Do you know the feeling of being so totally immersed in a conversation with a good friend that you lose track of time?
Do you know what it feels like to be in a state of “flow” while working on a project that you enjoy?
If you have ever felt this way, you already know how to find more time. The trick is to consciously do what you already do very well when you are not thinking about it.
In the wonderful book I have been reading, called “The Not So Big Life,” author Sarah Susanka, says that the way to finally get out from under the feeling that you have “no time” is to slow it down. At first this seemed impossible and counter-intuitive (why would I want to work through my To Do list slower?), but after giving her ideas some consideration, I am beginning to agree.
What follows below is just a brief summary of her eloquent explanation. If this interests you, I recommend you read the whole book. I have really enjoyed it!
(I signed up to be an Amazon Affiliate, so if you click through to Amazon from this image and purchase it, I get a little bit of money. Just letting you know!)
Susanka says that since we can’t change the quantity of time – there will always be only 24 hours in a day – all we can do is focus on changing the quality of our time.
In both of the examples in the introduction above, time all but disappears. There is only “now” – right this moment – when you are completely engaged in what you are doing. What happened before and what will happen next exist only in our thoughts. When we are completely engaged, we don’t feel drained or stressed or pressured because we are not having the thoughts that make us feel short on time. The thoughts are what feel bad – and they are just thoughts that we can change.
When I am totally lost in a conversation with a friend, I am not thinking about what else I should be doing or whether I did what I should have done. I am not worried about my To Do list, who else might need my attention, or whether my hair looks good. Similarly, when I am working on a project I love, my whole being is engaged in what I am doing. No other thoughts or worries are running through my head. I don’t feel hungry and I forget to pick the kids up at school (or is that just me?).
Everything we do takes a certain amount of time. How we direct our thoughts during that time is up to us and will determine how we experience time and ultimately how we feel at any given moment. We are stressed about time when we are aware of it passing quickly or slowly. By fully engaging in the thing we are doing in the present moment, we are released from this awareness.
For example, washing the dishes takes a certain amount of time. I can choose to spend that time thinking about what else needs to be done and whether I should have eaten those cookies, and what will happen when my children grow up to be adults with absolutely no life skills. This way of thinking feels, well, bad.
Or I can simply wash the dishes and engage in the task at hand without judging it negatively. If I need help focusing, I can admire my pretty white dishes, feel how good the warm water feels, and be happy that my family was able to eat dinner together. Maybe that sounds corny, but if I can develop a habit of paying attention and engaging my thoughts in whatever I am doing, I spend that time feeling good.
No matter how I choose to spend the time, the same amount of time will go by.
I came home tonight and found one of my white china dinner plates in the driveway. Normally my mind would go to all kinds of worries and I would have gone in the house and yelled for someone to come pick it up and then I might have yelled some more about taking care of things and using better judgment. Most likely, there would have been crying and blaming and all kinds of feeling bad in my house this evening.
Instead, I picked up the plate and brought it in the house, because in that moment, I simply wanted the plate to be inside the house. I didn’t let that act lead to thoughts about all the work I have to do around the house. I didn’t wonder whether I was being a good parent or not. I didn’t worry that my kids were not learning to take care of things. I didn’t even try to figure out why the plate was outside.
In that moment, I simply chose to bring the plate inside – and it felt good. The secret to getting out from under the feeling of having “no time” is to string together more moments like this.
In the next few minutes, I challenge you to try this – focus completely on what you are doing, no matter how mundane the task, without judging whether it is boring or hard. Just engage completely in the task. If worries or thoughts about the past or the future come along, set them aside for another time and refocus on the task at hand. See if you feel less stressed for that amount of time. Let me know how it goes!