Spiritual Time Management



To understand what spiritual time management looks like to most people, I did a fair amount of research on the idea. I was disturbed to find that for many bloggers, the idea revolved around religion — giving it more time, doing what it tells you to do, and learning to compress everything else.

That’s not my idea of spiritual time management. Even if we are not religious, we are spiritual. Certainly you have that part of yourself front and center, if you visit this page. For me, spiritual time management is giving yourself enough time for your Spirit – your Soul – to grow, flourish, and perhaps shine your light in the world a little brighter and a little farther… without denying the fact that life also holds “chopping wood and carrying water.” And laundry and soccer practice and all those myriad small things that make up our lives in the 21st century.

It’s also about giving ourselves more time in a spiritual manner. And the five problem children around that are

Techno Toxicity
Me Last-ness

You only have one life – this time. Don’t live it trying to have two. Multitasking is when we are trying to talk on the phone and fold the laundry and keep an eye on the timer on the stove. Or at work: rushing to finish a report while participating in a conference call and trying to tell our secretary when to schedule the next three interviews. Or (and yes, I’ve done this, and so have you!) attempting to keep three FB conversations and a text dialogue all going at once.

When we’re trying to juggle so many unconnected things, we’re not really there for any of it. We can’t be as creative with it as we might. We can’t savor what we’re doing. There is no satisfaction at the end of the task because we didn’t really feel the doing of it. And we have allowed our existence to slip away without really participating in it.

If you live until you’re 70, you have roughly 613,000 hours in your life. That looks like a heck of a lot of time at 5, but trust me – the closer you get to that three-score-and-ten, the more precious those dwindling hours are, and the more you’re tempted to look back and bemoan all the time you “wasted.” And you’ll be shocked at how much of it you don’t remember, if you’ve spent your life multitasking.

So part of spiritual time management is being absolutely focused and THERE for what you are doing. When you are – when you are immersed in a task and letting it permeate your mind and heart – there’s joy in it. There’s learning. And joy and learning are a big part of spiritual growth, no?

Then there’s doublethinking. That’s when you make a decision, but then you worry about whether it was the right one. Or you try and do a mental flowchart of worst-case-scenario, focusing on how to do damage control if a project doesn’t please the boss. Or trying to figure out every single possibility for a given situation before the situation even happens. And it’s all done under a sense of stress, panic, and fear.

When I have a client who describes kind of thing to me, I ask them immediately, “How old are you?” Surprised, they blurt it out – “I’m 32.” And I retort, “No, you’re actually 64; you’re trying to do two lives’ worth of thinking in one head, and that’s why you’re so exhausted.” And they get it.

So unravel the doublethinking. Learn how to close the mental book on a situation rather than obsess. It’s kind of like trying to get your mind to stop jabbering when you’re trying to meditate. Pema Chodron, the wise Buddhist nun and best-selling author, says that when that happens during meditation, one should just note, “thinking.” And turn back to clearing your mind, without focusing on what you did that you did not want to do.

When you are done with a subject and need to move on, mentally close your book. And when the thoughts bounce back and demand more time – but you’re done – nod at them, say “no doublethinking, thank you,” and get back to what you really want to concentrate on at the moment.

Wanda’s an entrepreneur. If you looked around at Wanda’s home office, you’d see two phones (landline and Smartphone), a large computer, and various pieces of technology she needs to run her business (printer, credit card machine, CD recorder). In her bedroom she has an e-reader, a NOAA radio to warn her in case of bad weather, and the alarm that wakes her up with a myriad number of ringtones. In her living room she has a flat screen TV and a blu-ray player.

Wanda works ten to twelve hours a day at her business. Much of it is conducted online with clients around the country. What contact she has with humanity is via texting, Skype, or phone. And when she needs a break from work, she goes to one of the other pieces of tech in the house and plugs in there. Even when she goes to bed at night, rather than read a book she plays video games for an hour or so until she’s numb enough to turn out the light.

Now, Wanda is an extreme, I grant you. But we are, all of us, incredibly plugged into technology, and we avail ourselves of it constantly. And not only does it fragment our attention spans, but it keeps us from being aware of time. Techno-toxicity is like walking into a casino: the lights and noise are mesmerizing, the casino is designed so you forget where the doors are and you always spend far more time there than you expect, unless you are constantly watching the clock and staying mindful.

One of the fastest ways to regain your time is to avoid the tempting plug-in. We talk about limiting our kids television time? We need to limit our own techno-time! Try, for just a week, to keep track of how much time you spend on a piece of technology, rather than communicating with people. Really look at where tech has replaced non-electronic joys – e-readers are fine, but when was the last time you really savored a book in your hands, getting lost in the words, the smell of the paper, the feel of the binding? In fact, when was the last time you spent an hour or so daydreaming and resting your mind, rather than filling it with someone else’s fantasy world or, even worse, the news screed of the day?

It’s time to take back your mind and your life from the pixels and the pings.

Me-Lastness and Exhaustion
Somewhere along the road, “spiritual time management” started to look a lot like putting everyone else first, being compassionate and generous and always thinking of them because “being selfish is not a spiritual use of your time.” Oh, my dears, do I beg to differ!

Women, especially, are brought up to put themselves last. Do your chores. Help your parents. Do for your family. Be the good worker. Always say, “No thank you” so that someone else can have more. Always say, “It’s no problem,” when someone asks you to do something. Be cheerful, be helpful, be kind, be giving. And while we’ve come a long way, baby, it’s still part of the societal norm for women to literally not know how to say “me first.”

While it is wonderful to be and do all those things, you cannot give if your basket is empty. You cannot feed someone if your cupboard is bare. And if you act like you’re not hungry and you don’t need anything, no one will return the favor.

When we are constantly exhausted by doing and giving to an extreme, we feel like we have no time at all. We don’t have enough energy to take care of ourselves in even the most basic ways. And the more we fill what time we have with things we think we “should” be doing for others, the less we actually feel like doing them. Giving and doing become expected chores, like going to the dry cleaners or cleaning up after the dog when we walk him. A required part of life but nothing to delight over.

And that’s such a double loss. Why? Because when you take time for yourself, when you put yourself at the top of your priority list, you load that basket and fill that pantry. You discover big and little ways of loving yourself that are so delicious you may WANT to pass some of them on to others. You give yourself enough energy and refreshment that doing what is required on a daily basis – and doing for others — feels far less daunting, and feeds you at the same time it feeds them.

You live – really live – in the delight of what you are doing, so that you are experiencing life, rather than slogging through it.

If you can deal with these five time-and-energy stealers in more creative ways…POW!

All of a sudden you will have more time than you thought you did.

You will feel less exhausted, so that you can use every moment of time more productively.

You can acknowledge and honor everything you do.

And you will feel infinitely more in control of your life, your time, and your mental/emotional state… which gives you the time to experience and expand your spirituality a lot more than ten-minutes-every-Tuesday-if-you-have-time…