12 powerful ways to have more time
The (wo)man who has lived the most is not )s)he who has counted the most years but (s)he who has felt the most life.
Jean Jacques Rouseau
Einstein tells us that time is not as linear as we imagine. The separation of past, present and future is illusory, if compelling in an everyday sense. If, like me, you’re not a physicist, this timeless view of the universe might tie your brain in knots.
What I experience, however illusory, are 24 hours each day and sometimes what appears to be an overwhelming scarcity of time. To make it more complicated, the physicist Julian Barbour tells us:
If you try to get your hands on time, it’s always slipping through your fingers. People are sure time is there, but they can’t get hold of it. My feeling is that they can’t get hold of it because it isn’t there at all.
What Barbour argues is that it’s not time that is a measure of change, but that it is change that creates the illusion we call time. In his view, we live a succession of whole, complete moments called ‘Nows’, all of which exist simultaneously.
As Josh Richardson sums up:
We generate time’s flow by thinking that the same self that ate breakfast this morning also started reading this sentence.
So how does this apply to creative people trying to carve out time for their most passionate quests?
1. Live by kairos, not chronos
The most important feature for everyday life seems to be that time, like so many things, is not an absolute. Time, like other experiences, is as qualitative as it it quantitative, if not more so.
In a former incarnation as a theologian, I’d have explained this as the Greek concepts of kairos and chronos. Chronos is the ticking of seconds on a clock, chronological. But kairos is ‘the right time’, it is ripeness, the moment of truth.
Kairos time FEELS different — those experiences when time seems to slow down or stop. Having a perfect life is unrealistic and perfectionism can be toxic. But having perfect moments is possible and time-expanding.
2. Live deeper to slow time down
Of course, as much as great memories last forever, it’s not always possible to manufacture kairos moments. The seconds after each of my children were born or meeting my grandson for the first time are kairos. These are huge life events and not something we can repeat over and over. Other extraordinary kairos moments come about unlloked for.
We can’t always construct them, but we can at least put ourselves in the path of them. When I spend lots of time with family members in an attentive way, we make memories that are timeless. You can live more life in one excellent day than some people experience in a lifetime.
3. Live yourself
A non-liner view of time, mind-turning as it is, implies that you can change yourself at any moment. We each create who we want to be. This view of time frees us to live more wide awake, more consciously. It frees us to spend more of our precious time in deep flow on the projects we love.
Happiness is now
Valuing relationships and being who you want to be gives us more depth and contentment than any frenetic activity or material gain.
4. Live life not lifestyle
We’re sold things all the time. If your in-box is anything like mine it will be full of spam — a million offers of products and services nobody needs.
I’m not averse to investing in courses that will make a difference to me and I’m a fan of buying experiences, especially when I travel. But so often we are being sold a lifestyle that costs our lives.
Do cars or bigger mortgages make anyone more fulfilled? If you find yourself working to maintain a lifestyle that you don’t need or want, it might be time to reappraise.
5. Live work you love
Work takes up a huge slice of life and if you spend most of your life on work you hate, then time will hang heavy, but disappear fast. Sometimes we have responsibilities that demand we take work we don’t welcome. But this shouldn’t be the norm. Work should be integral to who we are, not something that consumes us to no good end.
6. Live by intrinsic motivation
When we spend mot of our time on intrinsically motivated activities, then time slows down. We can see this in toddlers. A young child will take an hour to examine one pebble or a tiny stetch of beach. Why? Because it absorbs her attention and she is following her own motivation to learn.
When we are doing something we are passionate about, time takes on a different quality.
7. Live by less
We live in a world that urges us to have more, do more, be more. In Essentialism Greg McKeown urges us to instead to make fewer and better choices.
If you want to feel time-rich, don’t be busy with things that don’t matter. Instead focus and pay attention to the things that matter. Be present. The more that matters is not quantity, but depth.
In the words of David Henry Thoreau:
A (wo)man is rich in proportion to the things (s)he an affored to let alone.
When we are not distracted by what doesn’t natter and not seduced by all that glitters, we are rich in other ways. We begin to focus: on loved ones, on deep life quests. We understand what we want and live less fragmented lives. Less distraction gives us more and deeper time.
8. Live slowly
When we face adverse conditions, we often slow down and focus on the essentials. I had a minor exapmple of this recently when I injured a hip joint. It wasn’t a serious injury, but it was painful and demanded several weeks of being much less active. Forced to live more slowly, I got much more deep work done: I thought more, wrote more, read more.
I’ve witnessed this in more serious situations when people are spedning time with extremely sick loved ones. Faced with emergencies, we find the time to focus on what counts, usually those we love or those passions that we are most motivated to achieve.
It’s salutary and humbling to watch. When it most matters we slow time down to the essentials.
9. Live beyond fear
A great deal of living with a sense of more time is about not being afraid. There are people in your life who will tell you that you have to do X,Y and Z, or else. There are people who will try to guilt or manipulate you into using your time in ways that drain energy for noe good end. You need to stop listening to those people.
There are adverts everywhere that tell you you need these 3, 5, 15, 100 products to make it through the next month. Don’t give them credence.
There will be voices inside that whisper that you cannot create your own life, that biology predetermines your life, that work you love is an empty dream There will be inner voices that tell you that you can’t do the depth of work it takes to write a book or have a fulfilling relationship. Excise them from your life.
These people, demands and inner voices will comsume your time at extraordinary speed. But you’re not going to allow that to happen. Don’t speed up. Don’t jump at every call to fear.
Determine to live a life that aligns with your quest, let go of the rest and find you have the time.
10. Live new
Do you notice how when you are on holiday a week can seem to last forever? At home days can blur into one another, time moves on at a sprint, but in new places, exposing outselves to new experiences, we perceive time as slower.
One holiday after another might be too much to ask. But we can all vary our schedule, exposing ourselves to new ideas. Challenging books, a foreign language films or a long walk can all contribute to changing our experience of time.
And if you have the opportunity to travel, grab it.
11. Live in synergy
The more we insist on never asking for help, never connecting with others who have complimentary skills, the less time we will have. The obverse is true. When we tap into the energy of a whole group,
when we work in collaborate, then we release an enromous flood of synergistic energy that everyone benefits from.
When we work together, we all have more time.
12. Live now
Being present, focussed and attentive in a world of distractions is one of the hardest and most rewarding things we can achieve. In the words of David Henry Thoreau (again):
The meeting of two eternities, the past and the future, … is precisely the present moment …
You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.
The physics of time is an enormous, mind-beinding area that few undersatnd, but what is clear is that time is much more than ticking of ak. Time is much more than chronos. It is the quality and depth of each fully lived, truly awake and connected moment.
We may not be able to add a single hour to life by worrying, to paraphrase Matthew’s gospel, but the depth is in our gift. Creative people, in this sense, have much more time.
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