If you know me at all, you know that my mantra for the past several decades has been “There’s not enough time.” I’ve kept this mantra so long I seriously envision my gravesite as a half buried casket, unplanted flowers, and a headstone that reads:
“Here lies the empty tomb of Sheila Whittington
Couldn’t stay for her own burial – still too much to be done.”
I’m told that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. Beside the allotted eight hours of sleep, we each get 16 big, juicy, 60-minute-packed hours to spend on career, home, family, school, outside interests and self-care. But if we all get the same 24 hours, why do I constantly repeat that there’s not enough time?
I recently shared my discovery that I am a scanner. (Really short definition: A scanner is someone who is genetically wired to be drawn to so many things that they find it difficult to choose one path.) Coincidently, (but apparently not), one of the biggest issues with scanners is they believe they never have enough time to get all the things they want to do, done. To which I will add a hearty, “Duh!”
Since my big scanner aha, I decided to test the truth about my time issue and wouldn’t you know? I made another shocking discovery. My issue is NOT that I don’t have enough time.
Confused? I was too. Stay with me here as I unravel the mystery for all of us…
Remember the army tag line “We get more done before nine a.m. than most people do all day?” Yeah- right. I wish I were that unproductive! I am in constant motion working on at least 8-10 tasks an hour from 5:30am until at least 9pm every day. If I find an hour where I’m juggling only 3-5 tasks, I quickly find a way to take on more. There is always more to do. Always.
This is not a brag or an attempt to make anyone feel like an overt underachiever. It’s simply an observation that I accepted as my reality, and probably is the current reality of many other scanners. (And please let the records show that I did not profess to finish everything!)
This observation led me to dig deeper for more of the truth.
What are these oh-so-important tasks I take on?
Anything that benefits my family, my clients, my friends, friends of my friends, the mailman, starving cats in Lithuania – you name it, I handle it.
(I dared to dig further.)
Because I can.
Because it’s comfortable and familiar – and dare I say expected.
Because it’s about everyone else but me.
(Mmmmm. I could feel I was getting closer…)
But since I get so much done, why do I keep repeating, “I don’t have enough time?”
The answer wasn’t in the why, but in the what.
I noticed the what’s that I professed not to have time for were things like exercise, meditation, reading, writing and especially relaxing and sleeping. These are all activities that require focused time during which I could not juggle or simultaneously accomplish several other things. I noticed my discomfort was in the stillness of doing just one thing at a time. I noticed my guilty thoughts and self-talk about being unproductive. I felt the shame and judgment of self-indulgence. And I noticed that my self-worth was directly tied to how much I could achieve for everyone but myself.
Icky – but fascinating. Another aha. Good to know, and good to change.
We all get the same 24 hours. There’s obviously enough time for everyone, including you. Do you have an uncomfortable mantra like “not enough time?” If so, I challenge you to explore it. Dissect it. Get down to the very truth of it. Find not only the why, but the what. It might be icky. But it could also be fascinating, good to know, and good to change.
I’m on the right road to declaring a new mantra. (stay tuned for future blog posts.) And believe me, I’ll be taking my new and improved mantra all the way to the grave.