By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder
[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.]
As a teacher and speaker on the topic of imbalance, I often hear people express their desires to have more time. Time to do more things – work things, personal things and relaxing things. People are often disappointed when I tell them balance has very little to do with quantity of time and more to do with quality of time.
The quantity perspective is simple math. There are 168 hours in a week. If you sleep eight hours a night, you have about 130 hours each week to spend on work and personal things. Generally, that splits into about 40 hours of work and 90 hours of non-work time each week. The question then becomes: How do you spend this time you have? Or, what’s the quality of your time?
Each of us can find more time in our day if we are willing to examine quality of time. And this requires the skill of awareness, which is our ability to see the world and how we show up in it. As it relates to time, awareness means observing without judgement how we actually spend our time. Just as we might eat empty calories that offer no nutritional value, most of us spend empty time on actions that don’t support our values or move us toward desired outcomes.
Empty time is not be confused with down time, which is intentional and serves to help us unwind and just be. It’s also not flow time, when time seems to stop because we are connected to our passions. Rather, empty time is when there’s no intention or awareness around why we do what we do when we do it.
For example, if you ask me if I watch television, I will tell you I do not. In reality, I spend a couple hours each night watching shows, about 14 hours a week. I don’t identity with spending my time this way, but I do. The same might be true for you, whether it’s television, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Candy Crush, or gossip magazines. We all experience empty time, at least occasionally.
This isn’t to say don’t watch television or disengage from social media. Rather, ask yourself why you do what you do when you do it. Consider if what you do supports your values – or if it’s empty time. Most of the shows I watch are about music, which is something I value, so I understand why I do what I do. At the same, I’m aware of my desire to spend more time watching live music and less time watching it on television. With this awareness, I have more information to make a different choice.
By asking yourself why you spend time the way you do, you can begin to create awareness and seek opportunities to shift your relationship with time. When people act without awareness they tend to feel a lack of time to do things they wish to do. It is through living with awareness that people begin to gain time to spend on things that invite more joy into their lives.
If you seek more time, examine how you spend the time you have and where you can dedicate more time to doing activities that support your values and bring you more joy.
The choice is yours. You can choose how to spend your 168 hours each week.