Telling the Truth About Time

06/10/2015 01:22 pm ET | Updated Jun 09, 2016

For most of us, the subject of TIME is still a very abstract concept.

We all know we could be managing our time more effectively, but no amount of list-making or fancy iPhone apps has changed the way we feel about our time -- be it stressed, sad, overwhelmed, or unfulfilled.

There is no quick fix solution to poor time management. That's because time is not a discrete element in the world; it's a relationship you sustain throughout your entire life, that affects all other aspects of living. And like all relationships, your relationship to time is one that you must invest in and nurture in order to to reap the benefits. Time is vulnerable to the same common pitfalls that sabotage any rocky relationship -- lies, diversions, miscommunication, avoidance, and just plain "checking out." The good news is, when you work on your relationship to time, you improve every aspect of your life at once, since they are all connected, and all affected, by time.

The truth will set you free.

Telling the truth about where you are in your relationship to time is the first step to improving it. It's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when you're racing the clock, blaming others, dodging commitments or dropping the ball. The easiest way to get to the truth is to write down your dream for this area of your life, compare it to your current reality, and then determine where the discrepancy lies. What theories do you have about time and your use of it? Are you proud of how you think about and treat your time?

It took me a while to get to a good place in this arena, and coming clean about my beliefs and theories was a big game changer for me. The shift happened when I decided, years ago, that I wanted to be in great shape and live in a toned, healthy body... which meant committing to an exercise routine. In order to fit in my new goal with my time-consuming job, I knew I had to wake up earlier to work out.

However, I was NOT by any means a morning person. No sooner did I resolve to make this change than my inner dialogue piped in with protests, resentments, and bad theories I had been harboring. I was relating to time like a stubborn child relates to an authoritative parent. After all, I didn't often feel like waking up at dawn to lace up my sneakers and go for a run. I hated being told what to do and when to do it. To me, freedom meant NOT managing my time. Freedom meant doing whatever I wanted to do.

But there's where I caught myself: freedom means doing whatever I want to do. Didn't I say that what I wanted was to be in great shape? Wasn't it my dream to live in a body I loved?

Out came the truth... I was being a brat about time.

No parental authority was forcing me to do anything. It was just me and my dreams up against "I don't feel like it" and "mornings are hard." I caught myself inwardly sabotaging my better self, and I knew then that in order to succeed at becoming an early riser, getting fit -- or any goal big or small down the line -- I'd have to deal with time first. That meant shifting my relationship to time, learning to love it, and committing to getting great at it.

Time management is a skill you can learn and master.

For me, that meant setting up the right rules (seven hours of sleep a night, no more) and the right consequences (lose TV if I sleep in and miss a workout) to accomplish my goal. But more importantly, it meant changing my relationship with it. This got easier as I got better at keeping my word to myself. Instead of resenting time like something I had to do, or being annoyed that there never seemed to be enough, I began to enjoy the thrill of designing a plan and sticking to it. I developed Personal Integrity in my relationship to time, I felt happier about how I was spending it, and (no surprise here) more stuff got done that made me feel proud and empowered. I found myself in a different state of mind, and I authored it.

People come to coaching for many different reasons, but I find it most helpful to start by fixing or streamlining their relationship to time. Everybody is different, and that relationship can either be your Achilles Heel or the secret ingredient to your success.

After all, time is the medium in which everything gets done! And when you consider that time is essentially the currency of your life, all the choices you make about how you spend it add up to the kind of life you have.


P.S. If you're ready to face, fix, and forever cherish your relationship to time, join us at the Centre for Social Innovation in NYC on June 25th for our free monthly community workshop! We'll teach you how to design a relationship with time that makes you proud, gets you more productive, and gives you an incredibly gratifying peace of mind.