Birthdays represent clear and present mile markers of the number of miles we’ve traveled so far on this planet, and stark reminders of the finite and unknown nature and duration of the trail. While the journey on this earth can certainly end without notice at any time for all of us, the one thing we know for sure is that it is of finite duration.
For this very reason, the occasion of my birthday is always a major “pause and reflect” catalyst for me.
The topic I am driven to reflect on this week is the one of time. Time is one of, if not our most precious resource, yet we can’t put it away in a golden chest and save it for another day. Despite its value, we inadvertently all too often take it for granted, abuse, and waste it. We treat it like it will always be there, and as if it were infinite. We put off dreams and aspirations and people and things that we deem important for tomorrow and tomorrow and again tomorrow, and we arrogantly act as if we always have it.
Until one day, we don’t.
What I have concluded is that it isn’t that we don’t have enough time, it is that we waste the time we do have on things that really don’t matter. We fret and worry over the insignificant. We don’t take action on things we espouse as most important because we busy ourselves with activity and fear change and discomfort and failure. Or because we are playing out a storyline of conventional”shoulds” both in our careers and personal lives that keep us playing small and seeking collective validation.
This reflection about time led me to do my own “No Regrets Time Inventory”.
Where was I spending my own precious time? What did I regret not doing, and what was I doing instead?
I took out a piece of paper and drew a line down the middle of it. On the left side, I wrote down all the things I want to do that I keep putting off and never seem to have time for. On the right side, I wrote down all the things I regularly spend time on. Everything I could think of.
Then on another sheet of paper, I wrote down the six things (not people or objects) that were of utmost importance to me. Good health, connected relationships, autonomy, maximizing my personal impact and helping others maximize theirs, compassion & empathy, and continuous learning were the things that landed on my list.
Then I circled all the things on both lists that were in direct service of and alignment with those six things that were most important. Reaching out to old friends, spending quality time with my husband, practicing yoga more regularly, working on my new book, and making those medical appointments I keep putting off were just a few things that made the list. Watching TV at night didn’t. Neither did scanning my smartphone and social media.
My “in alignment” list still had a lot of things on it. So I put it to the regrets test. If today was my last day on earth, which of these things would I regret not doing?
Too dramatic? Not really. Sobering? Definitely.
So I’d like to invite you to do this “No Regrets Time Inventory” with your own time.
What are the things you want to spend time on?
What are all the things you actually do spend your time on?
What are the six things (not objects or specific people) most important to you in your life?
And finally, which of the things that you want to spend time on and already spend time on align with what’s most important?
If today was your last day on earth, what would you regret not doing on that list?
This exercise reinforced for me where my time priorities need to be, and what things are causing time leakage. I have a picture of an hourglass with sand slipping away on my smartphone as a reminder of the precious and finite nature of time. My commitment on this birthday is to change my relationship with it.
To honor it.
And to be more deliberate about using it in service of what is really most important…
I plan on moving towards practicing “No Regrets Time Management”.
Won’t you join me?
Send me a note with what you discover…
Originally published at www.janetioli.com