09 Mar 2013

time is on your side

If I had to make a list of the things I have spent the most hours of my life worrying, stressing, and fretting over, I think time would be the hands down, number-one, top of the list. I worry about being late. I worry about being early. I worry about not having enough time to finish assignments and work tasks before they are due. I worry about not having enough time to accomplish what I want to accomplish in my tiny, insignificant life. I actually expend time thinking about how I don’t have enough time. This makes zero sense.

This is all part of the perfectionist Cycle of Self-Hatred, where you set very high standards for the way you conduct your life and then beat yourself up when you aren’t “on” 100% of the time. Even though the reason you might not be “on” 100% of the time is because you are full of anxiety because of said high standards.

The cycle. I’ve been mired in it for a few weeks now. I’m still mired in it, I guess, maybe for life, but it’s been bad these last weeks of winter where I am feeling cooped up and carbed up and it’s too cold to clean my apartment much think complex, coherent thoughts. I am spending my time worrying and soothing my worry-brain with mindless Internet and then feeling crummy about wasting so much time.

Yesterday I picked up Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (on a recommendation from the reliably awesome Janssen of Everyday Reading. I’m only a few chapters in, but man, but as much as I hate the axiom “Right Book At The Right Time yadda yadda yadda,” well, shit, here I am.

In case you couldn’t tell, I am a huge sucker for nonfiction that captures conventional wisdom in a straightforward manner. Blame Michael Pollan – I read In Defense of Food in 2010 was taken to my knees. Nonfiction that takes an everyday concept – food, time, whatever –  and reminds you of what you know about it, in your bones, as a human. That you shouldn’t eat food that has ingredients in it that you don’t know what they are. That you shouldn’t spend time on activities that don’t give you pleasure or reward. Then, they reveal some secrets you probably didn’t know – that skim milk is full of additives to make it taste more milky, that the average American chronically underestimates the amount of free time they have in any given day.

And then, the good stuff –  little mind/life tweaks to help get you back on track to feeling normal. Some simple ideas to get your body and brain back on the right track, out of the cycle. Not feeling like a manic perfectionist or a yo-yo dieter or a worried lump of indecision who is surely going to die before she ever gets the chance to do X, Y, or Z. Just normal.

Here are some Time Tips from the few pages I’ve read of 168 Hours. I suspect that at least 50% of you who read this will say “yeah, duh, everyone knows that,” but the other half of you are probably high strung nutsos like myself who tend to forget the obvious under duress. So this is for you.

And for me, in five days, when I forget everything useful I’ve learned in life and succumb to the cycle.

  • You have 168 hours to kill in a week. Even if you sleep 8 hours a week and work 40 hours a week, that is more than enough time to do some stuff. Whatever that stuff is that you decide you want to do. If you don’t believe me, schedule out your next week, fifteen minutes at a time, and see how hard it is to fill the slots. Or, take Vanderkam’s advice and do the reverse: chart out your hours for a week – jot down when you do what – and then take a good hard look at your data.
  • I repeat: You have enough time. (See also: Daring Greatly)
  • Okay, so you have enough time, but you don’t know what to do with that time. I mean, you have some ideas of what you should be doing, what you want to accomplish, but that doesn’t lead to anything you are going to do instead of surfing the internet. Vanderkam’s suggestion to list 100 Things You Want to Do In Your Life is a good place to start, especially because you don’t frame it as a series of goals. This isn’t a Life List or a 101 in 1001 days or a 30 before 30; it’s just you and a piece of notebook paper and 100 Things You Might Like. You might hate them all, but that’s okay, and it’s a good place to start.
  • If you’re still feeling stymied, think about what you like to do and what you are good at. Do those things, even if those things are “sorting the sock drawer” and “reblogging pictures of cats for your friends.” Start your dreams from where you are and where you’ve been.
  • Did I tell you that you have enough time?
  • You meaning me.





  1. Amanda wrote:

    Yay, I added this book to my library requests after I read Janssen’s post, too. Glad to hear you’re also enjoying it 🙂 I think my biggest problem is I want to put non-preferred tasks off until I have “plenty” of time. Like, when I have a spare two minutes in the morning – I’ll use it to hop online and check my email instead of emptying part of the dishwasher.

    Posted on 3.10.13 · Reply to comment
  2. Janssen wrote:

    So happy you liked this one! I’m working on review of it right now. I found it very inspiring!

    Posted on 3.11.13 · Reply to comment

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