Our Relationship With Time Is Not Working

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Humans are a time-obsessed species. We want more of it but waste most of it. We are constantly looking for ways to put time to good use, always trying to squeeze more in and never quite reaching our goals.

It’s no secret that our relationship with time is not going so well. We’re constantly struggling to keep up with the demands of our lives, and we never seem to have enough time. We continually procrastinate and struggle to stay on top of our to-do lists.

We measure time with clocks, record time with calendars and track time on our phones. But no matter how much we quantise the passing of minutes and hours, we cannot get the measure of time or, better still, build a better relationship with time.

“The harder you struggle to fit everything in, the more of your time you’ll find yourself spending on the least meaningful things,” says Oliver Burkeman, the author of Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals.

Whether at work or in our personal lives, we feel as if there’s not enough time in the day. In fact, this feeling has become so widespread that many see it as a universal truth about our world today.

“Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity,” Jean de La Bruyère once said.

Throughout history, we have struggled to manage the pressures of day-to-day life while also planning for the future in a way that doesn’t upset our balance and throws us off course. The result is that many people feel like they are always running out of time or struggling to find enough of it.

“Modern man thinks he loses something — time — when he does not do things quickly. Yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains except kill it, says Erich Fromm.

In the modern world, we hurry in the hope of getting more done, aim to spend money on experiences rather than things to make every moment count, and fill our inboxes with emails so that we won’t forget anything — all while knowing that these actions won’t fix what’s really broken about our relationship with time.

You’ve probably read enough posts, books and articles on prioritizing tasks and how to stop multitasking and do one thing at a time, but for some reason, your relationship with time is still not working.

How we spend time is how we spend our lives

Time is an invisible force that influences and shapes our lives in many ways. Time can be a source of stress but also a source of meaning. It’s only natural that we struggle with balancing time or mastering time.

Every decision we make is an investment — whether it’s in our career, relationships, health, or something else. When we spend our time wisely, we create a rewarding and fulfilling life.

We can use our time to build meaningful connections, explore our passions, or get real work done. On the other hand, when we waste time, we miss out on experiences that could have made us happier and more successful.

To live a life with purpose requires deliberate intentionality about how we spend our time. By intentionally choosing how to use your time, you can live a life with greater meaning, significance, and fulfillment.

Spend time on what you value

Time doesn’t have to be the enemy. We can reclaim our time, slow down, and make room for what matters most. We can start by being more mindful of our time. Be aware of how much time you spend on things that don’t add value or bring you joy.

Eliminate anything that won’t add value to your present or future life. Focus on activities that bring you fulfillment and peace. Stop trying to do it all and start living with intention and purpose.

When we learn to be more mindful of how we spend our time, our relationship with time can be more balanced and sustainable.

How to improve your relationship with time

“Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it,” says M. Scott Peck.

The next task is to figure out where your time is going. Make a list of all the tasks that take up your day, and take note of how long each task takes. This will help you identify the tasks that are taking up the most time, the tasks draining you and those helping you get closer to your long-term goal.

Once you’ve done this, create a plan for just essential tasks. This could include setting aside specific chunks of time each day for specific, meaningful tasks or creating a schedule that allows you to work in bursts on tasks that move the needle and take regular breaks.

If you struggle to master time, focus on managing your energy first. Instead of trying to squeeze more into your day, you could focus on doing the things that energize you and make you feel most alive.

Once you start doing this, you might find that your relationship with time changes completely. You may begin to feel more productive, more creative, and more connected to what matters. You might just find that your relationship with time starts working for you instead of against you.

Instead of obsessing about time which ends up draining your mental energy, you will work with your body to get things done.

Aim to prioritize only essential tasks and schedule breaks in between focused or deep work.

Ultimately, investing our time is one of our most important decisions. Whether working on your most important work, learning a new skill, reading a book, taking a walk, spending time with friends and family, or pursuing a passion project, make sure activities that take time are meaningful. And when it comes to downtime, choose experiences that make you come alive.

This article originally appeared in Medium. 

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