Do you have the time? Well, what if you did?
In the 1963 Twilight Zone episode A Kind of Stopwatch, Patrick McNulty does not fit in. His irritating personality and know-it-all nature wins him no friends and even gets him fired from his job. Later that day in a neighborhood bar, he meets a strange man named Potts who offers him an unusual stopwatch. McNulty soon discovers that this watch has the magical ability to stop time. When the button is pushed, all action freezes, allowing him the luxury to move unencumbered until he once again presses the button and resumes life events. What does McNulty do with such a remarkable, valuable treasure? He screws it up, of course. After failing to get his job back, he decides to rob a bank. In the process, he drops and breaks the watch, leaving time permanently paused and ensuring he will be forever isolated from others.
When I was I boy, I often fantasized I had a watch like this. Maybe you did, too. Surely, if you or I had this gift we would use it wisely, unlike Mr. McNulty. We would use the power for good – to avert tragedies, correct injustice, or at the very least clean out our garages. We would reclaim control over our days and create extra time as needed for the important and often neglected items on our to-do lists. After all, we would all be more satisfied and successful if we only had a little more time.
There simply isn’t “enough time” in the day. If we just had one more day in the week, we would be able to catch up on what we need to do. We’d have the time for all the other projects that just don’t fit into our “regularly scheduled programming.” What would you do with one more day?I am going to go out on a limb and suggest you would most likely do the same things you did yesterday and will do today and tomorrow.
How we spend our time is a reflection of what we value and, ultimately, who we are. So, why would a “bonus day” change your nature, revolutionize your priorities, or alter your decided path? It wouldn’t. No, I think you and I would continue onward, as we are accustomed, content to spend our extra time chipping away at the same “living sculptures” we have been creating all along. A little more progress will be our only reward.
We have a co dependent relationship with our concept of time. We need to feel the constraints of the ticking clock in order to feel motivated to move. We wake up and head into work because it is “time” to do so. We stop when the clock says we should, or we resent the fact that we aren’t finished and have to work past the anticipated hour. After all, that means we will have less time with our families, or to exercise, or to watch our televisions, read our books, or visit with our friends. Time is limited. There is never enough. So we conclude: If we only had more time, we could certainly make better sense out of life and be more complete, loving, and useful.
Nope. Wrong answer. As you’ll see in a minute, this is really a form of self delusion. This mind set has become part of our mental programming, and it is reinforced by external influences thousands of times every day. We are told by marketers that we need faster computers, instant food, speed dating, quick workouts, and shortcuts to spiritual growth. Turn on the radio during our morning drive to work, and we can get world news in ninety seconds, traffic and weather “on the tens” and a steady stream of experts sharing pithy advice about relationships, money management, child care, sex, and, of course, life balance. Each person offers a beautifully crafted and concise solution to a complex problem. Should you try to implement their teachings, you’d likely find them to be incomplete, unrealistic or inadequate. No matter, though. You won’t implement their advice. After all, there isn’t enough time.
The attitudes and belief systems we have constructed about time are unhealthy and untrue. Yet they serve a purpose, keeping us in a pattern of behavior that perpetuates the cycles of consumption and economic growth – we persistently purchase products, feverishly work, indulge in entertainment escapes, and remain blissfully unaccountable for our shortcomings. It’s not our fault that life is hollow and unsatisfying. We can’t be blamed for failing to maintain our relationships. There’s not enough time. That position is unacceptable. Using time as an excuse to justify our life situation is a cop out, and I sincerely hope you and I will stop doing so, because “not enough time” is not the problem.
1. Recognize you have all the time there is. Heads of state, parents of eleven children, and the world’s greatest achievers have exactly the same amount of time you do: 86,400 seconds every single day. The difference is, their relationship with time is different. They use it as a tool, not a crutch. So can you.
2. Stop using time as an excuse. Remove the phrases “I don’t have the time” and “I’m too busy” from your vocabulary. When you decline an invitation or assignment, or when you explain why you didn’t return a phone call immediately, take responsibility for your actions. Instead of saying “I don’t have the time” or “I’m too busy” (everyone is busy and they don’t want to hear that you are) say something like “I’m handling other priorities that really need my attention.” Or tell them “I’m engaged in something really important right now. Let me follow through with this and get back to you when I can give you my complete attention.” See how that language validates your efforts instead of diminishing them as futile or inadequate.
3. Become a Master of the Moment. Time mastery is not as much about squeezing hours as it is about seizing moments. When we do, we can shorten our learning curves, deepen our relationships, and accomplish our tasks with focused attention. Seize the moments to plan, as well as the moments to play. Identify the purpose behind your movements and they will become direct and deliberate instead of circuitous. Without purpose, activity expands to fill the available time.
Anybody want to buy a stopwatch? It’s only been used once. It doesn’t work. Never has. In fact it’s just an idea I need to get rid of.
With encouragement all the time,
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