The worst relationship in most of our lives is our relationship with time. We’re usually in denial, have too much, not enough, or simply feel enslaved by it. Many of us view time as money even though they can lose multiple fortunes in a lifetime, but never make back a second of their life. Cheap with our money, we cringe at spending a few extra dollars but are quick to waste a few extra hours.
All the while, we spend most of our time waiting. Waiting for that text message, the email, the promotion, the vacation, and inevitably, the end we don’t really believe will ever come. This is the way it’s always been, but it’s not how it has to be. Yet before we can fix what’s broken, we need to isolate exactly where we went wrong. We need to understand which part of time we struggle with most.
Passivity Towards the Past
Passivity towards the past comes from being overly burdened by it. This is a state of constantly living in regret, picking at old scars instead of letting them heal. Building prisons of thought loops, we relive the same moments and repeat the same conversations we wish went differently.
When new situations arise, we act out of old conditioning, accepting ourselves as nothing more but ruins of potential never quite realized. We stitch together mental maps from strings of memories fished from the seas of negativity which have plagued our shores for too long. Is it any wonder we can’t seem to find a way off this condemned island? How could we? When we so boldly hold this map above our heads and proclaim that this is the true version of ourselves!
It’s not a belief that serves us, it’s not a belief we particularly want to have, yet for some strange reason, it’s become one that we’ll fight to the death to keep.
Anxiety Toward the Future
Anxiety toward the future is where we live in most often. We ponder all that could go wrong as our egos beg desperately for external validation. We’ll compulsively check for the reply to the text message or that photo, which we’ll likely delete if it doesn’t get at least 12 likes. Always hurrying even when we’re not late, we can’t wait in line for five minutes, but somehow we’ll spend years not making one step towards our goals. The greatest paradox is that for all our impatience our dreams lay in hibernation waiting for that perfect “tomorrow” that never quite comes.
Asleep In the Present
Asleep in the present means spending most of our lives in a restless sleep state, waking up only for a few blurry moments until the anesthesia takes us out once more. We return to being “busy,” never really stopping to figure out what we actually need. Not what they say we need. Not what society says we need. Not what our parents or friends say we need.
What the voice we haven’t listened to years needs. Yet who has the time for that? Instead, we’ll chase anything and anyone that promises a refuge from those few moments of silence with ourselves. Never really knowing the true us we surrender to the logic that if we at least become rich we can wipe the tears of time wasted with hundred dollar bills. That makes everything better, doesn’t it?
Healing Your Relationship with Time
Yet will that solve all our problems or will it just accelerate them? With so many stories of the rich and famous whose lives plummeted into a downward spiral or that went so far as to take their own lives, it seems the image of success is merely a bandaid trying to hide a tumor.
Healing the Relationship
The first step to fixing the relationship with time is by creating space. This begins with analyzing all of our obligations and responsibilities that demand any portion of it. Some of these are obvious and unavoidable, like the obligations to our bosses or our families.
Yet many are not because we do not even notice them. No one and nothing that owns any part of our time have any intention of owning less of it; not our boss, not our spouse, and definitely not the advertisers that pay Zuckerberg billions every year to sell us more things we don’t need. In our analysis, we may choose to cut out things like:
- Starting that new Netflix show that we’ll binge for the next week
- Gossip at lunch with coworkers
- Excessive social media use
- Not utilizing our time if we have a long commute
- Going out after work for drinks 4 times a week
After managing to create at least a few hours a week for ourselves the next step is to play. As adults, we tend to look at playing as childish and a waste of time. Who plays anymore? It’s looked at as the opposite of learning or working. Yet when we were children, playing was how we discovered the world around us. Everything was about playing. We didn’t do things for money or status.
Everything we did for the sake of the thing itself. We were genuinely interested and curious. Riddled with new ideas and often carried away by the opulence of our imaginations, we were constantly in a state of flow. Time moved so much slower back then. Yet the older we got, the more playing got replaced with routine until 99% of our days became carbon copies of the ones prior. Before we go on let’s be clear on one thing:
“Ideas are the currency of life. Not money. Money gets depleted until you go broke. But good ideas buy you good experiences, buy you better ideas, buy you better experiences, buy you more time, save your life.” – Claudia Azula Altucher
Playing does not mean sitting around drinking beer, playing video games, or any other unconscious behavior to further distract us from ourselves. To play is the process of training the curiosity and creativity muscles we haven’t used in years. At the end of the day, what separates us from the people we look up to is access. Not access to money or resources, but rather access to the types of ideas that took them to the next level.
These aren’t just those “aha” moments, but the constant flow of thousands of micro-ideas on how to execute on those “aha’ moments. Expecting brilliancy and creativity when we spend 99% of our day in the sleep state is the equivalent of walking into the gym on day one and expecting to bench 300 pounds. Luckily, developing this habit takes a lot less time than learning to bench 300 pounds.
2. Start With 10 Ideas a Day
This is the practice of writing down 10 ideas every morning about random themes that were popularized by James Altucher. Training our minds like this breaks us out of routine and equals to 3,650 ideas a year if done daily. Quality of ideas or keeping track is not important for this exercise, however, consistency is.
Just like working out, the first few ideas (reps) are easy. The last two are usually the most difficult and where the most growth happens. It is important to give yourself permission to come up with bad ideas. Love yourself by recognizing that perfection is not the goal here; consistency is.
Potential topic ideas could be:
- New businesses to start
- Best places for my next vacation
- Potential book ideas
- Weird jobs that will be normal in 2159
Do this for about one to two weeks before proceeding to the next phase.
3. Get REALLY Specific
Remember, we face three main challenges with time.
- Passivity towards the past
- Anxiety towards the future
- Asleep in the present
If, for example, you identified anxiety towards the future was the biggest issue you face, the next step is to list 10 things that you may be anxious about. The list can look something like:
- Changing jobs The presentation next week
- How many likes I’ll get on my photo?
- When will they respond to my email?
- How will I fit _____ into my schedule when I have x,y,z to do?
- My credit card bill this month I want a relationship
- Have no plans this weekend, what a loser I must be
- How do I get out of Jim’s birthday dinner next week?
4. Choose One of These Problems:
When making these lists, for example, I want a relationship.
5. List 10 Potential Solutions to it (No Matter How Bad)
- Google events about _____ where I might meet someone with similar interests
- Talk to someone new at a local coffee shop
- Talk to that person in the elevator I keep seeing but never speaking to
- Try meeting someone at that new bar Sign up for an Airbnb experience
- Take a trip to the bookstore (Do those still exist?)
- Friend that person you have 100 mutual friends with but never talk to and risk sounding creepy
- Try a dating app
- Go out during my lunch break and start a conversation with someone that looks interesting
- Take a weekend trip somewhere new
While writing down ideas will prime your creative muscles, the next step (and one 95% of people reading this will not take) is choosing one idea from the list and taking the first step.
Arrange the 10 solutions in order from easiest to hardest and do a new one every single day. Do not move on to the next idea until you have executed on the one prior (successfully or unsuccessfully). Do not quit. Do not make excuses. By breaking down your barriers you are already successful.
Every action you take is another inch towards that “you” you wish you were. Every step forward fades the past, dissolves the future, and wakes you up to the present. Once you go through all ideas on your list, something will be a spark a new idea about this topic or you may expand on a potential solution. In these moments of inspiration, don’t hesitate.
Go down the rabbit hole. It only leads back to yourself. This isn’t where the road ends. It’s where you begin.