Running out of Time? Uncommon Thoughts on What You Can Do about It

Hourglass

A birthday is a reminder to stop and reflect on a year gone by. How did we fare? Did we grow and learn? Did we have fun? Was it a good year? Are we wiser, happier, healthier, or more successful?

From birth, we each develop a personal relationship with time. As I have a birthday coming soon, I thought I’d revisit my relationship with time.

Looking back at what I have written in the past, I realize that I’m obsessed with time. Searching this blog, I found time mentioned in 317 articles out of 331 articles published to date. As I get older (and closer to the finish line), my obsession with time intensifies. I feel I’m running out of time.

How much time do I have left? What do I want to do with it? Am I living enough?

How about you? Do you ask the same questions?

I’ve been on a mission for years to simplify my life, and have reduced most of the useless noise. But I still feel I don’t have enough time.

The underlying belief that I’m running out of time strains my relationship with time itself. It’s not a relationship built on mutual respect and appreciation. It’s needy and desperate—always trying to hold on to time, hoping to stretch the hours and days beyond their capacity. What I end up with is a more distorted perception of time flying at an accelerating speed away from me.

What happens when we feel we’re running out of time

When we feel we don’t have enough time, we struggle with one, or more, of the following.

Rushing: The faster time moves, the faster we feel we need to move. We rush through life, and life rushes right back with mistakes to be fixed, distracted work that needs to be redone, or an ever absent mind that’s chasing the future and forgetting to live the present.

Indecision and Hesitation: If there isn’t enough time, then I need to make sure I’m making the right decision to avoid wasting time making mistakes. Time wastes away as I contemplate what to do, and then I feel worse about the time that’s lost with nothing to show for it.

Escaping and numbing: When we feel stressed and not having enough time, we turn to apathy and helplessness. There is nothing we can do, so why not just escape our despair and numb the pain of inaction with more of the same?

Fear of missing out and comparison envy: The problematic relationship with time can be projected onto our relationship with others. What are others up to? Are we missing out? When we feel we’re not living enough, we try to fill the void by seeking external approval and reassurance that we’re doing well. No matter how much validation we receive, it hardly lasts or feels enough.

Stress and overwhelm: If we believe we’re running out of time, we’ll face tremendous pressure to use what we have well. We rush, hesitate, escape, compare, and add to our stress levels. And time slips away even more—who’d want to hang out with someone who’s always anxious?

If we want to relieve the self-inflicted pain from the above issues, we need to work on our relationship with time. We can’t make up for lost time. The past is never coming back, and the future may or may not come. We can only work on our relationship with time in the present.

A new approach: A healthy relationship with time

Instead of viewing time as a metric or concept, let’s give it life. Imagine that time is a person you care about. You want to have the best relationship possible with this person—in spite of the difficult past. This is what I’m trying to do and I hope the following can work for you. We’ll start with the most important step.

1. Take responsibility for our choices and actions: The first thing we can do in any relationship is to own our choices and actions. They are solely our responsibility. At this point, I don’t want to look at the past, but I want to consider my current choices and how they impact time. Just this process alone can save us a lot of grief.

Before each action, stop for a moment and ask: Is this the best thing for me? Is this choice the best thing for time?

2. Examine our priorities: Our relationship with time is directly linked to our relationship with our priorities and values. The stressful relationship with time is an indication that we’re not making conscious choices that reflect our truth.

Before taking action, we need to clarify what’s important to us.

3. Let go of wanting to manage time: Time moves at its own pace; it’s out of our control. What we can do is manage our choices and actions by prioritizing what matters and leaving space for unforeseen interruptions.

4. Bring expectations back to reality: Having realistic expectations is a must in every relationship. Letting go of what life should look like (based on imposed societal expectations and ego-driven desires) will allow us to be true to ourselves. It will also allow time to help us in living our truth.

5. Respect and appreciate time: Time is fleeting, as is our existence and every relationship we have. Time is worthy of our respect, and appreciation—it’s the dimension that allows us to exist in this form, and experience life.

6. Trust, yet protect time: If we love our time, we need to protect it from unnecessary distractions and unrealistic demands with clear boundaries. At the same time, we need to trust that life is unfolding moment after moment as it’s meant to be.

In the delicate dance between trusting life and protecting our time and priorities lies the art of living.

7. Enjoy the ride: If we were to do all the above, and listen to what time wanted, my guess it would tell us one thing: Enjoy!

Enjoying life in the time and space we have is the ultimate freedom. We savor the flavors and sensations of life. We relish the rewards of success and welcome the lessons of failure. We embrace the contradictions and mystery of the world, and we make peace with ourselves and our time.

How much time is enough to live a full life? Is there ever enough time? Or is it always enough and we just don’t know it? I have no idea.

No matter what we think of time, we still feel it passing every minute. Time is our partner in life. It will be there for us as long as we’re alive. Here is to a fruitful and loving relationship with time!

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