As the first month of the new year nears its end, I find myself thinking about its passage and how I’ve spent it. I think about whom I’ve seen or reached out to and where I’ve been. In some ways, I’ve fallen short of my self-expectations, and in others, I’ve surprised myself with what I’ve been able to accomplish in a few short weeks, sometimes in a single day.
I’ve always favored quality over quantity: in my relationships, in what I consume, and in nearly everything I set out to do. But one area that remains a challenge is how I spend my time. Where structure fails, distraction takes root; along with idleness and envy, impatience and anticipation.
If we spent our free time reading a few chapters of a new book or going for a run, instead of being at the mercy of each new notification or an excessive list of to-dos, would we feel like our days belonged to us again? If we set out to accomplish one or two major tasks each day instead of four or five, could we feel proud of our progress instead of weighed down by our procrastination?
What defines the quality of your hours? Forget about how many you have, and instead focus on the intricacies of each moment. What do they look like?
Maximizing your days’ potential doesn’t mean filling them to the brim. Perhaps it simply means being out in nature and nothing more. Maybe it means people-watching at your favorite cafe or going for a long walk with your dog.
When you focus on the quality of your time, your hours, days, weeks, and months become less about fitting in as much as you can and more about developing the self-discipline to create space for what makes you feel whole, enriched, renewed, energized, and awake.
If we set out to accomplish one or two major tasks each day instead of four or five, could we feel proud of our progress instead of weighed down by our procrastination?
Does this mean that you won’t ever take an extra meeting, spend time cleaning when you’d rather be cooking, or choose to sleep in over going for your morning run? Of course not.
But it does mean that you can get serious about your precious hours and how you want to spend them.
Our time is ours and whether we use it for sleeping, surfing the web, or signing up for salsa dancing is up to us.
You can start by picking two things you want to do every day: exercise, read, go for a walk, meditate, cook, sew, study, paint, write, hike, sing… if every day seems like too much, start with every week.
Then do them. That’s all. For five minutes or five hours. The point isn’t to do as many as you can, it’s to choose the ones that matter most and make room for them.
The fewer you choose the better. Pick any more than three or four and you’re likely to default back to your superhuman ways. While you may not meditate every morning, work out twice a day, cook all your meals from scratch, and still manage to finish that bestseller you’ve been working on while launching your new work-from-home enterprise, you might just discover a new author you love; eat outside more; connect with distant friends; revive an old hobby; learn something new.
Start small and stay small. There’s so much to be gained from taking time for yourself in a meaningful way each day.