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It's About Time


“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst." -- William Penn

The movie In Time was released in 2011, starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, and Cillian Murphy, as a futuristic, sci-fi version of Robin Hood. The movie's plot is that people live in a world where time is the currency; the poor die young, and the rich live forever (without aging past 25).

Unlike in the movie, we cannot get more time by collecting a paycheck, cutting back our spending, or receiving an inheritance. We only have the time we've been given -- not a second more, not a second less.

As we work through our new book, It's About Time, by Valorie Burton, we will better understand how we can use the time we've been given to engage in what is truly meaningful and avoid "false urgencies."

The New Normal is Not Normal

If you're anything like me, you often think you can accomplish significantly more in your 24-hour day than you can. And when you fail to get it all checked off the list, you feel like you didn't get anything done, even if you did.

"Our culture makes it so that even the most organized and efficient among us feels the pressure of the ticking clock and the possibility and regret of missing out." In other words, we're set up by our very environments to fall prey to stress, pressure, and overload because our culture says it's normal to go, go, go all the time. We pack our schedules so full that if we wake up 15 minutes late, we've already fallen behind in our day.

While our culture may pressure you into thinking this is "normal," the reality is that most of these urgent things that demand our time and attention are fake. We give them our attention because we think they give our lives meaning, but the pace most of us assume is slowly killing our bodies, relationships, identities, and joy. They focus our lives on doing more than on being.

However, "if we intentionally choose what's meaningful over the false urgencies that try to demand our attention daily, then we can reclaim our time and live lives that we will look back on with peace rather than regret."

Urgent versus Meaningful

"The option in front of us about how to spend our time are not equal. They may feel equal, especially the tasks and opportunities that have become the norm, that others deem important, and that are celebrated and rewarded with tangible and immediate feedback. Today there are even more time demands that fit into this category: unnecessary or unproductive meetings, social media, overinvolvement in extracurricular activities, or anything that feels urgent even though, in the grand scheme of life, it isn't."

"False urgency steals time from the things that are meaningful. Your to-do list may feel urgent. Your self-imposed deadlines may stress you out. But what if you stepped back and asked yourself, "What is the most meaningful choice I can make right now?"

To discover what is meaningful, we first need to value ourselves and our time; we can't determine if something is worth our time if we don't know what our time is worth. When our insecurities (i.e., FoMO, people pleasing, etc.) devalue our time, we take it for granted and are more likely to squander it. It's that much harder to say "no" to requests that are not meaningful, set boundaries with people who would use up or abuse our time, and use our time wisely (a.k.a. not waste it).

Once we have a firm grasp on how valuable our time is, we should evaluate every "time expense" in light of that. Will your participation be valuable tomorrow, next year, or ten years from now? Does it teach you something or help you grow? Does it move your life in the direction you want to go? Does it add value to someone else and positively impact their life?

"Spent in meaningful ways, your time can build a life you are excited to live, heal and build relationships, and create a positive legacy that multiplies your impact. But if your perspective is skewed about the true value of your time, you won't see the urgency of making a change."

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." -- J.R.R. Tolkien

A New Kind of Poverty

Harvard economist, Sendhil Mullainathan, identified two new types of poverty: time poverty and bandwidth poverty.

Time poverty is when we incur "debt" from engaging in too many obligations. Overspending our time is much like overspending our money: we borrow from future resources but often fall behind and feel the pressure of never being able to catch up.

Bandwidth poverty is a lack of attention because we give it to too many things that spend our mental energy. When we stretch our mental resources too thin, it negatively impacts our decisions, increases our stress levels, and devalues our commitments.

"The world we live in today is more demanding than the world our parents and grandparents and ever we grew up in. There are more options and distractions. Your brain isn't wired for what you deal with daily, and if you're not careful, the way you react to the environment you have been thrust into can literally make you feel as though it's nearly impossible to change."

  • What are your true priorities, and how does the way you spend your time reflect those priorities?

  • What stresses you most about the time challenges you face, and what do you control that could ease that stress?

  • Looking into the future, what is your hope for the big change you would like to see for yourself and your family?

This week, consider the following questions:

  • Make a list of your "time expenses," the activities that reflect how you spend your time (i.e., sleeping, eating, working, taking care of family, watching TV/movies, etc.)

  • Besides each time expense, write the cost of that activity in hours and minutes per day, week, and month.

  • Calculate the percentage of each of your time expenses against your allotted allowance (#/24 hrs. in a day, #/168 hrs. in a week, #/720 hrs. in a month)

  • Resist the temptation to judge yourself by the results. This exercise builds awareness so you know where and how to change for a better future.

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