April 5, 2024

Working with Time vs Against It

Blog where I share what I learned by experimenting with how to live the lesson of the first chapter of my book, The Moments.

Working with Time vs Against It

While writing, publishing, and promoting my book has been a tremendous amount of work, now the real work begins.  You see, the lessons I share in each chapter of my book have provided me with a set of guiding principles for how I aspire to live my life.  Like all aspirations, the only way to make these a reality is to put intention toward them.  In this spirit, at the beginning of 2024, I kicked off my own personal journey of experimentation and learning.  I will dedicate each month to practice a lesson from a chapter of my book.  Every week of that month I will experiment with different ways of living that lesson.  

In January, I started this process by focusing on the lesson covered in the first chapter. The chapter is called ‘The Moments’ and it explores the importance of pausing as a way of being more intentional about how we choose to live this one life we all have. Throughout the month I conducted four experiments, which I describe below, along with the lessons I have learned from them.

January Experiment 1 – Create moments of whitespace during the week.

After William died, my life was put on pause.  While it was difficult at first to change speeds, slowing down from what used to be a life on the go, eventually I got used to it.  During this pause, I was able to take stock and reflect on everything that had happened – the accident, where I was in my grief, and what I could learn from the tragedy.  I also realized the benefit of pausing, and I wondered why we don’t do this more often. I decided to experiment with creating moments of pause - what I call white space - at different points in my week.  I put three 30-minute blocks on my calendar where I would use the time to either meditate, reflect, or in some cases just go outside for a walk with my dog, Marmalade. This space would be a time to pull myself away from the busyness of my days and enable me to see a broader view of things.

It was amazing what infusing these forced pauses did for me.  It provided me with a moment to catch my breath and to slow down my mind. During the pauses, I was able to allow myself to just be in moment.  I’ll admit, it’s still something that I have to get used to and one of the challenges I faced was transitioning into these pause periods.   Getting my mind to slowdown required a bit of time, but once I was able to get there, I could feel myself loosening up and letting go of the stress of the day.  

January Experiment 2 – Micro Pauses 

As I mentioned above, one of the things I found challenging was the sudden shift of gears from being in ‘go’ mode to ‘pause’ mode.  It took me a while to transition from one state to the other.  This feeling happened not only in this case, but also as I transition from one event on my calendar to the next.  In this fast-paced world we live in, many of us constantly jump from one thing to the next throughout the day.  This becomes exhausting, as we are forced to switch from one context to another in a split second.  Our minds must quickly leave behind what we were just engaging on, while at the same time focus our attention on what ever is next.  The experiment I conducted this week was about creating micro-pauses between the different activities on my calendar.  My plan was to take a minute or two to process and clear where I was coming from and then get myself in the right mindset for where I was about to go next.

Like the longer pauses that I infused throughout my week, these micro pauses had a similar effect. They allowed me to slow down and not feel as hurried.  They gave me just enough space to transition in a more intentional way from one thing to the next.  The impact this had on me is that I felt more present when I was starting whatever the next activity on my schedule was.  

January Experiment 3 - Doing Less with More

I have always been someone who viewed time as something to conquer.  My way of doing this was to be as efficient as possible through excessive planning and time management.  My perspective on how to win was to cram in as many things as I could throughout the course of my days.  It’s a battle I have been waging since I was a boy, and it is one I now realize I can’t win. All this ‘trying to do more with less’ strategy has done is make me feel more rushed and more stressed.  Where amI rushing to?  After William died and I took a six month leave of absence from work, time slowed to a snail’s pace.  I had so much time to think and just be.  I realized that instead of trying to do more with less time, doing less with more time was a better option.It created more space for me to experience what was going with me.  With this in mind, my third experiment inJanuary had to do with focusing on the two to three things that were most important during the week.

Prioritizing my week around just three things enabled me to actually get those things done.  In the past when I would focus on too many things, I had a tendency to just get bitsand pieces of things done and would have to push whatever was ever left to the next week.  I never felt at ease because there were so many things just hanging out there to be finished.   My past measures of success were around how many things I tended to versus how many things I brought to completion. BecauseI was trying to cram so much in, I was always rushing from one thing to the next.  Attending to fewer things created space for me to shut out the noise and really focus.   It was less stressful overall because that urge to rush was dissipated. That week, I not only completed my three priorities but also had time to tend some of things on my list that I had deprioritized.  

January Experiment 4 – Looking for possibility in the moment

One of the down sides to being someone who likes to be overly planned and scheduled is that any deviation from the plan throws me fora loop.  I get irritable and resent the fact that my well-crafted plan has been thrown off, and as a result, I expend unnecessary energy worrying about the impact of the deviation.  Another downside of this is that I miss the opportunity to experience what the moment has in store for me.  So, for my last experiment in January, I decided to hold my plan more lightly and if a curve ball was to get thrown at me, I would look for the possibility of whatever that moment had to offer.  

It is amazing what setting an intention can do.  Just setting the intention gave me a sense of feeling like I had less pressure on me. I felt lighter because my grip on things was looser.  If you squeeze your hands real tight and then let them open, the difference between the two states is how I felt.  That particular week there were no curve balls thrown at me, so I never had a chance to test out what happened.  But then something strange happened.  I had a dream in which that exact scenario of me getting thrown off a plan played out.   In the dream, I initially felt the stress of the curve ball as I refused to relinquish control of my plan.  Then as I slowly loosened my grip and opened myself to the possibility of the moment, I got to have a wonderful new experience.  

The Rolling Stones recorded the song, Time Is On My Side.  Through my experiments, I have learned that time is only on our side if we allow it to be. For time to be on our side, we must let go of our grip on it.  It requires embracing the moments that emerge by pausing and being present to them.  When you do that, you let time flow through you as opposed to trying to bend it to your will.  By experimenting with reframing my time, I was able to feel less stressed, more focused and more present.