I had plans to pray this week. Or to try it perhaps. It’s been many, many months since I have raised silent words to the ceiling, letting them float beyond it carrying my concerns and gratitudes. It is not that I have been ungrateful—in fact, I whisper thanks to the universe at least as often as I eat. But I just haven’t been able to pray, and elevate seemed like the perfect nudge.
But before I got a chance to try it, I stumbled upon a TEDtalk that changed the trajectory of my week and got me thinking about priorities. About how I elevate some things above others and why the things that theoretically rank the highest on the list don’t always get the most time.
The talk: “How to gain control of your free time” by Laura Vanderkam
My delight in planning and organization, habit and routine, immediately drew me to the title–life and time hacks are among some of my favorite things to learn about.
However, Laura disappointed me (momentarily), and she struck a very tender nerve.
First of all, she didn’t give me a single tip or trick that made me at least 10% more productive, and second, she confirmed what I was already starting to realize after an hour of past-my-bedtime, mindless Instagram scrolling: maybe a lack of time is not the problem—how I am spending it might be.
Although I recommend you watch the talk for yourself, the summary I would deliver is essentially the thesis Laura asserts: we have more than enough time to do whatever we need and want to do.
Seriously, we do; Laura’s crunched the numbers:
There are 168 hours in a week. Twenty-four times seven is 168 hours. That is a lot of time. If you are working a full-time job, so 40 hours a week, sleeping eight hours a night, so 56 hours a week — that leaves 72 hours for other things. That is a lot of time. You say you’re working 50 hours a week, maybe a main job and a side hustle. Well, that leaves 62 hours for other things. You say you’re working 60 hours. Well, that leaves 52 hours for other things.
This was a shocking realization nine minutes into the video, but, truthfully, Laura had captivated me in under two minutes when she prominently used my #oneword365, build:
We don’t build the lives we want by saving time. We build the lives we want, and then time saves itself.
Laura makes more than a few salient points in 12 minutes:
About how not-enough-time is really an alternate fact, because when life demands we give it our attention—with a leaking pipe or an illness or a friend in crisis—we have enough time to give life. Hours magically appear.
About how not-enough-time is really just the way we avoid taking ownership of the priorities we are setting without realizing it.
I mean, this is the story we tell ourselves and, often, other people:
Busy is why I can’t hang out tonight.
Importance is why I can’t put down my damn phone for a few hours while we share a meal.
Too-much-to-do is why my shelves are filled with unread books.
But, in reality:
The truth is I don’t want to hang out–either because I just need some down time or because you just drain my energy (both of which can be hard to say to some in our lives).
The truth is I didn’t even think about how my actions may affect you.
The truth is watching Netflix is easier.
Laura has spent a considerable amount of time tracking how highly successful people spend their time, especially the seemingly insignificant and brief periods of time between other engagements (It’s not on Instagram, in case you were wondering), and she’s figured a few things out:
Small moments can have great power. You can use your bits of time for bits of joy. Maybe it’s choosing to read something wonderful on the bus on the way to work. I know when I had a job that required two bus rides and a subway ride every morning, I used to go to the library on weekends to get stuff to read. It made the whole experience almost, almost, enjoyable. Breaks at work can be used for meditating or praying. If family dinner is out because of your crazy work schedule, maybe family breakfast could be a good substitute.
It’s about looking at the whole of one’s time and seeing where the good stuff can go. I truly believe this. There is time. Even if we are busy, we have time for what matters. And when we focus on what matters, we can build the lives we want in the time we’ve got.
Our week of elevating has come to a close, but I’m just starting to really think about the ways I can raise my awareness and prioritize, elevate, the things that should be filling up my days. How to make them start taking up some damn space.* Space to take care of myself. Space to soothe my soul; space to nourish it–with the people and things I love. Space to make sure, as Megfee said, that “my actions align with my value system.”
This coming week:
Here’s to CHANCE.
Steph’s WITHDRAW Mantra: “Be stingy with your time and spend it in spaces that fill you up.” Janet Mock
Steph’s Song of the Week: “Lot to Learn” by Luke Christopher
Stay tuned for Lin’s #VOWelevate post.
* “Take up some damn space” is basically my new favorite phrase, borrowed from this total badass I follow on Instagram: Aubrey Renee.