There’s an old song about holding time in a bottle. The lyrics are a bit cloying. Sorry, Jim Croce, but I’m glad time passes. If it didn’t, I certainly wouldn’t want someone capturing and keeping it where I was concerned!
No, the flow of time is what makes life an adventure.
The mystery and beauty, the delightful yet frightening “Unknown” involved in the ever-unfolding passage of time is what keeps humanity engaged, curious, and humming along through life.
Every day, each person on the planet gets 24 perfectly parceled chunks of time with which we can do whatever we please.
If you’re reading this blog, I’d bet 99 to one that you’re interested in planning the best use of those parcels. You want to make the most of that gift, and fill it up with the best you have, so that you perform your job well, are a decent friend and family member, and live with purpose and enjoyment.
Do you subscribe to the idea that you can manage your time with consistency? Maybe even do it well, with practice?
There are all sorts of time-management tools that claim to help you stay on course. You may make lists, designate important tasks vs. unimportant tasks, use the Pomodoro technique, dice your calendar into color-coded blocks of task-oriented perfection, get assistance from apps and even human helpers to keep you on the straight and narrow road of ultimate productivity. And yet…
Not every hour feels as full of minutes and seconds as every other hour.
Some hours seems to lose their oomph, while others have the dial turned up to eleven. What’s going on with that? Why does time “leak” out more on some days that others?
The range of answers to this question is staggering. The optimal time management routine is as varied as the people telling you it’s possible. A fitness buff would tell you it’s because you need to ration your physical exertion. A nutrition expert would say it depends on what you eat. A business coach specializing in time management would tell you that you need a system. A yogi master might tell you to enjoy every moment as it comes so that you don’t waste any of them.
I’m not your usual business coach because a lot of what’s important to me might look to an outsider like “a waste of time.”
Playing with my family, enjoying the network of business colleagues, participating at school functions… these are all high priorities for me. I schedule them into my calendar, always knowing full well that I’m choosing to give up other activities in order to be there.
That’s what it comes down to. My choice. Your choice. I decide. You decide.
When it feels like you are losing time and you can’t figure out where it went, I want you to try this exercise and see if it helps.
Think of time as water in a bottle. Yes, I’m going there. Imagine your day is a bottle with a precise amount of time inside it, and time is fluid, just like water. Got it? A nice, big, tall glass of time.
Now instead of thinking of time as leaking from some invisible crack or a porous material, instead think of all your activities as little stones and rocks you place inside the jar. You get to choose what goes in. At the end of the day you get to drink the water in the glass.
Anything that overflows means less water for you. Now imagine:
- A slow evening stroll up the street with your senior neighbor after meeting her by chance at the corner… That’s a smooth, flat stone.
- An intentional hour with Google Docs editing that outline for the event you’re planning… a large stone.
- An hour on Pinterest… A handful of stones.
- A half hour driving back to the store because you didn’t plan to pick up the supplies for that project while you were already out picking up the kids… Another stone.
- An extra snuggle with your honey in the morning when you told yourself the night before you were getting up early to work out… A nice stone.
- A special afternoon meeting with your staff that you’ve been planning for weeks… Two good-sized stones.
See where I’m going with this? Everything you put in equals a stone. Just a stone. No stone is more responsible for taking up room than any other stone. They are simply stones that replace time, that liquid.
Everything you put in the jar takes up time. Only you can decide if it’s important enough to replace the water. Since the water is your life source, you choose whether you really want to subtract that water. Only you know how much water you need to survive, or how thirsty you are.
Time Doesn’t Judge You
Just remember that the water isn’t making any judgments. It’s your judgment that allows you to drink a lot or a little at the end of your day (or life), because it’s your precious time you waste by dropping in stones that don’t matter to you — really matter.
Filling your day with self-declared “wasteful” activities takes equal time as your valuable activities. It’s all the same. That time spills over and is lost forever.
As soon as you think of time as something that has the potential to give you life and energy, you view it in an entirely new way. No judgment here. Everyone gets the same sized glass and the same amount of water. It’s how you value it that matters.
So instead of time in a bottle, don’t conjure images of being trapped in a genie bottle with a folk singer (which is bad enough), let alone dealing with time stuck on replay!
Instead, think of time as water flowing and nourishing your life.
Leave a comment if this concept helped. If it didn’t, I’d also like to know. If you’d like your say, please hop onto our next Blab/Podcast and voice your opinion!