By Leo Babauta
So many of us feel a scarcity of time: we feel rushed, like there’s not enough time to do everything, always behind, never feeling like we’re doing enough.
This problem is called “time scarcity,” and it’s one of the most common stresses in our society.
So how do we deal with this? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer — but there are a few things I’ve found to be really powerful.
Let’s talk about the problem before we talk about the solution.
The Problem of Time Scarcity
Most of us feel some kind of time stress: I’m not making the most of my time, or there’s not enough of it to get everything done, it’s slipping away too fast, I’m overwhelmed by it all.
The feeling is that there’s not enough time. With a feeling of scarcity about time, we stress that we won’t get everything done. We feel behind.
Here’s the first thing to realize: there’s always a fresh supply of time. We get the same amount of time no matter who we are, and we get a fresh batch of 24 hours every day, no matter how terribly we spent the previous 24 hours. It’s a fresh start, over and over, a chance to try something new.
Here’s the next thing to realize: it doesn’t matter how much you get done, doing more doesn’t solve the problem of not enough time. I have had fantastically productive days, where I’ll get 20-30 tasks done with zero procrastination or distractions … and I still feel like I need to do more, and that I wish I had more time.
And here’s the fourth thing to realize: these hours really are precious. They are a gift. We take them for granted, and don’t appreciate them to the fullest. We go through our days doing routine things, not really paying attention, and because of that … the hours slip through our fingers, and we wonder where it all went.
So with these things in mind, I’ll share the three most important ways to make the most of our 24 hours.
4 Ways to Make the Most of 24 Hours
These work for me. Your mileage might vary widely, but I hope you’ll try them out.
First: be intentional at the start of each day. With a fresh 24 hours before us, it’s easy to just get started in our usual way. But to make the most of this new batch of hours, I’ve found it important to take a few moments at the start of the day to refect on what I want to do with them. I might not end up doing things exactly as I plan, but I’m much more likely to spend the hours wisely if I set intentions at the start. I make a list of what I would like for the day.
Second: don’t shoot for doing more, do what matters. As I said, even doing 30+ things in a day won’t get rid of the time scarcity — in fact, it often makes the stress even worse. Having a list of 30 things to do each day also gives you a feeling of stress and scarcity. So what if you had a list of 3 important things? You’ve probably heard this advice before, but do you follow it? If you could only put 3 things on the list, you’d choose carefully. Btw, after you do those 3 things, you can still do others, but I wouldn’t expect yourself to do all the other things. As you do each of the 3 things on your list, do each thing as if it were the only thing that mattered. (See next item.)
Third: create moments of transcendence. Rushing through tasks and chores like we need to get to the next thing only creates an experience of life that blends together in a dull soup. But what if we could elevate the moments of our lives to something special, sacred, alive? What if cooking soup for dinner became a transcendent experience? A moment of transcendence is something each of us has experienced: when we feel incredibly connected to the world around us, when we lose our sense of separate self and feel a part of something bigger. It’s that moment when you’re at the top of a mountain looking with awe on everything around you, or looking up at the stars, or floating in the ocean, or having your breath taken away by a sunset or field of flowers. We can intentionally create these moments, with practice, in our everyday lives. As you’re doing everything on your list, as you’re washing the dishes or having a conversation, driving home or eating kale and beans … you can elevate that moment into one of transcendence. Try it. And if you could create multiple moments like this throughout your day … time feels less scarce, and incredibly abundance. This is by far the most important thing on this list, btw.
Fourth: reflect with gratitude. At the end of each day, take a few moments to reflect back on your day and think about what you’re grateful for. Such common advice, I know, but combined with the other things on this list it’s ridiculously powerful. Try it.
So those are the four ways. Together, they are a way of being in our lives that is radically different than most of us experience our days.