Humanity can be roughly divided into three types of people: treadmillers, recliners, and time lords.
In the first category we have people who are endlessly busy, who can never get it all done, and who long for a few extra hours each day. They don’t have time to ask themselves if this is what they really want or even if their frantic effort is the best or most ethical way to go about getting it. These people are not using their highest gifts to work toward their own fulfillment.
In the second group are those who never feel especially pressed to do anything and who do what they do when and as they please. Their goals are hazy, and they have an inner assurance that even if they do nothing they’ll somehow arrive at their desires. Infuriating as it is, these people often get their needs met without raising a finger, and even if their needs aren’t met they don’t seem to mind. But this group too is unfulfilled, blocked from the pinnacles of personal accomplishment and unable to engage with the world in a meaningful way.
In the third group we have the time lords. The allusion to the television series Doctor Who is deliberate; time lords are curious, are passionate for the good, and are specially equipped for fighting evil. Best of all, they’re capable of squeezing centuries of rich experience, learning, and accomplishment into one lifetime.
The time lords have discovered the secret of the lovely suppleness, the astonishing ductility, the wonderful malleability of time. Time shrinks in accordance with our lack of attention to it, slipping quietly by until we realize it’s too late to truly live. But by means of mindfulness and a bit of cleverness, time can be stretched out to include more— and richer— experiences.
Time lords understand, as philosopher Henri Bergson did, that time is not simply a series of events of equal duration such as the turning and orbiting of planets or the principal microwave resonance of a cesium atom. These events, delivered to us via clocks, calendars, and National Research Council Time Signals, are not time, but rather tools to help us measure time. They teach us that washing dishes doesn’t last nearly as long as we think it does and that time really does fly when we’re having fun.
Time lords also realize that if they set things up just right they can achieve significantly more in much less time, and their lives show it. They’re walking kiosks of fascinating anecdotes, deep insights, and unique achievements— and their lives have gone somewhere, even though they may have had to endure a series of incarnations to get there.
Yes, you, too, can be a time lord. Here are just a few suggestions to get you on your way (once you get going you’re sure to think up more of your own):
- Don’t believe that to succeed you must always be busy. Make sure that every day includes solitary meditation and reflection, thoughtful discourse, meaningful study, or all of the above. These periods will help you see when you’re headed in the wrong direction and will compel you to choose how to make the best use of your time.
- Plan things in your head before executing them. Mulling over upcoming tasks and projects is far better than slipping into a dream world or flipping through social media, and it will save substantial time when it comes to bringing your idea to fruition.
- Guard your time, carefully scrutinizing the value of every task you spend it on. Your time is not money— it’s much more precious, and you’ll need to shield it from demands and activities that don’t respect its sanctity. You also need to give more time to those activities that you value the most, not putting them off until the busy work is done.
- Deliberately limit the time you give to tasks. More time does not necessarily mean a better outcome, and the more you train yourself the easier it will be to complete the same task better and faster next time.
- Cultivate those states of mind that generate visions, ideas, and solutions— the things that usher in the new. Epiphany happens in the twinkling of an eye, but that eye needs to be open.
- If you’re now a treadmiller, think carefully about the circumstances that put you in the rat race and then think even more carefully about what you need to do to get out.
- If you’re now a recliner, you need to wake up; the world needs your unique gifts, and you need the world’s marvelous experiences to lift you up where you belong.
Yes, you have the time— you just need to alter your conception of it a little.
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