When you get to the end of your life, the sum total of all the things you paid attention to will have been your life ~ Oliver Burkeman
It’s the first day of the third month of 2022. Really?? Where did the first two months of 2022 go?
Time has been on my mind lately. Like health, time is something we take for granted, until something changes. Illness, injury, infection – these take a toll on the body and make us aware of our thoughtlessness when it comes to caring for ourselves.
We can actually qualify our health status as good or bad (or somewhere in between). But time slips by unnoticed, like breath. It can’t be held or hoarded or bought or sold.
So much happens every single day.
- Things we notice.
- Things we do.
- Stuff that we celebrate.
- Stuff that we procrastinate.
So much we accomplish. So much we forget.
The words, the actions, the choices. Oh, the choices!
Where does all this go?
- To memories
- To creations
- To life itself
It all adds up.
Our relationship with time
I spent most of last week listening to the audiobook – Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman. The subtitle of the book is Time Management for Mortals and it took me 6 hours of listening time to get through it’s content.
Given that I am most often strapped for time, I wondered if this was a good use of this precious resource. To be honest, for about 25% of the book, I wondered where Burkeman was going. He listed a lot of caveats, quoted lots of thinkers and writers and researchers and generally meandered about, making me unsure of continuing with the book.
I had several other audiobooks downloaded on my Libby app and would have happily switched over to something lighter. Fiction perhaps? Yet, I persisted. And was rewarded for it.
Along with many other startling questions, Burkeman actually enquires whether time is a resource in the first place.
Which of the following descriptions do you identify with when it comes to TIME?
- Time is a vehicle that transports you across life
- Time is an instrument that you need to learn to use and master
- Time is a container into which you need to fill it as much as you can
- Time is a river in which you flow unaware that it is surrounds you completely (just as fish don’t know they are in water)
Is it possible to have a healthy relationship with time?
Burkeman turns the concept of time on it’s head and studies it from so many angles that you begin to wonder about your own understanding of the finite number of years that you have been gifted in this lifetime and what you intend to do with it.
Did you know that an average life span equals four thousand weeks?
He uses sound arguments, deep research and his own experiences to illuminate our modern day obsession with productivity, accomplishment and maximizing success.
Burkeman suggests that we should begin with the understanding that we will never get everything on our to-do list done, that we will miss out on more things in the world than what we will do (FOMO is real), and quite often we will do things that are not pleasurable while we are doing it (changing diapers for example).
Instead of considering time in terms of discrete units or as a commodity to be maximally utilized, what if we come to understand that time is something
- whose value increases when shared with others
- can be deployed towards activities that we don’t need to excel at
- can be devoted to doing the next necessary thing instead of something extraordinary
My current take on time
Despite our best-laid plans and grandest good intentions, life seldom travels in a neat, linear fashion. It curves, meanders and makes u-turns and sometimes even leaps out and catches us off guard.
Sometimes we celebrate, at other times we complain. Usually we can’t see the pattern until it shows up in the rear view mirror, twinkling brightly with a naughty grin, wearing a smug – I told you so expression.
Like a child whose incomprehensible antics make us smile, we can only shake our head (or fist) at this darling devil without whom there would be no life as we know it.
As I grapple with the fallout and the epiphany arising from my brush with burnout last year, I find myself struggling to do less in 2022. From multitasking to focusing exclusively on one thing at a time, from consuming content about productivity to walking mindfully, and from adding more to my plate to walking away from things, the past two months have not been easy.
Discovering that my signature strength is love of learning and that my brain is hardwired to seek and do more, has made it more complicated and confusing. While I don’t aspire for excellence in everything I do, I certainly veer towards trying more things. And that results in tipping over my tenuous control of the limited hours I have been allotted each day.
The days will go by. It will slip out of our calendars and planners, escape from our tight grasp and run away. Yet when we let time flow around us, like breath, it will fill us up and give us …..life!