by Kim Childs, CPPC
Recently, I returned early from a weekend trip to Cape Cod because my traveling companion had a Sunday appointment. Typically, I stay on the Cape as long as possible and come home just in time to start the workweek. This time, however, I had a whole afternoon and evening to use as I pleased.
I took a long, therapeutic bath while listening to Brazilian jazz. I finished a book I’d been reading. Later, I made myself a delicious dinner and watched a movie. When I fell into bed that night, I was practically purring.
Those hours of bonus time felt luxurious, and even a little…decadent.
I first heard the term “time affluence” from my Positive Psychology teacher Tal Ben-Shahar, and immediately loved it. Having an abundance of time for the things I need and desire to do is one of my favorite ways to feel rich. Ben-Shahar was citing the research of psychologist Tim Kasser, who calls time affluence “a path toward personal happiness.” The problem is, most of us don’t cultivate it in our overstuffed culture.
“We are a materially affluent society but we are a time deprived society in most places around the world,” says Ben-Shahar. “We need to slow down, because we are constantly doing too much. What we need to actually do is less rather than more if we are concerned about our happiness.”
Research by Kasser and others in the field of Positive Psychology shows that material wealth, beyond meeting basic needs and comforts, does not predict well-being. Time affluence does. Having unstructured time, or “white space,” in our days also leads to more creativity at home and on the job.
“We need to be carving out white space in our life, because innovation happens in the white space,” said author and creativity consultant Todd Henry in a recent interview. “When we squeeze all the white space out of our lives, we’re not allowing our ideas to marinate. We’re not allowing them to breathe. We’re not allowing them to emerge into their full potential.”
It’s the reason that kids need time to simply play, and be. Remember how we used to do that?
Since leaving my radio news career in the late 90s, I’ve been deliberately downsizing my schedule and leaving more white space on my calendar. This, from someone who was formerly over-scheduled to within an inch of her life. Today I find that I simply need more time between things to feel sane.
It also makes me a nicer person.
I’ve shared this prescription with coaching clients and students who’ve told me that it takes some planning and getting used to in this age of addiction to busyness. It can also be challenging to protect our time from those who want some of it. That’s when “I’m not available” becomes a phrase worth repeating, with no need to explain why all the time.
So how else do we grow richer in time? Some other ideas include:
—Getting up a bit earlier in the morning to do something that nourishes the spirit, being more intentional and setting the tone for a more peaceful day
–Stepping away from the computer every few hours to do something completely unrelated to work, like pet the cat, visit the garden, chat with neighbors/co-workers or do a little dance (or walk or stretch)
–Combining weekly errands in one or two days to leave other days free
–When staring down a to-do list, ask, “What do I want to do next?” rather than, “What do I have to do next?” One of my clients told me that practicing this expanded her sense of time and increased her energy.
–Remembering that Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, and treating it that way, with devices turned off
–Leaving time at the end of the day for no electronics, save for a lamp to read, write or reflect by
As I tell students in my workshops on The Artist’s Way, we often say we don’t have time for the things we truly love and value, when the truth is that we’re likely misspending it on things that we don’t. Start to notice where your time is actually going, and reclaim chunks for what you’d actually like to be doing.
“Time is a created thing,” wrote Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. I invite you to create more time in your life, for your greatest happiness and truest wealth.
Kim Childs is a Certified Positive Psychology Life, Career and Wellness Coach. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or over the phone or Skype.