There’s a giant semi-annoying cliche in the world of people who talk about time-management and productivity stuff: we need to make better use of our time.
The experts and biggifiers love to tell us about how we all have the same twenty four hours in the day which means, apparently, that some of us (them) make better use of these hours than the rest of us (us).
I don’t know about you, but I can’t hear this kind of thing without detecting a little self-satisfied smirk in the voice of whoever is saying it — and then wanting to punch them.
Yes, it’s true that there are, by most accounts, twenty four hours in each day. And sure, when it comes to time it’s “quality, not quantity” — but come on! These are such unhelpful things to say. And frankly, kind of boring.
And anyway, there’s so much more to it than that.
The thing about time:
It’s not about how you use your time.
It’s about how you treat your time.
It’s about the things you do to get in the zone when you need to be in the zone.
And it’s about the way you care for yourself when you’re not in the zone.
It’s your relationship to time. Which can change. Which will change. But it’s not just about being more “efficient” or “effective” or all that other boardroom jargon.
Of course I have way too much to say about this. But I managed to get it down to a few points. Okay, nine points.
1. You have to take time to make time.
Just like with spending money to make money. It’s investing in yourself.
The time you take for time out is an investment. A smart one.
If you take the time to stop and get in the zone, the time you spend doing the thing will be of a much, much, much higher quality. You’ll get more done and you’ll get it done faster. But you have to stop to get there.
2. Actual time. Not just counting to ten or something.
Sure, taking three deep breaths is lovely. Always. I’m for it. But that’s not the kind of “taking time” I’m talking about. Take real time.
Breaks. Pauses. Stopping. Conscious, intentional time to get focused and centered. As well as “soft” time to clear your head in a guilt-free way.
3. However, it doesn’t have to be a huge chunk.
This isn’t the David Allen you-have-to-take-two-weeks-off kind of thing. Or the “let’s all take regular vacations” thing.
You don’t need to put this off until that trip or sabbatical you might let yourself take when things calm the hell down.
Six minutes of tapping on pressure points, resting on the floor with an eye pillow or repeating the words “It’s getting easier for me to make time and space for myself”.
Or even going for a short walk around the block. Taking a shower. Stretching.
Not all of those. One of them. Or anything else that allows you to tune into your internal rhythms, get some perspective and remember why you’re really doing what you’re doing.
4. The fear: if I don’t push, I’ll give up and it will never happen.
There’s an terrific phrase in Hebrew that describes this phenomenon: to go with your head against the wall.
You push push push and fight fight fight and it all happens in this frustrated, strained, high-stress way. And of course it always turns out that actually it’s the kind of door that you’re supposed to pull. Whoops.
Or that there’s a shortcut around the corner that doesn’t involve breaking through things.
Or that if you just ask nicely they’ll let you in.
Forcing yourself to make “better use” of your time by deciding that you have to just plow through and make it happen works … some of the time. But as a life philosophy it will wear you down.
Sometimes the most powerful thing is to meet that fear, and talk to it with love and a little logic:
“Hey, I get that you’re afraid that without pushing it won’t get done. That makes sense. I really want to reassure you that I’m also committed to getting this thing done. It’s just that I need to be in the zone to get this thing done faster. And to do that, I need to take time to get there.
And even though it seems like taking a break isn’t going to help, let’s just give it a shot. Because what if we can use these five minutes to really recharge and get focused … and then come back and just demolish this thing? World domination, baby!”
5. The truth: You always do better work when you stop to regroup.
This morning I woke up half an hour later than usual. I didn’t have a post written for today but I knew I wanted to write about time. About taking it and having it and relating to it.
So of course my first thought was “Well, if I skip my morning meditation I’ll have 45 more minutes for my writing!”
Luckily my sense of irony woke up faster than the rest of me, and pointed out that I actually write better and faster and enjoy it more when I write after meditating.
I had to admit that my sense of irony is right and that I might have to promote it. (My intuition is the CEO of my business, but maybe irony could be the VP of efficiency?)
We negotiated a little and the end result was that I would meditate until it felt like I was done … and if this took a lot of time or a little time I’d be okay with it.
Thirty minutes later I sat down to write. Here I am. I still don’t know what I’m going to say, but at least I’m feeling like I trust myself. Which is pretty huge.
6. Find out which times are even likely candidates for you to get in the zone.
Charlie Gilkey from Productive Flourishing has some great stuff about using heat mapping to determine what your productive times are and about how to work with those times in a way which actually works.
Because if it’s not a time that’s going to work for you, you either need to take time to make it work better for you … or maybe you can just give yourself permission to not have to be productive in that time. Ahhhhhhhh.
Charlie totally gets how important it is to shift your relationship with time not to have “more” time, but so that you’re not just abusing yourself or pushing because you think you should.
So that your relationship with yourself can be a healthy one.
7. Your relationship with time is a reflection of your relationship with yourself.
Roll your eyes if you want. I don’t mind. I was a cynical, anti-all-things-cheesy kind of person long before I was a yoga professional, and still abhor a good meaningless cliche when I hear one.
But I can appreciate the simple truth of this one.
Working on my relationship with time is in itself time well spent. Because it brings me closer to what I really need from myself.
The better I get at noticing the things that trigger my distress, the easier it is for me to meet those needs and give myself the kind of encouragement and motivation that actually works.
The more time I give to myself, the more time I have to give to everyone else. And they get to enjoy that time more too, because I’m focused and centered and able to give.
8. Even though we know this, we forget it.
My wonderful friend Pam Slim called me last week for twenty minutes of destuckification help as she gets closer to finishing her ridiculously awesome Escape from Cubicle Nation book.
She’s helped me with all sorts of things before and given me some much-needed pep talks, so I was more than happy to be there for her.
And Pam’s a seriously smart cookie, so she already knows this stuff. She knows about the power of taking breaks. She knows that thinking she needs to pressure herself to get more done is actually hurting her and not helping her.
Even when we know it, it’s so easy to get sucked back into the pushing. Into deciding there just isn’t time to rest. Because there are big crazy DEADLINES for goodness sake!!! This happens to me too. A lot. It’s okay.
So we were talking about the scary and about the power of tiny, restorative periods to get back into the groove and sustain the momentum. About how pausing isn’t actually taking a break from the book, it’s helping the book grow and nurturing it and stuff.
And since she knew all this stuff, it wasn’t like this was a new concept. But then when we did some emergency calming techniques she said, “Oh! It’s not stepping away from the book. This is totally what I need to do to get the book done!”
Sometimes you really just need one more penny to drop for you to get it in your body and not just in your mind.
It will come. I know this seems crazy but you’ve got time for this too.
Something will show up to help you. A new understanding. Or a little reminder. Or someone to give you permission to pause.
9. Yes, this is all yoga.
All this stuff I’m talking about is really all yoga stuff. And again, when I say “yoga” I’m really talking about the science of learning how you work and then liking yourself anyway.
All these points are, in one way or another, yoga principles and yoga concepts. So yeah, I really wrote this for Non-sucky Yoga Month.
And, more to the point, I am 100% convinced that while you could look at doing some non-sucky yoga as a way to spend half an hour or an hour, it will actually bring more time into your life in the form of calm, focus, patience, clarity and love. Stuff like that.
10. Read this:
If this whole “take time to make time” thing is new to you — or even if it isn’t, you might want to read these posts I wrote about the “but I have no time!” problem (which has a useful 45 second exercise) and about the science of taking breaks.
I’m done making points.
Because this is a lot of words. And because I need to go take a break.
To do a little breathing. Drink a little tea. Think about what I need right now. And then go do it.
See you tomorrow?
p.s. You know this is the last week of the non-sucky yoga month sale, right? It ends a week from today. Obviously I’m not going to give you any cliches about time, but I thought you might want to know. :)