Slow Down Time and Start Living
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. ~ John Lennon
Warning, life happens. Limited time only. Act now ~ Winsome
I don't remember when I ran out of time. It happened gradually. In the beginning I was bouncing around in a big empty box of time. Then little by little things started to fill it up and the more I tried to empty them out, the more things replaced them. It was like Lucy in the chocolate factory. What could be better, spending your time watching delightful things come by and you observe and deal with them one by one. Then they start to come by so fast that you can't deal with them all and you try to fit them in any way you can, with disastrous consequences.
You know what is in the box, you have one too. Maybe yours is a file cabinet, or a bunch of boxes, or files in your computer or just maybe it is a list in your mind. It doesn't matter, they are all the same--hidden within the urgent, but not really important daily demands are the things you really want to get around to doing when you find the time. You have been putting things in there all your life. Important things, needful things, things you would like to do, things that could be what you were destined to do, but they have to wait until the other stuff gets done.
Little by little you start to speed up. The more things in the box, the more the sense of urgency, the unsettledness, the vague feeling of guilt that you are somehow on the wrong path and so you hurry to get the things done so you can find your way back to what is really important. You have exchanged peace of mind for speed and a frantic need to do more and more until you are exhausted.
once saw a personalized license plate that should have been mine--it
read JEHU2. It is from 2 Kings 9:20
"...the driving is like that of Jehu the son of Nimshi, for he drives
furiously.” That was me.
I recently bought a Honda Accord Hybrid to force myself to slow down only to find out it was not like their Civic, they accidentally created a screaming acceleration machine. Those of us who own one from the two years they made them cannot take our feet off the pedal--it is irresistible.
There has been only one time in my life when I did not speed. I took seven months off my regular job to volunteer for a very worthy non-profit organization that was in international development. I was one of a dozen or more volunteers--there are thousands today--and was given the title of Director of Development. It was not a career builder. It was not economically profitable but I found myself driving 35 mph for the first time in my life. I was completely content to plod serenely through traffic to work. For me, time slowed down.
Life secret number one: Time is a function of your own sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.
If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time. ~ Billy Joel
Taking time for the things that make your heart smile is what makes you truly alive. ~ Winsome
attitude and the way you feel can make a tremendous difference in the
perceived speed of time. If you want to see time slow down, simply make
more room in your day for the really important things. "Slowing down
time" here means to honestly look at your life and ask yourself the question: "Am I really getting what I want out of life with my current schedule and priorities?" If you feel like life is passing by
much too quickly and the less fulfilling things are crowding out your dreams, maybe it's time to make the mundane wait while you really
begin to live your life.
Time is too slow for those who
wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too
short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity. ~
Henry Van Dyke
What is Really Important
Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, successful or struggling, you will never be happy until you answer this question for yourself. Answer it for your life's goals and answer it every day. The video on the right above is from "The Bucket List" in which Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson realize they only have a small amount of time left and want to make the most of it. After seeing what the world has to offer in terms of places and things to do, they each realize that the most important part of life is family and relationships.
It might help to imagine yourself being told you only have a few months to live so you get out a piece of paper to write down how you are going to spend it. One of the most compelling scenes in the Bucket List movie has Freeman asking Nicholson the two questions which a story says will be asked in heaven--Did you find joy during your life? and Did you create joy in others?
Making a bucket list will help answer the "what" to do to make the most profitable use of your time, but knowing "how" to do it helps you spend your time as efficiently and as effectively as possible.
Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of. ~ Benjamin Franklin
Basic Tools for Slowing Down Time
Surprisingly, in order for your day to go as you want it to, sometimes the best thing you can do is spend a good chunk of your time resting.
1. Sleep. Do not underestimate the
effect on your day of a good night's sleep. Ben Franklin's "Early to
bed, early to rise makes one healthy, wealthy and wise" is echoed by
some experts. A recent study at BYU on 184 freshmen found that those who
slept in late had the poorest GPA's. The hours before midnight have almost
twice the value of those after because of the production of melatonin
and the reduction in the production of cortisol. (I put this to the test this week and found that I was the most productive in writing the morning after going to sleep before Midnight.)
In addition to when to sleep, there are studies that show that those with a routine of 7.5 to 8 hours live longer than those with less and longer than those with more than 8 hours of sleep. Even one night of 4 or 5 hours of sleep impairs your ability to think clearly. The Institute of Medicine has confirmed definite links between sleep deprivation and increased risks of hypertension, strokes, diabetes, obesity and depression.
The bottom line is that sleeping consistently seven and a half to eight hours starting at least a few hours before midnight slows down your heart rate, increases your metabolism, gives you clearer thinking and will give you a few more years of life.
2. Learn the value of doing nothing.
We search for happiness everywhere, but we are like Tolstoy's fabled beggar who spent his life sitting on a pot of gold, under him the whole time. Your treasure--your perfection--is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the busy commotion of the mind and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart. ~ Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)
When you find yourself busier and more stressed than usual, do the unthinkable--go on strike!
I'm serious, just stop. Just leave it and go find your quiet place. It may not be a physical one, it just may mean locking yourself in the bathroom or walking outside or even just closing your eyes and be still for a few minutes. If possible, don't think of anything.
3. Center Yourself in the Good Things of Your Life
If you can't stop thinking, start visualizing the things you are grateful for and be thankful silently or out loud if you can. Nothing slows down time like gratitude. The more you find to enjoy about your life, the less likely you will obsess about making it different.
Think about your favorite quote or poem. I have a sign in my office that says--"Live Simply, Expect Little, Give Much." I find when I practice any of these three time slows down for me and I find myself living life more fully and with greater satisfaction. People like Jesus, Goethe, Pascal, Martin Luther King, Norman Vincent Peale or Helen Keller have said many positive, life affirming things--if you don't already have one to center on, try one of theirs.
Every day we should hear at least one little song,
read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a
few sensible words. ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are submitted to His purposes. ~ Romans 8:28
4. Stretch Yourself so You Won't be Wound Up Too Tightly
Ever watch a dog or a cat wake up? The first thing they do is stretch and prepare their muscles for activity. One sure way to slow down time is to find a place to exercise and prepare your body and mind for your day. I can exercise anywhere, but my favorite way is to escape to the mountains on my bike and meditate upon the beauty of nature as I slowly force myself up the incline. If you aren't so fortunate, find a way to stretch before you get up or on the way to work--I put my arms behind me and press against the roof of the car at intersections. I often put the seat back so I have to hold myself upright and do drum routines to music when I stop. Ok I know the other motorists think I'm crazy, but the little endorphins are coursing through my veins and I don't mind.
5. Try Living More Simply
I have been a hard worker all my life. Working my way through college and graduate school and then building a business in a competitive field has demanded exceptional concentration and energy. Surprisingly, one of my most rewarding years was when I made a four digit income. We lived in a guest house at minimal rent and knew we had to be extremely creative that year. I scoured the newspaper and found free festivals and art exhibits and all kinds of community and park activities that were totally free and many included food. I found upscale restaurants that offered five course meals for almost free to get people into their poker club. As I look back on that year, I enjoyed more culture, more fine meals, more family time and camaraderie than any year before or since.
Jesus poked fun at our cost of living worries by giving us an image of lilies with pick axes and flowers sitting at spinning wheels. He said to concentrate on the really important things and the rest would follow.
simplifying the way you live your life by getting rid of things others
could make more use of and find less stressful or wasteful ways to
travel or do your everyday chores.
6. Expect Little and Give Much
One of the most wonderful words in our language is grace. An act of grace costs the giver everything and the recipient nothing. It is more than the "Random deeds of kindness and senseless acts of beauty" movements. It is even more selfless than the "Pay it forward" impulses that have you paying for a meal or hospital expenses of someone who must then pass the favor on to someone else. Grace is doing something, often anonymously, for someone who does not deserve it and may never thank you and will probably never reciprocate.
Spending your time with your loved ones is often more valuable than spending money. When you can expect little of them and are content to give much in relationships, you will find that time slows down and life becomes fuller and more meaningful.
How many times have you not had someone over because the house is too messy or you don't have the right furniture or you may not have enough of the best things to offer them? True hospitality is being open to entertain with whatever you have. Put the brakes on the ever increasing need for more and more things and try using what you have to bring joy to others.
He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done. ~ Proverbs 19:17
Ask for Help
One of my time wasters is a BBC series called Doctor Who. "The Doctor," as he is called is the last of the "time lords" and travels through time in an old fashioned Police Box. He is often called upon to help others by manipulating time.
In real life, if you've done all you can do to slow down your life and still need help, a little prayer and restful meditation never hurts. God, the real "time Lord," can slow it down, turn it back or even stop it. When Joshua, the leader of the Israelites needed more time, this is the biblical account of what happened:
The day God gave the Amorites up to Israel, Joshua spoke to God, with all Israel listening: 'Stop, Sun, over Gibeon; Halt, Moon, over Aijalon Valley.' And sun stopped, the moon stood stock still until he defeated his enemies … the sun stopped in its tracks in mid sky; just sat there all day. There's never been a day like that before or since ~ Joshua 10:12-14, The Message
When a king named Hezekiah wanted more years of life, God gave it to him and showed him a sign of turning back time to prove He could do it.
Watch for this: As the sun goes down and the shadow lengthens on the sundial of Ahaz, I'm going to reverse the shadow 10 notches on the dial.' And that's what happened: The declining sun's shadow reversed ten notches on the dial. ~ Isaiah 38:8, The Message
I hope you never have emergencies this big, but......I'm just sayin......
Turning Time Wasters into Quality Time
Now that you are physically and mentally prepared for a slowed down day, it's time to empty the box of time wasters. One of my favorite maxims is "Whatever you have to do always fills up the amount of time you allot to it." In other words, if you have an hour to get something done it will take an hour. If you have two hours to do it, it will take two hours. Our objective is to stop allotting any time to time wasters.
1. The first and perhaps biggest time waster is a negative or unmotivated person. Spending time with the ones you love is one of the most rewarding ways to slow down time, but there are people who kill your soul--people who are either negative, mean or just simply drag you down. Schedule time with the ones who inspire you, stimulate you and are fun to be with.
Your family are obviously part of your schedule, but they sometimes can demand so much of your time that there is nothing left of you. If this is your situation, it is helpful to find a way to divide responsibilities and to encourage older children to develop more skills at problem solving. Agreeing on a schedule of chores and times for routine errands is extremely helpful. On the popular TV show "House," House makes up conflicts or concocts incredible schemes to avoid spending time with people who are unstimulating. Unlike House, however, we want to preserve friendships and our marriages so tact and honesty is the best way to protect our time.
2. The second is related to the first--phone conversations, emails, texts, tweets and even snail mail. Give yourself a limited time during the day to check all your communications. Program your phone with a particular ring tone to identify emergency or very important communications and ignore everything else until the allotted time.
3. Waiting. One of my favorite things is observing the faces of those who have to wait. All of the pathos of a soul comes out when your life is forced to be on hold. Lines at the bank, post office, Disneyland, at intersections and airports or bus stops consume huge portions of our time. The good news is that waiting or unexpected delays can be a tremendous resource for slowing down time. This is where we can get to those things in the box we are wanting to do. Keep a journal handy for those things you have been wanting to write, a book you have been wanting to read, letters you've been wanting to send, knitting or woodcarving--whatever you've been wanting to finish and use your "down" time for catching up on the really important things. Life can truly happen while you are waiting for other things.
4. Overextending yourself. If you are like me you want to help anyone who asks. Unfortunately, there are people who have a never-ending supply of needs and problems and can easily take up all the time you have available. When you have sorted out the priorities of your goals and plans, weigh these requests and don't say yes when you really feel you should say no.
Volunteering for committees and social concerns can be equally time consuming and you need to take an honest look at how they measure up to your well considered life schedule. Sometimes, the best service you can do may be to resign or say no and use your abilities in ways that can do the most good for everyone. I'm not saying be selfish, I'm saying give and do all you can, but work from your strengths and in projects you believe in most passionately.
5. Television, movies, pulp fiction, video games and the snacking that accompanies them. If you want to increase the possibility of creative and productive time, limit yourself to an hour a day doing these activities. Save the two hour movie for the weekend and use your fiction book reading to help you drowse off at night. If possible, wean yourself off the shallow reading and try some exceptional fiction authors or even a non-fiction offering. (I can just see you biting on your fist with that last one.)
Building Time-Treasure Memories
Now that you've prepared yourself, established goals and priorities, and eliminated time wasters, it is time to start living your life.
Every day, maybe for the first time ever, TAKE time. Time no longer is your task master, but you take control of it by investing your time in ways that you have decided is the most valuable use of it and that you have allotted to people and purposes you love. When I go to another country, I am most happy discovering that country away from the tour bus. No one should ever have to experience life from someone else's agenda. As the Isley Brothers said in 1969: It's your thing, do what you want to do.
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