People who complain about a lack of time usually miss the point.
“If only I had more time…”
It seems that pretty much everyone I know suffers from a lack of time. No one finds themselves with a surplus of hours in the day. No one is looking for ways to ‘kill’ time.
(What a strange expression.)
Actually, maybe I shouldn’t say “everybody”. I know there are a lot of people who find time for 4 or 5 hours of television a night. But by and large these people aren’t living their lives. Their lives are living them.
And only boring people get bored.
(Turns out mum was right.)
But if you’re taking a proactive approach to life – charting your own course and driving your own show – then it’s not likely that you’re feeling like there’s enough hours in the day.
If you think you are in the proactive camp, but still feel like you’ve got heaps of time on your hands, then you’re probably kidding yourself. As we bring the galloping horse of our own lives under our own control, our time resources quickly get taken up.
It’s not easy to go your own way. You’ve got to put in the hard yards. You’ve got to give it time.
And so pretty much everyone I know (a selective and biased club, true enough) suffers from a lack of time.
And when I look at the motivations of the people who come to me and come to our workshops, this is a recurring theme.
“I want to free up more time in my life.”
I want to get away from the 9 to 5, and the bossy boss, and the hours stuck in traffic, and give myself more time to do the things I want to do.
But time here isn’t really the issue. It’s the doing what you want to do.
And a few years down the track, you see that these time hunters don’t have any more time on their hands than they used to. But still, things have changed.
The balance of their days has shifted away from the things they ‘had’ to do, to the things they want to do.
And they understand the value of their time. They wanted to spend more time with the kids, but they’ve realised that what they wanted was more fulfilling relationships. They wanted more time to garden and collect stamps, but now they realise that what they need is outlets for creative expression.
They’ve taken the freedom to spend their time on the things they want to spend time on, and bit by bit they figure out the things that it feels good to spend time on.
And mostly this is things that bring meaning to their lives. They spend their newly-won time, and with it they buy meaning. Spend time, buy meaning.
But if you asked them, they wouldn’t feel like they had any more time in their life. In fact, a lot of them end up sleeping less, so you could even say they have less time. Their lives are just as full as they were before.
The only difference is now it is full of things that give their life meaning, rather than things that drain the colour from their days, and sap the chi from their organs.
So time is never the issue. It’s the way we spend time.
If you can understand this point early, you can save a good 5 or 10 years off your journey to personal fulfilment.
Because the aim of the game is not to build more time into our lives. It’s about spending time well.
These are different objectives, and they represent different mindsets. The “more time” mentality is defensive and scarcity-based. “I need to protect and cling tightly to my time, and save time but cutting whatever corners I can find.”
That’s not necessarily bad, but it’s de-energising to feel defensive with your time, all the time.
The “life well spent” mentality on the other hand is expansive and on the front foot. How can I spend my time in a way that maximises the return of meaning? How do I structure and prioritise my life in a way that brings the most meaning into my life?
If you can jump straight to this mindset you can make things a lot easier for yourself. You’ll make better decisions.
You might be given a choice between two jobs. You might say, Job A is less interesting and fulfilling, but it’s a lot closer to home so I’ll save a lot of time commuting.
Time is not the point. Meaning is the point.
Wherever possible we should be looking to maximise the return on our time, not minimise it’s spend.
It’s the same with all the energies in our life. Some things are hard work. But we shouldn’t be looking to minimise work. We should be looking to optimise the returns from work. We shouldn’t be looking to minimise our energetic output. We should be optimising the value of that output.
This is an important distinction. Its something I’d wish I’d learnt a little earlier.
Gear everything in your life around meaning. It’s not about time, it’s not about money, though those things are resources you can use. It’s about meaning.
Once you identify that as the most important goal, then you can really free up your creativity and make meaning happen. There’s so many ways to do it.
Just don’t get too caught up on time. At the end of your road, and I hope you’ll get there, you’ll find you are just as ‘busy’ as you were before.
It’s just a much more enjoyable ‘busy’.
How are you optimising meaning in your life these days?