Some Steps to Taking Ownership of Your Time

– Take a periodic review of what is important in your life. Reflect on how you have spent the past month or year, what you have accomplished, and how it fits into what you want in your life. What is really important in your life? What do you value most? You may want to make a list to note the things you want to keep and the things you should throw out of your life. You may even conclude that cutting back on work, although it might reduce your income, will actually improve the overall quality of your life. Does the extra money really buy you the things that are most important, especially when you don’t have the time to enjoy them? (Could it really be true that the best things in life are free?) The most important things in life are really not things at all.

– When in doubt, choose simplicity. Our world presents so many possibilities that it is impossible to keep up with everything. Do we really need to watch every episode of a favorite TV show? Are our lives going to be any different if we stop watching the news every night? (In fact, give this a try.) Do we really need to stay constantly aware of our cell phones? Rather than spending a fortune on entertainment or a night out, wouldn’t a quiet night talking to a close friend at home be more meaningful? Do we need to give expensive gifts when a handmade greeting would convey the same message? The simpler choices allow us more time to get in touch with things that really matter.

– Move into the present. Our lives become a melange of schedules and our thoughts seem to focus on what is “out there.” Our rhythms then become determined by the pressured world we inhabit. We become more concerned with the “there and then,” and not with the “here and now.” A beneficial exercise is to make time throughout the day just to experience the moment. Immerse yourself in the present. Become aware of your internal state. At these times stresses can soften. Let this inner awareness, rather than the external frenzy, guide your everyday experience. This is the clue to learning about what is truly important in your life. Absorbing yourself in the present moment is exhilarating and can make you feel truly alive. Your internal knowledge is now the source of what controls your life, not the mundane pressures of the world around you.

– Travel to the beat of your own drum. Your body has its own rhythms. Learn what they are. Some of us are nightowls and some of us are larks (or morning people). Some of us have slumps in mid-afternoon. The value of being true to your body’s cadences is inestimable. Respect what your body is trying to tell you. All of nature follows a cyclical pattern (hot to cold, day to night, activity to hibernation). Humans have periods of productivity and energy followed by a need for rest. We need to cycle from doing to being.

Some of us have become so accustomed to adapting to the pressure of the external world that we have lost awareness of our internal state. The “high” that accompanies our adaptation to the stresses of modern life becomes something like an addiction. The busier we are, the more we feel alive. Yet our anxieties increase and we lose track of the experiences which truly matter. Our health deteriorates, our relationships become superficial, and our sense of our own self evaporates. We long for something meaningful and we lack the tools for finding it. The solution to the dilemma involves a paradox: we gain time by giving up time.

Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT

San Diego Couples and Family Therapy serves the surrounding areas of Sorrento Valley Road as La Jolla, UTC San Diego, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Poway, University City and Escondido.