Time scarcity had been a major stressor for me, and perhaps like many of you, at one point or another. “We are the food of time,” Deepak Chopra once said. We can be consumed by the thoughts of time passing. Facing my own mortality when I received the cancer diagnosis over 10 years ago, was the pinnacle of uncertainty about time for me. I did not know how much time I had left, having just received the news that had a very high risk of significantly shortening my time alive was scary, downright overwhelming. In that moment of receiving the news, I knew immediately what I wanted to do and when- I wanted to leave the American Thoracic Society conference that was being held in Denver and get on the next plane home to be with loved ones. I remember wanting time to speed up so I could get home to my family, and to know more information about the diagnosis, what stage, what was the prognosis and plan. And then in the midst of chemotherapy, remembering how time passed so slowly that I felt like I had nothing to do, but to wait, to wait and see if the toxic yet life-saving therapy was working.
Five years later, having passed milestones of survivorship, farther from my date of diagnosis, I fell too easily back to my old habits of doing. Being at time’s beckon call. The never-ending to do list consumed by time, my time, much of it dominated by work-related tasks like documenting my long, perfect, meticulously written notes that very few people actually read in great detail. I had argued to myself that I have a clinical reputation to uphold and perfect, and thorough notes was a hallmark of that, or so I thought. After hours of time away from family on vacations to chart, there came a tipping point of realization that I was not spending my precious time doing what I wanted. And that fact was slowly draining me of my joy, and health.
Remembering that time is one of our most precious commodities, I had forgotten this, time and time again. You will keep coming up against similar lessons and challenges until you learn what you need to in order to move on. It was not until I took the time to know, as objectively as possible, how I was spending my time, that shifts began to occur. Here are the steps I took to shift. Remembering that change of this nature is going against what you are used to, as how you spend your time has in essence become a habit. As humans our brains crave and find comfort in routines and even the habit of squandering our time is no exception.
It’s time to reclaim your time. Congresswoman Maxine Waters during a hearing said this repeatedly because she valued her time, and she made it known. How can you reclaim your time?
- Be mindful about how you spend your time- download my new e-workbook here and fill out the time matrix to see how you have been spending your time
- What would you like to devote more time to? Less time to?
- What’s one action you can take to make #3 happen?
I offer this mindfulness exercise to reclaim your time: when you are faced with an urge to spend time doing something you would rather not be spending time on, like scrolling social media, get curious. Curiosity about the physical sensations of the urge, and the emotions that might be present. Ask questions: Why is the urge present? What do I actually want to be doing more of, and will acting on this urge help?
Foundational to this is the belief that you can do more of what you want to be doing with your time. I believe you can.