To Find More Time, Shift How You See It

It’s not your schedule that’s the problem. It’s our belief system around how time works.


Jen Patterson

3 years ago | 5 min read

Are you constantly putting out fires, attending to the urgent over the important, and “playing Whack-A-Mole” at work? Would things be better if you could just get over the hump to the other side — then you’d finally get ahead?

You’re not alone. We live in a culture that defines time-pressed people as serious contributors. (How good does it feel Monday morning to report your weekend was “productive”?) Time scarcity can be exacerbated by “helpful” tools like our calendars (those handy one hour blocks make a 20 minute meeting counter-cultural!) All the tips and tools that advise compounding email time and standing at meetings are only treating the surface wound.

Ultimately, time scarcity is a constriction of perspective, blocking us from the ease and flow we could be working in. What I counsel (and work on for myself) is to cultivate a totally different relationship with time.

Recognize time, (or lack thereof) is a CULTURAL construct. I read in one of Prince’s obituaries that he didn’t believe in time. I loved this! But don’t just take it from The Purple One. Think about your own experience with time. How do you define yourself and the roles you play in relation to time? For example, within my own personal constructs of “single-parent” and “business-owner” are coded belief systems about time — mainly, that there isn’t enough. These are connotations I can choose to give weight to.

Once, I was in Japan once and visited a Shinto shrine. There were huge golden Buddha statues on display that year and then not again for 200 years. This is very different concept of time than what our Outlook calendars train us to think. Next time you find yourself in a time seizure, ask — is this a trained belief system?

Call in more time to yourself. Meditate. Go for a walk. But if these seem too time-absorbing, I advise clients who feel chronically strapped to inhale and tell themselves, “I have enough time today.” This is a simple, mindful technique. The breath gives space in your body. The statement helps reset those neural pathways that want to divert back to the dominant thought of time scarcity.

Thoughts have mass, so when we weigh ourselves down with a thought that does not serve us, we find it harder to move forward. For every point in the day where there is a constriction around time — an “aaaak!” that you feel — this simple technique will reset your mechanism to feel open and abundant.

Shift to more contemplative time. Once, a friend, a very talented writer, was visiting from London. “Do you have any time to see me?” I asked. “Oh, you know how it is, I spend 3 hours puttering around my kitchen and then will write for an hour,” he answered breezily. Yes, the puttering (or walking or meditating) is about loosening that brain up.

The Greeks had two concepts for time: Chronos, linear time; And Kairos, the concept of eternal time. Some tasks defy shortcuts — painting the house will take what it will take. But there are places where we get “caught” feeling like we have to do before we even know what the doing looks like.

This is where we need Kairos, the eternal or contemplative time — time to orient and then find the answer before we execute. Like my friend, it is where to put the bulk of the time in any creative endeavor. When we allow time for the quiet mind to roam around a bit, that hour of writing becomes truly productive.

Create and protect empty space in your schedule. Like attracts like, so when we create time abundance, we will attract more of it. Inevitably, I find taking back time reshuffles the remainder of my schedule. This does not mean business gears grind to a stop. It may be that meetings that aren’t truly important are dropped from my schedule.

It may mean that my week realigns to have a full day with a lot happening, and then several light days with very little scheduled at all. It will also allow for your vision to come up for air. Again, time-less-ness is a constriction. It sucks all the air out of things that actually give us life. When we allow for the truly important connections to become “loud” again, we connect with new ideas or people.

Lean into what feels necessary AND easy. I remember having the book The Alchemist on my night table for years. Then one day I picked it up and read it. All I could think was, “This was SO the right time.” I’m a firm believer that some things just aren’t meant to be done now. We’re all swimming in lists of things that “need” to get done but don’t seem to ever move forward.

This is only a problem when we allow our own energy to get caught (constricted!) by what’s not getting done. We live in an illusion that asserting control will ultimately hold the schedule. If you’ve ever tried to get a toddler out of the house you understand the fallacy here.

You can suggest going to the park, but he is never going to get his shoes and jacket until you have energetic alignment — you’re putting on your shoes, you’re getting the snacks, you’re holding his shoes — that kids start to come around. All tasks have a “season” — from finalizing those brochures finalized to cleaning out the garage.

If you’re facing energetic resistance — something just doesn’t seem to want to get done — ask yourself if it’s really truly necessary to do it now? And if the answer is no, relax. It may be that the task goes away entirely. It may be that in a few days, the energy blockage around it is gone and you (and it) are ready to move forward.

See everything you do as in support of your work. Part of our attachment to not enough time has to do with how we compartmentalize our day. We live in a zero sum culture that says time spent here subtracts from time spent elsewhere.

So we have anxiety when we take time away from what we see as “productive time.” I often get requests from people who say they can’t possibly make an hour coaching session until after hours. My answer is that my clients find an hour out of their day for coaching actually gives them time back — by clearing up something murky, by creating ease where there was a blockage. Coaching feeds your work.

A nap feeds your work. Grocery shopping feeds your work. I remember a friend telling me about an owner of a design studio he knew who talked about being a “workaholic.” My guard immediately went up but the story then took an interesting turn. She’d said, “Today, my work is my daughter, so I’m not going into the office.”

Mindfulness takes work. Anyone who has struggled to sit through a 20 minute meditation without asking themselves “What am I having for lunch?” understands this. But sometimes the real cure isn’t just a quick pill to pop. In calling in more time, we are going against a deeply ingrained culture of time scarcity, one that is reinforced by our workplaces, our families, our digital technology. But like most structures, it only has the power we give it. Time is on our side, if we allow it.

This article was originally published by Jen patterson on medium.


Created by

Jen Patterson

Worklife coach, adoptive parent, aspiring gardener. Writer on coaching and work for The Fold Mag.







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