How to Stretch Time – 24 Hours Is Enough!

Copyright 2006

Recently, as I participated in a live-to-air TV training session on Time Management (for Pacific Knowledge Television) a caller rang in with a question. He is in the computer industry, and wanted to know how he could balance his heavy and demanding workload with the demands of a young family. The question lingers in my mind – for a large sector of society it is a serious matter.

The issue is how we view time. It seems that we never have enough.

My man desperately wanted to know how to find the time to enjoy his children. His question is cried out in offices, classrooms, boardrooms and homes throughout the western world.

Today many of us live in a world of sensory overload, of speed, and a sense of time-poverty. Technology moves faster and faster. We feel as if we can never catch up, that there is never enough time. But it’s illusion. Time hasn’t changed – we have.

So – what can we do? Here are a few strategies for you.

Whatever we Focus on Enlarges:
If our whole attention and our top priorities are our important and demanding work, our families, our relationships and our health will suffer. In order to find time for these areas, which so often get lip service, three actions are needed – ‘mind-space’, time allocation, and physical action. A good intention is useless unless acted on. You might have to take time out from work to regularly do things with your family, or for yourself. In most jobs that time will easily be made up with extra hours, or you can arrange ‘glide-time’.

What are your KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators)?
How can you judge your efficacy as a parent or partner? How much time do you allocate? Make appointments with yourself and your family on a weekly basis, treat them as seriously as appointments with a key client, and you’ll find the other ‘stuff’ fits in and around your core personal activities.

Schedule in the Important People In Your Week
If you don’t block in ‘special’ time with your special people, they’ll eventually get tired of waiting. Do you remember the old song by Harry Chapin, ‘Cat’s in the cradle’? The little boy, waiting for his dad to spend time with him, kept saying, ‘One day I’ll be just like you’. When his dad was an old man, longing to see the son who never came, he found that indeed, the promise had been delivered. If you wait for ‘spare time’ you’ll never have it.

Live in the ‘Now’
Today many of us have forgotten how to live in the moment. We make bedfellows of stress and anxiety. We focus either on the past and what we could have done better, or in the future – planning or worrying over coming events. We’re so busy squeezing more in to every moment that most of us forget to be ‘present’. We therefore miss the joy of the experience. And so time seems to race by – because we’re not ‘in’ it.

Change Your Language
Notice your words, and how the people around you speak. How often do you hear ‘I’m so busy’, ‘I can’t fit it in’, ‘I have no time’, and ‘I’m always late/overworked/tired/have too much to do’? Start to use affirmations like ‘I’m getting much better at my time management’ or ‘There is always enough time to do the things that matter’.

An Attitude of Gratitude
Practice honouring the moment. Develop a sense of gratitude for the gift of life, for the beauty of small things. Find something in every event to appreciate. This is not just ‘Pollyanna’ behaviour – it will enhance your health and stretch your hours.

Enjoy the Mundane
Next time you wash the dishes, the car, mow the lawns, feed the children, sort out the paperwork on your desk or any other simple task, enjoy the activity for itself. Try not to spend the time in which your body is occupied thinking about something else. Don’t wish the task was completed – honour the moment and the experience. You’ll be more relaxed when you finish. Time will expand instead of leaving you with the feeling of hurry, pressure and impatience often felt with a mundane task. And many times you’ll be surprised to find that it was a pleasant duty instead of the chore you didn’t want to do.

Learn to meditate, or if this seems too hard, try every day to sit quietly for at least 10 minutes. Focus on a plant or some other object. As thoughts drift into your mind acknowledge them and let them go. Breathe deeply from your abdomen, mentally saying ‘Breathe out’ with every outgoing breath and ‘Breathe in’ with every incoming breath. This helps you slow down to the natural rhythms around you. It ‘stretches’ time.

Recommended reading
Time Shifting by Stephan Rechtschaffen. Random, 1996.
Father Time by Daniel Petre. Macmillan, 1998.
Time On, Time Out! by Susan Biggs & Kerry Fallon Horgan, Allen & Unwin, 1999