Your Time. Your Choice.
What would you do if you found out your days on Earth were numbered? How might you change the way you spend your time, or the choices you make, to focus on what really matters – on what you really want?
Now what if I told you: your days are numbered.
That was the message that rang loud and clear in my headphones this week as I listened to another episode of the Hurry Slowly podcast – a fantastic discussion series on the art of moving more purposefully and thoughtfully through work and life. In this week’s interview, host Jocelyn K. Glei spoke with writer Oliver Burkeman, an expert on time management. Given that title, I expected a discussion on the best ways to track time, save time, or find more time; what I got instead was perhaps one of the most insightful prompts about time I’ve heard in, well, a long time.
Oliver starts out by suggesting we imagine each of us has, on average, 4000 weeks in a life. We could see that number and feel sad, confused or even paralyzed (after all, no one likes thinking they have an expiration date). Instead, Oliver says, why not see this finite amount of time as a reality to be embraced, one that helps us cut out the bullsh*t and focus on the things that truly matter?
If we take the stance that our days are numbered, Oliver reasons we might as well also take as certain fact that we just won’t get to everything on our to-do list. In fact, it’s likely we’ll fail at getting most things done, simply because we’ll run out of time! Not only that, but if we don’t do everything we’d like to do in those 4000 weeks, it’s also likely we’ll disappoint some people in the process, maybe even inconvenience them or make them angry. At which point Oliver asks: wouldn’t you rather know that you are not disappointing the people who truly matter – like yourself?
To say I felt liberated is an understatement. You’re telling me I can’t possibly get everything done? That I should accept that I simply can’t get to everything and that I should focus only on the stuff I really want to do? A seed was planted.
Next up came another little seed planted in my yoga class this week. My teacher encouraged us to view ourselves as peaceful, calm beings moving through the world – calm beings who choose to invite disturbances into our lives. These disturbances might be positive (changes like a new job or a new relationship) or negative (like a volatile partner or a bad boss), but they are disturbances to our quiet environment nonetheless – ones that we ultimately choose to invite in. Which ones, she asked, will you choose to invite into your quiet life? What's worth the disturbance?
We get to choose.
We only have limited time.
The other night, I scribbled in the margin of my journal: When I’m old and gray, will I ever say: I wish I had done more work?
Sitting there in bed, I laughed out loud at the absurdity of it. And yet – here I’ve been, debating and contemplating (in my head and with others) about my path, how I make money, what I ‘should’ do with my life and my career. By simply asking that one question, I had suddenly washed away the uncertainty and knew in an instant the answer.
My time. My choice. My life.
When the universe wants to send you a message, she’ll put that message everywhere to make sure you’re paying attention. As I closed out this week, I was scrolling through Facebook when I just happened to see a post from my coach Melanie. It read:
“Your life. Your journey, Your choices. You matter.”
Turns out the clock really is ticking. Let’s go make some choices.