The challenge for so many of us in the massage therapy field is how to manage the business of relaxation.
While our product must be delivered with a peaceful focus, the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating and maintaining that stance can be rigorous and demanding.
In our dedication to success, we all have the same number of hours in a day and choices of how we relate to that fact. Time is elastic, largely affected by our attitudes toward it.
“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time,” sang James Taylor in “Secret O’Life.” When we spend time in ways we consider enjoyable, time can seem to slow down, but when we are dealing with deadline pressures and schedule overwhelm, it can feel as though there is never enough time.
To stay with Taylor’s lyrics referring to the space-time continuum:
Now the thing about time is that time isn’t really real.
It’s just your point of view, how does it feel for you?
Einstein said he could never understand it all …
See the Present
These days, there are lots of approaches to developing the ability to make friends with time via mindfulness, or presence training. Yogic perspective challenges us to live in the present moment of time; retraining ourselves to let go of our patterns of living in the past or in the future. The wisdom of yoga is the training begins through the body, and ripples to the mind, emotions and daily life. As we practice focusing the attention on the sensations arising moment-to-moment within the asana, we are developing the skill to take off the mat, into our daily living.
I sought out a teacher to support commitment to my yoga-meditation practice 35 years ago, when I was pregnant with my daughter. When the teacher asked me what my motivation was, I said I did not want to miss the experience of birthing and raising her, which I knew had the potential to fly by.
Whatever you have on your list, be fully present to each time chunk of activity. If you are a therapist managing your client list for the day, for example, stay engaged with each moment of each session.
Worrying about having enough clients or hurrying to get through to the end of the day greatly dilutes the value of the time spent in each session. Your clients will sense the reduced value and you will likely end the day with reduced satisfaction.
If you are a teacher, practice focusing, sensing and savoring the precious limited time you have to spend with your students. Don’t miss their “aha” moments.
When the lake of the mind is stormy, we are less able to see the fish jump. When the mind is still, our attention is quickly drawn to the fish. The more fully we can abide in the present moment, the richer and more extended is our felt-sense of time.
Mary Oliver, in her poem “The Summer Day,” wrote,
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
This is a profound question we can ask ourselves regularly, to remember to make sure we spend our time, our precious time, in ways that express our very best and sweetest selves, and to shake ourselves free of squandering our time indulging in negativity or unconsciousness. As Taylor sings, “And since we’re only here for a while, might as well show some style.”
The following are 10 strategies I have found to be helpful in cultivating a relationship with time that supports a life of accomplishing goals with satisfaction, happiness and loving kindness in the world.
1. Take charge of creating your day to the extent you can, because if you don’t run your day, it will run you. Monitor distractions, be clear about timing expectations within relationships both personal and professional, and set and adjust the pace for frictionless ease by neither overdriving nor collapsing. There is a sweet spot that affords us maximum mileage.
2. Get up a half-hour earlier. Counter-intuitively, sometimes when we are dragged down with overwhelm, getting up a little earlier can give us just the boost we need to get back on top of surfing the waves of energy throughout our day. In addition, of course, any discussion about time management must include mention of the importance of getting enough sleep. We have all felt the effects of lack of sleep, including the struggle to recall simple facts, feeling disengaged and uninspired, lacking patience with others, and the inability to think through problems or reach clear-cut decisions.
Time management efficiency goes out the window when we are slogging through the fog of exhaustion. So, going to bed earlier may fortify your ability to manage time better the next day.
3. Not too loose, not too tight. There is a dance between flopping around helplessly, being wagged by the demands of your life, and gripping with too much force in an attempt to control the universal flow. That flow is an inevitable force; one that affects our individual timing. Grace comes from finding a balanced rhythm of effort with the ability to let go into surrendering.
4. The love of lists is essential to time management. Lists can bring order, relieve your mind of holding and worrying about all your details, and provide a container for benevolently controlling the efforts of your day.
When you search Google for list-making, there are apps, software, programs, websites, templates and rules for making lists.
5. Daily prioritization, intention-setting and gratitude practice can help you establish and maintain a sense of mastery over the pace of your
activities. Refresh your list at the end of each day or at the beginning of the next, with the clarity of purposeful intention and the tenderness of gratitude.
6. Chunk it down, also known as eating the elephant one bite at a time. A big project can be overwhelming, whereas breaking it up into smaller, more manageable pieces allows you the satisfaction of accomplishing one part at a time, gives you the endorphin rush of crossing something off the list, and keeps you on track to finish the whole thing.
7. If it takes less than five minutes, just do it now. Don’t put it on your list at all.
8. Make room for self-nourishing soul-time; if you don’t do so intentionally, your soul will make you, using all kind of tactics like procrastination, exhaustion, a cold, getting lost or losing an important document. Build in moments and more extended time to simply be and not do. When you come back, ready to take on your list, you’ll be refreshed with new perspective.
9. Keep current and in accordance with the greater evolution of your life with end-of-day, end-of-month and end-of-year reviews, resetting goals and priorities as they morph over time.
The way we manage our list and our time changes as we mature. The hunger to accomplish in our younger years can generate a “bring it on!” orientation to life, with full and rich lists of to-dos and the ability to take it all on for long hours tirelessly, day after day.
At other times of our life, we may seek to minimize our activity level, re-balancing our prioritization and creating more space for quietude and pensive non-action.
10. Organize your space. The first rule of feng shui is to clear the clutter. Organize or agonize. How much time is wasted when we have to constantly search for things that are buried in clutter? A clear desk inspires a clear mind.
Keep Time Boundaries
You can generate self-confidence and room for growth by maintaining boundaries around time. Learning to live within time boundaries can develop skillfulness around establishing boundaries in other aspects of your life, which can support healthier and happier personal and professional environments.
There is a direct correlation between time management and stress management. Don’t miss another moment. Make friends with time and increase your happiness quotient in everything you do.
Time management is really the surface of how we choose to care for our limited, embodied finiteness here on the planet. When we put something on the list, when we give it a specific amount of our time, when we prioritize one item over another, isn’t it as profound as honoring the most essential nature of our lives?
As 14th-century poet Hafiz wrote in his poem, “Now is the Time”:
Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred
This is the time for you to compute the impossibility
That there is anything
Now is the season to know
That everything you do
Manage Time to Balance Your Life
When we create a life in balance, we are more peaceful in that balance and we can contribute to a more peaceful world.
Linda Derick has been a massage therapist and educator for 30-plus years. She is director of the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy. Her leadership weaves together academic studies in movement at Wesleyan University, contemplative education at Naropa University, and her work with Peaceful Touch, a peer massage program for early childhood educators.