There are 168 hours in my week. Which, unsurprisingly, is the same number of hours as in everyone else’s week. Whether it be the toddler who is approaching the world with wide-eyed curiosity or the mum chasing said toddler around and providing them with endless opportunities for growth. Whether a high-school student or a PhD student, an office worker, a yoga instructor or a million dollar start-up owner, we all have exactly 168 hours every week. It’s a proven, irrevocable fact.
So I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that it was only this week that I finally had cause to ask what I had to show for mine. And even then, only because I woke to find another birthday had passed me by in a champagne induced blur and that more than half of my annual ‘wish list’ remained unfulfilled.
The truth is that despite good intentions, when I reflect on the last 52 weeks of my life (let alone the last 2340!!) it would appear that I have more time than I know what to do with. My response to which is frequently to do nothing. At least nothing productive or joyful or uplifting or that fosters personal growth. Rather I am inclined to take short cuts to use up those 168 hours – I switch on netflix, I surf the web and spiral down into a social media vortex, I have a glass of champagne (and then another) and before I know it, the week is done and another is starting. Sure I do some things that are good for my soul, outside of the time I spend working and sleeping – such as calling my mother, reading literature written by women, walking the dog, making meals that nourish me… drinking a glass of champagne. But mostly, I have to admit to frittering away those extra hours, which I find somewhat shameful in retrospect when I consider all the things I could already have done, learnt, changed, grown.
At some point though, I conned myself into believing that I didn’t have enough hours in the day to do everything I wanted to do. And instead of correcting that misconception and taking action, I allowed a thought pattern of wishful thinking to take root. I have a list of ‘I wish I could…’ moments the length of my arm. But the truth is, outside of some essentials and life obligations, many of the obstacles I face are those I have put in my own way. They are fictions of my own making.
I find that the key to understanding which of these obstacles are real and which are fiction, is to reframe the statement “I can’t” to “I choose not to” – at which point it becomes abundantly clear. And then, in understanding that it is also ok to ‘choose not to’. Just as sometimes it is ok, and important, to do that ‘nothing’, because rest is also important.
When we first launched this blog, I wrote a post about the importance of doing more of what you love every day. Not long after that, I wrote another about what I think of as the ‘busy, busy‘ insult (and myth). I have strong views on the increasing use of ‘busy-ness’ to leverage social status or as a reason for the demise of self-care and self-compassion, or just doing what brings you joy. We all know the refrain – “I wish I had time to go to exercise, but you know… busy, busy…” “I wish I had time to meditate but you know… busy, busy.” At the end of the day though, we are all living in ways of our own choosing and design, which means that when it comes to my 168 hours, the buck stops with me.
Understanding that I have 168 hours in the day is also important in putting life’s bumps and bruises into perspective. I can have a terrible day at work, from start to end, but that only accounts for 8 hours, leaving me with another 160 to appreciate. The good clearly outweighs the bad, and when it doesn’t then that may be a good signal to make some changes or to reach out and talk to someone.
There are bookshelves full of good advice on how to better use our 168 hours. Typically they start with having you sit down and map out how you are currently spending your waking hours, and while I’m not convinced that I’m going to do that anytime soon – because frankly I think that in itself sounds like a colossal waste of time – there is value in self-reflection. Simply taking part of those 168 hours to regularly take stock of who we are, what we are doing, where we want to go and and, if I’m honest, swapping that ‘wish-list’ out for an ‘action list’, can be an incredibly powerful use of our time.
Imagine who we could be if we identified and then removed the obstacles and instead gave ourselves permission to live a life of well considered and enriched time…