotes Juliet Schor author of, The Overworked American (Basic, 1991). She envisions a time when rest becomes as important as work, and contemplation as important as consumption.