The other day I was having lunch with some girlfriends and the topic of time came up.
As in, ‘I never seem to have enough time to get everything done’ and ‘How do you find the time for _____ ?’*** and ‘I have no time to myself’. Sound familiar? As a self-employed fitness professional and mom of three young children I totally get the ‘too little time’ lament. I experience it frequently at home (in particular, between the hours of 3 and 6 pm), and almost daily at work; most of my clients have used lack of time as an excuse for not exercising and eating correctly at least once. It’s a very convenient excuse.
But let’s stop for a minute (a very small unit of time), and think about what we really mean when we complain about not having enough time.
Do we mean that we wish we had more? That there were more than 24 hours in a day? That we could get by on fewer than eight hours of sleep? Probably not. Longer days would just get filled up with more time-gobbling activities.
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Cyril Parkinson
Do we wish that we had less to do? That fewer of our waking hours were taken up with the tasks of everyday life? That we had more time to sit and do nothing? While for some of us, this might true, I believe that most people want their days to be full of meaningful activity. And that idleness breeds boredom, stifles creativity and ultimately, makes time pass very slowly.
“I never remember feeling tired by work, though idleness exhausts me completely.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.
I think that what we’re really saying when we complain about not having enough time, is that we wish we knew how to prioritize the activities that we spend time doing so that we felt balanced and rested, instead of fragmented and worn out. Our contemporary, western life-style makes many demands on our time, and it may seem that many of those demands are beyond our control. In reality, however, we have more freedom to choose exactly how we will spend our time than humans have ever had before. (Think about dishwashers, computers, cell-phones, cars; all devices invented by humans to free up time for other activities.)
I think that the secret to feeling like you have “just enough” time (not too much or too little) is to decide what’s really important to you (and your family) and devote your time primarily to those activities. Make a list, if that helps. Place the activities that you value the most at the top; this will obviously include work (if it doesn’t, you need to find another way to make a living, but that topic is a separate post entirely!) and general life maintenance (cooking, eating, showering, driving kids to school etc.), but should also include physical activity, getting together with family and friends as well as pursuing solitary hobbies. These are the activities that you will fill your time with.