Where Has the Time Gone?
"Time is what we want most, but we use worst." - William Penn
When I had my first date with my boyfriend, it was as if time stood still.
We had an epic 6-hour first date, and at some point locked eyes while time seemed to do a funny dance around us. Waxing and waning and bending. Six hours felt like it passed in minutes.
I’ve experienced the opposite as well, as I’m sure many of you have, during events I’d rather not be at, where time seems to stretch out and never end.
It’s a funny thing, that time.
Time is a mercurial experience for most of us.
“I don’t have enough time seems” to be the rally cry of the decade.
We live in a go-go-go culture that romanticizes being busy and productivity. Yet, it seems the more we add to our to-do list, the more we prioritize achievement, oftentimes the less we feel like we’re actually accomplishing anything of substance and the less control we seem to have over our own time.
Not enough time, time is running out, where did the time go, wasted time, squandered time, no time left. Time looms and lurks, always seeming to slip away into the night.
Time is one of our most valuable, limited resource. Once we spend it, it’s gone. We can’t make up time, earn more time, gain time, or get time back.
We all get the same amount of time each day, and it’s up to us how we use it. (Even Oprah has 24 hours a day. Crazy, I know.)
So many of us abuse and squander our time, treating it with disrespect; it’s no wonder it doesn’t respect us back.
So, I’m curious, how are you spending your most precious and valuable asset?
If you’re anything like me, you could use a few extra hours in the day and more of that time stretching phenomenon I experienced on my first date.
I'm tempted to give you a list of some of the common time sucks and to advise you to steer clear of social media or email, but that’s something I assume most of you have heard already. We all know getting sucked into the social media vortex for 3 hours is a source of lost time. That isn’t revelatory or new news. We know endless meetings with no structure kill a day.
So the question isn't what's sucking our time? The question is what’s behind these time killers. What’s behind the activities that seem to cause our time to evaporate into thin air?
Lack of focus. Lack of direction. Lack of clarity. Lack of priorities and oftentimes fear.
Lack of clarity, focus, and direction often lead to us spinning our wheels while watch time float away. The same lack of clarity also causes us to add non-priority to-dos to our days, and say yes to commitments and activities that don't align to our values and leech our time.
While fear of failure and fear of success (yes, this is a real thing) will cause us to get very creative with our procrastination tactics and, you guessed it, waste time.
The next time you find yourself in a distraction activity that leaves you wondering why you never have enough time, take a moment to ask yourself what you’re avoiding and why. My guess is there’s something more to it than the irresistible pull of Candy Crush.
Time becomes a well oiled and acceptable excuse that we fall back on time and time again (see what I did there? ;)). Whining about not having enough time sure will gain you nods of acknowledgment and sympathy, but where is it getting you?
Managing our time starts with taking responsibility. It includes awareness around how we’re currently spending our time. Then, comes the “work” of getting clear on what we want, creating focus, intention, and facing our niggling fears that are constantly tempting us to dance somewhere else.
With clarity of values and intention, priorities become clear acting as a map for where we want to focus our time.
I love Gay Hendricks’s explanation of time and time management in The Big Leap, where he explains the above phenomenon in much more detail. “You’ll never have enough money to buy all the stuff you don’t really need, and you’ll never have enough time to do all the things you don’t really want to do,” says Gay. He goes on to say, “Quit thinking time is ‘out there.’ Take ownership of time - acknowledge that you are where time comes from - and it will stop owning you. Claim time as yours, and it will release its claim on you.”
Until I perfect the art of manipulating time, speeding it up and slowing it down like I did on that first date, I invite you to join me in looking at the bigger picture. Let's step back and get curious about not only where our time is going, but why it's going there.