Having more time during the quarantine (stay at home, work from home, safer at home) has confirmed that stress over how I spend my time isn’t about how much time I have. For years I’ve felt this internal pressure to maximize my time. Pressure to have balance between work and fun. To achieve goals, relax, pursue personal growth, and seek joy and happiness. Not necessarily experiencing joy and success in synchrony. At the same time, I am often looking beyond the present. Looking towards the things “I can’t wait for.” For example, I can’t wait for my infant son to start speaking. It’s true that when he learns to speak, we will have lots of fun, BUT, when I’m daydreaming of the future, I’m missing out on how great and precious he is right now. He has no teeth and his gummy smile is one of my favorite features. I don’t want to miss enjoying these early moments.
Other examples of “I can’t wait” statements: I can’t wait for summer, I can’t wait for quarantine to be over, I can’t wait for the weekend, I can’t wait to be done writing this article. These are traps. It is easy to become trapped into reaching and looking for what comes next. Have you ever gone on vacation and felt like it takes a few days to relax into the moment? Maybe it’s because it takes time to turn off the “I can’t waits” and just enjoy the moment on the beach, dinner at the hotel, or reading a book by the pool. Your traps might sound different than “I can’t wait”. What language patterns can you recognize that take you out of the present moment?
Recently, I’ve found myself with more time, but even more stress about how to maximize that time. What can I get done? Outside pressure creeps in as those I talk to wonder what it’s like for me in quarantine and what I’m doing to pass the time. They’ve spent time attempting new hobbies, gardening, and creating things. Even more pressure now because there is a general assumption that we all have more time. So why do I feel like there still isn’t enough? This is possibly the most time I’ll ever have, why am I still stressed?
Many of us have a fear of complacency or FOMO (fear of missing out). We spend so much energy trying to be the most productive or trying to make sure we’re doing the most interesting thing available. No one wants to waste our most valuable resource. In the end, I think we can all agree that time spent in stress and anxiety is time that could be better spent, even if it means we are less productive and don’t meet these high expectations we place on ourselves.
I’m choosing to practice a combination of awareness, presence in the moment, and choice to move from maximizing to optimizing my time.
Awareness I recognize when I’m having “I can’t wait” thoughts, take a moment to breathe, and I use that awareness as a trigger to look for what I can enjoy and appreciate about my current surroundings and circumstances. For example, I found myself hoping that my son would fall asleep, so I could get back to writing this article.
Presence in the moment I looked at his beautiful eyes and watched them focus, watched them open and close, and really studied him in the moment. He is a beautiful baby boy. I looked for and found appreciation and gratitude in that moment.
Choice I consciously chose what I wanted to do next. I looked at my to-do list and took control. I decided the to-do list could wait and I would enjoy some time on the couch with my son without feeling guilt or disappointment that I wasn’t being more productive. I was at choice. I was enjoying my time instead of wishing for different circumstances. Making that deliberate choice to enjoy the present helped ease my FOMO; instead of being focused on what I wish was different, I consciously chose to live in the moment. He fell asleep eventually and then I chose to finish this article since I knew that finishing it would produce a sense of accomplishment and pride. I created the space, sat down, and started typing.
Allowing for choice in the moment rather than constant optimization may not seem like the way to use time to the most efficient degree, but recouping the time lost to stress and anxiety is a huge time-saver in itself, and, more importantly we feel better at the end of the day.
If you’re interested in feeling more satisfied and fulfilled throughout your day, please get in touch. I’m currently offering initial sessions dedicated to assessing levels of satisfaction in the 8 facets of life. The only time we have is right now.