Being your Best is a Matter of Time

image by GolfGT_Girl via Flickr

image by GolfGT_Girl via Flickr

Oh the things I could accomplish if I just had more time!

Time is our common enemy. It’s limited, and us ambitious folk don’t like to be told there are limits!

But here’s the truth. If I could teleport, outsource grocery shopping, and hire a personal assistant (2/3 of which I could choose to do, I suppose) I would still feel starved for time. Because I have a voice in my head that says I’m never getting enough done  – and that it’s Time’s fault. Which, at its core, is some pretty harsh self-judgement about my choices and abilities. While this mindset motivates me to a certain degree, to a larger extent it distracts me from being my best at work and otherwise.

If you, too, feel that resenting time is not working for you, join me in trying to make friends with it. I suggest we start creating this healthier relationship through appreciation, generosity, trust and respect.

Appreciate Time

Time gives us plenty and we still want more. We have time to work and play and learn and teach and choose, but seem not to appreciate it. Headspace, an organization that has created a successful meditation app, blogged recently about feeling “time rich” by seeking out moments of awe: a feeling of connection to something bigger.

Where can we find it?

At work we can look out the window at the clouds moving or look over the city from the office. Or just study those pictures of your kids on your desk. I mean, you made those kids! Literally awesome.

At play we can seek out nature. Don’t those days camping – canoeing, gathering wood, observing chipmunks, staring at the lake – seem soooo long?

It’s not time that moves too fast, it’s us.

Be Generous with Time

You know that children’s song that goes “Love is something; if you give it away, you end up having more.”?  I believe the concept applies to time, too. I’ve observed that busy people who give their time thoughtfully but willingly seem more at ease. It’s like time makes it easier on them. Perhaps happier, more grounded people are inherently more generous. Chicken and egg aside, let’s give it a shot.

How can we try?

At work we can choose to mentor someone who we’ve noticed is bursting with potential or add our name to the networking site 10,000 coffees.

At play we can teach our mother to text (again) or take the dog on an extra loop around the neighbourhood. We might even give away chunks of time to a big-impact cause by volunteering (I’m thinking “led-by-your-heart” volunteering, not “I’d-make-good-business-contacts” volunteering).

It takes a lot of energy to hoard time, all resentful or suspicious of anyone after the scarce resource. On the flip side, it feels quite a relief to choose the perspective that there’s more than enough for what’s important.

Trust Time

Since I usually connect with coaching clients every two weeks, I witness over and over the phenomenon of someone’s whole world changing in only 14 days. I’ve never had a client say “everything is exactly the same as last when we last spoke. Let’s take it from there.” Instead, Time has done its magic and they see something new in the issue, emotions have evolved, more information has surfaced to be considered. I self-identify as “action-oriented”, but realistically, forming an opinion, processing feelings and making choices all take time to be done well. Sometimes, we need to press pause and trust that challenge+time= clarity.

How can we apply this?

At work or play I suggest we put the good ol’ urgent/important matrix into action. We’re savvy enough to avoid unimportant things. But those longer-term important things that aren’t urgent? Don’t tackle it all right away. Let’s make some notes about how we might approach it and we feel about it. We can choose an appropriate future point to reassess – whether this afternoon or in a month – and until then, will suspend judgement and give Time the space to do its thing. I predict that re-examining it with fresh eyes will be insightful.

When I ask my clients “how does the situation look today?” I’m always fascinated by how much can change in a short period. Even more compelling is the question “what do you think this will feel like in 2 weeks/2 months/2 years from now?” It activates the wisest part of us that trusts Time.

Respect Time

Author Annie Dillard writes “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” In other words, we must respect that how we use time matters. Importantly, I think this can be done without the guilt factor that comes with thinking about all the things we “should” be doing or “should have done”.

What does this look like?

At work, we can take credit for what’s gone right, shining a positive light on what the contributions of all those late nights and uncomfortable career stretches have done for us. When I remember to do this during busiest moments, it shifts me from anxiety to gratitude for what I’m going through; even to excitement about what I can choose to build from here.

At play we can just play. We should all savour opportunities to laugh, create and explore. Generally, we can all lighten up and enjoy life more. I’ve personally decided to stop going along with our culture’s “getting older is awful” joke, as it’s horribly disrespectful of Time and steals from well-earned celebration.

So, Time, I’m going to let you out of a headlock and instead, shake your hand. I know you’ll make a great partner in my big plans for the years to come.

Sorry for any misunderstanding.