Why Having More Time Won't Solve All Your Problems
Time can be a sensitive issue. It can seem as scarce as water during a draught. We find ourselves grasping for more, trying to buy more, or hoarding what we have even as it slips through our fingers. This is especially the case when we consider time as currency. We're well acquainted with the concept of an hourly wage. All we need to do is look to our wrists, our phones, our computer screens, or a nearby wall to learn where we must be next, how much money (or time) someone owes us, or get stressed when we realize where we should have been 15 minutes ago.
One frustrated client recently had this to share: "I feel so over-scheduled, my kids and and I are always going from one place to the next. My daughter just wanted to put on her roller skates after school and play, and I hated to tell her no. We always have some other place to be, and I'm sick of it!"
She's sick of it.
Indeed, in the larger framework of our discussions, she came to me seeking help because she isn't well. Her doctors can find nothing remarkable about her labs, but she knows she's sick. She'd just admitted it to me herself!
What I heard in this discussion is my client asking for more time. But unfortunately, if she were handed more time, like an unrecovered addict with a sudden windfall she would fill up her extra hours as quickly as they were bestowed upon her. What she needs goes beyond more time. She needs space.
We must recognize that the only way to "create" more time for ourselves is to take more space.
Living in the Big Apple for the past 15 years has taught me how to claim my physical space — what little there is for each of us to share. I'm adept at living in a compact home, sharing a crowded train, and working in close quarters. But allowing for time-space involves a more thoughtful practice.
In yoga, one of the first things we do is roll out a sticky mat. This act alone does not take a lot of time, just a few seconds. And it's not very big, so it doesn't use a lot of space. But the intention from that first moment is already set, whether you're in a class, at home, in a gym, dressing room, or office. By unrolling and stepping onto your mat, you're designating time-space for yourself.
“I want to try yoga but I don’t have the time!”
I hear this often. The time you spend on the mat is hardly relevant. As B.K.S. Iyengar teaches, during the time you spend on the mat, you'll have created more space in your body's joints, muscles and connective tissue. You will also have a greater awareness of how your body exists in space. You will have turned your attention to how you feel. You might end up thinking of all the things you have to do after you leave your mat, but for now, this is where you are.
Yoga isn't the only activity with the key to time-space. Walking outside in nature has a similar effect. While walking on a treadmill is great for some exercise, it has a definitive end, something you can cross of your to-do list before charging into the next activity.
Another, albeit less desirable, way your body and mind ensure you have time-space is by getting sick. You take the day off work. You gather together whatever you need to help you feel better, wrap yourself in a blanket, and wait. Time-space is created.
I have a new baby at home, and I find it difficult to schedule much of anything. I never know when my daughter will need to sleep, or will be hungry, or just needs some quiet time to herself. One thing Gracie knows instinctively, though, is that she has nothing but time; in years to her life, and in minutes to her day. She has, and requires, an abundance of time-space. She teaches me to guard that time-space on her behalf carefully.
If you're looking for activities that create time-space, here are a few I put together:
- Drinking a cup of tea or coffee (not in a paper cup to-go)
- Watching the sunset
- Observing, listening to, or creating art
- Writing a letter (as opposed to text, tweet, email)
When people come to me seeking help because they don’t feel well, one of the first things I explore is how they spend their time. Do they need more space? As author Bonnie Friedman says, “An unhurried sense of time is in itself a form of wealth.” An unhurried sense of time, even for a few minutes, is time-space. Create it for yourself, and feel better.