It is indeed possible to stretch time—to make the time you have go farther, and use it more for what you really want to do. Stretching time is not difficult if you have the prerequisites: self-awareness, a sense of purpose, thoughtful action, and a playful approach.
As with all successful life skills, time stretching works better if you know yourself well. When you are aware of your priorities—for example, where do work, relationship, family and fun fall on “What’s most important” list? Are you spending the most time on what is most important?
You will be more effective and less stressed if you learn to take charge of your personal and family time. Families need to sit down together and decide what activities are really worth doing, and what is just a “rat race.” Learning to avoid "time sinks"(such as unnecessary email, TV or people who talk too much on the phone) is crucial, because certain people and activities can absorb a lot of time and not be worth it. Becoming “time aware” is the best way to achieve balance.
If you’re a parent, you need time off, too. This can be achieved through allowing children over seven to spend occasional nights at friends' homes, and then reciprocating. This allows both sets of parents a chance to be alone, to go out, to have a break. “Family networks” in which several families (related or not) share time, driving, trade of babysitting, etc. can really expand the amount of time off that each family enjoys.
The key is achieving balance between work/play, self/others, giving/receiving and time off/financial security. Achieving balance between work and the rest of your life is the key to avoiding burnout. You'll be much better at doing this if you are self_aware, think through your options, schedule in personal as well as work time, and learn to be flexible.
Sense of Purpose:
As you become more aware of your priorities, you may also discover a sense of purpose. Or, perhaps you already know what your sense of purpose is. However you arrive at it (and I’ve given instructions in both The Real 13th Step and It Ends With You, if you want more info) knowing what you want to do with your life saves amazing amounts of time. Once you know your purpose, many decisions are made in advance – it becomes a process of deciding which moves will bring you closer to your purpose, which won’t, and that saves the time wasted in experimenting, waffling and being undecided.
Learning to be patient and remain calm also stretches time and relieves stress. Cultivating patience is really learning impulse control: Learn how to do “emotional maintenance” and shake off stress; How to quit when something is getting to you. It’s an issue in self_control. To acquire patience, you must stop the impulse to quit, change your thinking/attitude, call a friend to get encouragement. People who do need to learn patience don't know how to tell they're being impulsive, or how to stop. They often have a sense of entitlement (“I just didn't want to wait”— said with some pride) and a lack of emotional maturity. They're actually like emotional three-year-olds in adult bodies. To learn the necessary patience and determination to reach long-term goals, practice on small things first, and learn how to sort through what is worth exercising patience, and what is not.
For example, there are situations and people you have to work a little bit more to understand what they mean, to not take what they say the wrong way, or use a little more patience around them, because their personalities or styles are quite different from yours.
Perhaps you have run into people who test your patience at work, with friends, or among extended family. Sometimes people are difficult to handle because they remind us of other people we had problems with in the past, so we're attracted and frustrated at the same time. Others can be difficult for many people around them. Problems with a familiar type of person may not emerge until you're already bonded and involved as friends or partners.
The following exercise will help you step back and look at others as a source of information about yourself, view people from a different angle and use the very people who upset you as a reflection of the internal dynamics behind your struggles.
To let go of small things:
1. Perspective—put them in perspective—will it be important an hour from now—fifteen minutes from now? Most of them won’t be.
2. Self-understanding: If someone or something upsets you, don’t exacerbate the problem by getting on your own case for reacting. Reactions are normal—it’s what we do with them that counts.
3. Rise above: If someone frightened you (a driver who cut you off) then give a little prayer of thanks that you survived, bless the other driver (who probably needs it) and you’ll feel better.
4. Benefit of the doubt: If someone hurt your feelings, acknowledge that your feelings are hurt, then consider that the other person is probably more clumsy than intentionally hurtful. The world is full of emotional klutzes who don’t realize the impact of their words and actions, and they create more problems for themselves than for you.
5. Consider the source: A neighbor or associate who is truly nasty may repeatedly hurt your feelings. Consider what must be going on inside that person’s head, and be grateful that you’re not hearing that. Even the meanest people are far nastier to themselves than they are to others. That person is trying to relieve his or her pain by inflicting some on you.
Acting thoughtfully rather than impulsively means that your actions are effective, and therefore more time saving.
Because time is valuable, learn to budget it the way you budget your money. In counseling my clients, I have found that putting yourself on a “time diet” works wonders. Be wary of “time sinks”—TV, computers, email, etc. and phone conversations with people who talk a lot to no purpose. Learn to say “no” to non-essential time wasters, so you can spend more time doing those things important to you. Knowing how to balance and to prioritize, cooperate and schedule your time so that everything will have a place is the key. Individuals and couples need to prioritize, cooperate and schedule their time so that everything will have a place. Becoming “time aware” is the best way to achieve balance. Achieving balance between work and the rest of your life is the key to avoiding burnout. You'll be much better at doing this if you are self_aware, think through your options, schedule in personal as well as work time, and learn to be flexible.
Sometimes, having duplicate tools and supplies saves time—for example, having scissors, makeup, nail files, etc in several places in the house, so they're where you need them when you want them, or if you travel a lot, as I do, having your travel kit permanently available, with items you need, and keep it only for travel. I have a separate ‘kit’ for several activities: one for the gym, one for the pool, one for my music lessons, one for church choir. When I come home from a trip or a workout, I replenish the kit so it’s ready for the next time. For example, when I come home from the pool, I take out the wet towels, put in dry ones—and I’m ready to go next time.
A playful approach may not specifically stretch time, but it does make you feel that the time spent is worth it. One way to enjoy the time you have, and feel more satisfied, is to remember that life is not supposed to be all seriousness __ to really feel that life is worth living, we all need to have some fun. Yes, fun. You remember fun! Pleasure, humor, leisure activities, and silliness are ways we recharge, renew our energy, restore our hope and positive outlook, and connect with others.
Fun does not depend on spending money or going to extremes. It does not depend on a particular setting, companion, or activity, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Having fun is an internal process. You can have fun sitting still and thinking about interesting or enjoyable things, or working in your garden, petting the cat, talking quietly with one friend, or playing cards with a few. Singing, dancing, playing a sport and drawing a picture are fun pastimes for some people. If you’re like me, playing with your brain is fun. Fun creates a deep internal connection, too. Through play we re_connect with our hearts, our childlike selves, and the intuitive, spontaneous part of our psyches.
For many people today (due, in part, no doubt, to the images of pleasure seen in the media), the definition of fun has been distorted. Some ideas of what is fun are connected with excess, such as having a couple of drinks or engaging in “extreme” sports. Some people think that to have fun, they must spend a lot of money traveling or dining out. Others think that to have fun, they must be around the “right kind of people”. Saddest of all are those who rely on others to “create” their fun.
Most of us think of fun as something we do on special occasions, something that requires a bit of advance planning. We have whole industries dedicated to helping us play it seems as though a new theme park opens every week. But when you look back on your most joyous life experiences, they are more likely to have been spontaneous and simple rather than elaborate and expensive. Play is recreation—that is activity that “re-creates” us, causes us to see life differently and be refreshed by the change.
You do not have to separate play and fun from anything else you're doing. A lighthearted approach to serious matters often is the most productive one. Try laughter—getting yourself a desk calendar with a new cartoon every day, sharing a joke you got via email, telling a co-worker the cute thing your kid said (or listening to his story) or talking about the funny scene in the latest hit movie—will lower your blood pressure, calm your pulse and generally help you release a lot of stress.
(Adapted from It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction and The 10 Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make Before 40)
© 2005 Tina B. Tessina