Where does the time go?

An orange alarm block held up against a blue background

It’s Labor Day weekend which reminds me that we’ve reached the end of meteorological summer. And, of course, I ask myself, “Where did the summer go?” That’s because I can’t remember what I did with the time, how I used it, squandered it, enjoyed it, wasted it or invested it – it just vanished.

I often speak jestingly about our “ten-minutes of summer” here in Minnesota where we bemoan the depths of our long, dark winters and praise the fleeting days of summer, but also live our lives proud of the notion that we’re weather-resilient Minnesotans. I think we just like to complain.

But time is a curious thing. . .we all have the same 24 hours in each day yet, we’ll complain to each other that we, “just don’t have time” for one thing or another. Those decisions, about time allocation, often say more about our values than any values-clarifying index can reveal.

Someone recently pointed out to me that, on average, we get about 4000 weeks of life (that’s roughly 76 years, the current average life-span in the USA –it dropped again this year!). This isn’t a whole lot of time, especially when you consider that we spend the first 20 years or so (roughly 25% of those 4000 weeks) aiming for adulthood. Often those early years are spent doing what others expect of us, living into the hopes and dreams they have for us, rather than capturing our own.

We do have a habit of being rather unconscious about where our time goes, even in adulthood where, you’d think we might exercise more agency over our decisions in regard to such a limited resource as time, but we get careless. So, I’m back to my question, “Where did the time go?” – summer, specifically.

My summer went a number of places – and I discover this by AUDITING my calendar (a good life-management tool) and being honest with myself about where I spend my time and attention. For this exercise, I looked back three months (June/July/August) to discover where my time has gone. I spent about:

  • 30% of my time “sleeping” or committed to rest, if not sound asleep (about 7 hours per night).
  • 15% of my time “relaxing” – usually this means actively engaged in puzzles or online word-games while watching television with my husband each evening.
  • 12% of my time working (remember, I’m “retired” and only work part-time!)
  • 2% of my time on education (learning) – either continuing education or business education.
  • 1.3% of my time practicing yoga with an instructor (or roughly 30 hours over 13 weeks).
  • 1.3% of my time visiting with friends – either engaged in conversation or enjoying entertainment together – (another 30 hours over 13 weeks).

All this accounts for roughly 60% of my time and suggests that for almost 40% of my time (my summer), I have little or no idea where it went! I do recall some of it spent potting plants and tending to them over the summer. A bit of it was spent taking walks in the neighborhood, running errands, fetching groceries, preparing, or purchasing meals, dealing with home repairs – but at this point, it all gets murky.

Self-care is every conscious action you take that feeds your soul, nourishes your body, nurtures your spirit, or replenishes your relationship with yourself!

I suspect you might say the same – there’s a murkiness to where your time goes – and that’s worth reconsidering as we enter this next season, autumn.

Where do you WANT your time to go? Where do you WANT to make that investment of yourself, your energy, resources, and stamina?

Those priorities are your “Big Rocks” (as Steven Covey explained to us) – the big choices that we select first to put into our limited “jar of time” as he would often illustrate with a pickle jar (see an example here, if you’re unfamiliar with that exercise).

After your “Big Rocks” are solidly in place, you can fill the jar with everything else that matters to you, the urgent things, the important things that bubble up each day, and of course the time-wasters we all need for recreation and relaxation. But often, we fail to be intentional about our days, our weeks, or even about whole seasons of our life. And when we fail to be intentional, time slips away from us!

So, as we head into this fourth season of our year, and before winter comes again, it might be a good time to think about priorities, and ask. . .

  • Where do I want to be by the time this year ends (in my health goals, my business goals, etc.)?
  • What do I want to have completed, so that I can build on that success in 2023?
  • What are my top priorities that need or deserve my attention – my “Big Rocks” that need to be considered (placed on the calendar, discussed with family, etc.) FIRST?
  • What are the strategies I need to put in place to accomplish them in a timely fashion?

Summer is over. It’s time to move into fall. That movement can offer us a healthy invitation to re-prioritize where our time will go, where our attention will be, and who we want to become as this year draws to a close, four short months from now.

I’m hoping that your holiday weekend has been a joy-filled. I trust it is also a afford you some time to make sure your priorities are clear, your calendar is mapped-out to address them, and your intentions for the future allow you to move forward in confidence!

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About Paula

I help other caregivers – both professionals and family caregivers – acknowledge their pain and learn to practice the many small skills of self-care that can sustain them through the challenges of wholeheartedly caring for others.

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