Finding time to live

An aerial view of most cities would reveal swarms of people frantically racing about. Everyone is in a hurry. If you stop someone and ask how they are, they will reply, “Busy. Very busy.” They certainly are active, but often their actions are undirected or misdirected. They seem to be busy for the sake of being busy. They are involved in the business of busyness. Disheveled and unorganized, they are too busy to get organized. They are so busy mopping the floor, they have no time to turn off the faucet.

The price they pay for their endless flurry of activity is high. At the end of the day, or before, they are stressed out, burned out, and wiped out. Instead of a life of serenity, they lead lives of frustration, resentment, and anger. Because they are too busy to have time for anything important, they feel empty. They feel as though they are plodding through a meaningless existence.

Also, because they have forgotten that people are more important than paperwork, their relationships suffer. They are worried about losing time, but not about losing their potential. They work hard for the growth of the company, but ignore their self-growth. The toll of their busyness is also the loss of excellence, for they abandon the practice of doing few things well for that of doing many things poorly. The speed at which they work causes errors and drains them of the energy that is needed to cope with problems.

Self-educated longshoreman and author of eleven books, Eric Hoffer (1902 ~ 1983), had this to say, “We are warned not to waste time, but we are brought up to waste our lives.” The cult of busyness is destroying our spirit. The problem, by the way, is not new. You see, the Chinese Character for BUSY is at least 2,000 years old. And the character is composed of two parts: the left side, which means SPIRIT (heart), and the right side, which means DEATH or DESTRUCTION. So, it was clear in the minds of the ancient Chinese that excessive busyness destroys our spirit.

How do we fight against the assassination of our spirit? By taking time and making time to collect our thoughts. If we are to move from impulsive action to directed action, we need to take the time to plan, marshal our resources, and build our enthusiasm. If we are to go from “I’m busy” to “I’m productive,” we must make the time to focus on what is important and then take purposeful action.

Our spirit is a creative force that has the power to bring about our dreams. But it needs quiet time to study our options, analyze obstacles, and build a road map to success. If we allow ourselves to get ensnared in a cyclone of busyness, the ember of our spirit’s dream will be blown out. Many people are too busy worrying about what they’ve done to think about what they’re doing. We have to reverse that trend by being aware of our actions, always thinking before we act, always reflecting on the results of our actions.

The question facing us is: How do we find the time to live? How do we disentangle ourselves from the web of busyness? Traditional approaches have been to turn to time management with the hope of learning how to squeeze extra hours out of the day. Assuming that I uncover another three hours a day to work with, how does that help me if I’m too exhausted to do anything else? So, the solution seems to lie in ENERGY management, not TIME management. To read about this fascinating idea and learn how to untap your energy with the Full Engagement Training System, get a copy of the New York Times best-seller, “The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz (Free Press Paperbacks, 2003).

One of the best ways to save time is to do things right the first time. “Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done properly.” If you agree with that, you agree with the words of Confucius, who taught that in the 6th century BCE. There’s something else you can do to regain control of your life, and it’s something Confucius never thought of; mainly, turning off the TV.

Staying up late at night to ‘relax’ or get extra work done is self-defeating because you are denying your body the rest it needs to perform at top efficiency. Another mistake some make is refusing to say NO to the excessive expectations of family, friends, and coworkers. Sure, doing favors is fine, but when others do far less for you than you do for them, it places an unfair burden on you. You keep their friendship, but become your own enemy.

An excellent way to create more time is to perform several goals simultaneously. For example, when you take the family to the park for a game of volleyball, you are enjoying family time, calming the mind with recreation (re-creation), caring for your body with exercise, and recharging your spirit with the beauty of nature.

Another factor to consider is your interpretation of ‘success.’ Are you striving to HAVE more or BE more? I know a lawyer who sold his practice, moved to the country with his family, and opened an inn. He and his family have discovered they are getting far more from life, despite their lower income. Do you really need a Hummer or will a Honda Civic do? The savings in the price of the car, insurance, maintenance, and gas means you don’t have to work as hard. Is it a Hummer you want or happiness? Remember, even if you win the rat race, you remain a rat, trapped in the maze of busyness.

Both busyness and laziness lead to the same end, the neglect of important goals. Our task, then, is to treat time with the respect it deserves. After all, it is both a limited and a nonrenewable resource. Time is our lifeblood; it is destined to reap great benefits if we use it wisely. Of course, we cannot change overnight, making a 180-degree turn from a life of busyness to one of purposeful and carefully thought out action. But we can begin to take baby steps today and bit by bit regain control of our lives.

If you are ever tempted to think that you don’t have enough time, consider the poem of Purzil Crofe:

A busy man complained one day:
“I get no time!” “What’s that you say?”
Cried out his friend, a lazy quiz;
“You have, sir, all the time there is.
There’s plenty, too, and don’t you doubt it —
We’re never for an hour without it.”

How can we complain that we don’t have enough time when every hour of our lives contains sixty minutes? It’s not time that we lack, but the willingness to make tough choices. Andrew du Frame tells it like it is, “There comes a time in a man’s life when he has to make a choice. And there are only two things to choose. Get busy living or get busy dying.” Which one will it be for you?