You Are What You Focus On

IMG_3218_1

On Tuesday, I wondered why people never have all the time that they need so I observed how they use the time they have on their hands. From what I saw, people tend to use their time for window-shopping (both in shopping malls and online), playing games on their phone, checking their social media feeds or talking about other people or events that have happened or are happening in the near future.

I am not saying any of this is bad. It isn’t – at least when it’s done in small amounts. However, these activities tend to take over everything else. Especially our smart devices are excellent Time Turners… although they work in a counter-productive way, that is, they make the time go faster.

What I’m trying to say is this: by using our time on things that aren’t really productive we are wasting our time.

(Because, honestly, can you remember all the photos you saw on Instagram this morning when you scrolled through your feed? Or what was on the news yesterday? Of all the minutes or even hours you invest on doing these things – how much of that Time would you say was time well spent?)

But wait, what? What do I do with my Time? Let’s start with what I don’t do:

I don’t really use my phone for reading news or checking my social media feed several times a day. I don’t have any games on my computer or on my phone (and even though we have a Wii console at home we aren’t really tempted to use it), I seldom have a need for window-shopping, and I use my bike instead of driving a car everywhere – and spare the time I would otherwise spend sitting in traffic.

The Time On My Side

Because of what I don’t do I seem to have a great deal of Time on my hands. Actually, every few days I realize I have too much of that Time. You ever heard of that – having too much time? It’s a real thing. And let me tell you, it’s a challenge.

For the past eight months or so, I’ve been managing my Time more than usual. First of all, I decided to check my social media only once a day (that’s Instagram, mostly) and for the second, I haven’t really been deep-diving into news on a daily or even on a weekly basis for the past one and a half years. This saves me hours every week.

I prefer meeting friends in real life instead of spending hours on Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger, chatting away on recent events or other stuff. I have my habits, which save me a ton of time. I prefer single-tasking instead of multitasking which means I get things done more effectively than if I would be checking for e-mails, social media and chat messages every now and then while doing my writing. I don’t binge-watch tv-series that much anymore and have become more selective when it comes to Netflix and TV-programs.

All these things give me Time.

How We Spend Our Time

With the time I have, I’m able to write much more than I had before. I have more energy for playing chess, going for walks, reading books, do some research for different projects I’m interested in.

It hasn’t been all too easy to get where I am. And there is still so much I would like to do with all the Time I have on my hands: read even more books, try mediation, dedicate more time for researching, write a journal, work on my book, become a better photographer and filmmaker.

So I’m in the middle of a process here. I think it’ll never end – these self-development things rarely do.

It has required a great deal of self-discipline to get where I am today. Acquiring all this time has demanded several moments of hands-caught-in-movement-towards-the-phone and forefinger-reaching-for-the-app-that-takes-you-to-Instagram. It has also required many conscious decisions such as leaving the phone in another room for the night so that the first thing I check when I wake up isn’t my phone but the weather or, better yet, how I’m feeling that morning.

There are many quotes out there that are about how we consume our time. One of the first ones that stuck in my head a year ago or so, was the quote by Annie Dillard:

”How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” 

It made me think of how I spent my days: I was constantly on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Youtube. I read up to twenty different blogs on an almost-daily basis. I read books, watched movies and tv-series (mostly Gilmore Girls and Friends), and looked up food recipes that I might someday want to prepare. I was a hard-core consumer. The only thing I produced was the food I cooked, which I then ate, i.e. consumed.

I asked myself: is this how I want to spend my days and, the pattern extended, my life? I wasn’t all too dissatisfied with my way of spending my days, but still, the quote and the thought in it got stuck in my head. How did I wish to spend my days and my life?

Today, I feel like I’m more on the right path than I was one and a half years ago. I am more of a producer than a consumer – I create sentences that build entire worlds. I create photos and videos.

I am, of course, also a consumer. We can never cease to consume – but we can choose what we consume and how much.

What I Don’t Have

But why am I writing all this? What’s the idea behind this blog post?

The thing is – I have too much Time on my hands. And having all this Time is a challenge because even if I have all the Time I wish for, I’m not able to do everything I want to do.

I’ve realized there are many things I’d like to do with the extra time that I have. I would love to go hiking much more than I do at the moment. I enjoy working with my hands and would love to use these hands for cooking and baking, building things and painting (just a side note: I’m not a painter or a carpenter but a writer, so no great expectations on my building and painting skills. It’s just something I enjoy doing).

However, these wishes come with restraints: the nearest deep-in-the-woods hiking trails are at least one-hour drive away. If I’d bake all the cookies and cheesecakes I’d want to, me and my partner would probably gain 20 kilograms weight neither of us needs.

(And as a side note: I wish to bake and cook food only when I feel like it, instead of making it an obligatory daily task because that tends to take out all the fun in it. So what I’m searching for here is some kind of balance)

Also, for the past two years I’ve been getting rid of things I don’t need anymore so by creating paintings and things out of wood and screws I’m creating more things that I basically don’t need. How to create without adding to the amount of things you already own?

Since I’ve realized the limits of what I can do with my Time in my current situation, I’ve also realized what I wish to change in my life (so I guess you can call it in one way a positive problem). This is how far I’ve come in my realizations:

  • I want to live in a house. Not in an apartment in the city, but in my own house a small distance away from the city.
  • I want to live near the nature and the sea. Switch the noise pollution of the city to the sounds of waves, wind and birds.
  • I want to have a studio for working, writing, painting and all the other creative things I aim to do.

The part about the food I haven’t figured out quite yet. But I have a strong belief in that a solution will find it’s way into my head.

By making more Time into your days, i.e. having more control over what you do with your time, you have more time to think what you’d like to do with that time and how you can do it.

More time on your hands also gives you the opportunity to think more clearly where you want to be in the next five years or so. And that’s a way of living a more meaningful life, if you ask me.

The Time On Your Side

IMG_5518_1

They say that Time goes too fast, that there simply isn’t enough of it for everything you wish to do.

They say that if they only had that time they would watch more movies or catch up with people they haven’t heard from in ages. They would read books, play the piano, write their journal, do yoga, take their time drinking coffee in the morning and enjoying the moment. They would finally be able to clean the apartment thoroughly.

If they’d just have the time.

But they don’t.

How come they don’t have the time, I wonder. In order to find an answer to this question, I start observing people and what they do with their time.

I look out from our apartment window. In the afternoon, for two hours straight, there are cars standing on the street, waiting in line for the lights to change – they are all on their way home. A trip that takes about fifteen minutes without traffic takes double as much time with all the other travelers. While waiting for the lights to change from red to green, they listen to the radio, take a smoke or check their phones.

In the school cafeteria, I observe two guys who sit near me. A moment ago they were talking to each other but now they’ve both reached for their phones. The plates are already empty, lunch has been eaten, but they take a minute (or five) to check what’s happened on their mobile extensions of themselves. One of the guys is playing a game on his phone, similar to Bejeweled Blitz.

Another day, and different people at the cafeteria. Two girls are talking while checking their phones. The other one wondering if she should buy a used iPhone: ”It’s only 500 euros and the battery is still long-lasting.”

The other one encourages her to buy it for that price because ”it’s cheap considering the brand.” Then they decide to drive to Ikea, maybe to buy a new plant for the apartment or a cheese slicer, or just to get an ice cream for a coin.

It’s Saturday. A friend comes over, and when there’s a quiet moment, she sits on the sofa and checks her phone for the latest news. She reads out loud a long article about something that happened on a German airport – a story that doesn’t have an interesting ending but the article sure gave away that there would be. Ten minutes have gone by as she has read the article.

And that’s how easily the Time goes. You binge-watch Friends or How I Met Your Mother, update your Instagram and Twitter, or simply refresh your feed again and again to see if there’s something new for you to see or read. You text with your friends about who you’ve seen and what you talked about, what happened on that event last weekend. Or you go to the supermarket because you’ve once again ran out of milk.

So, people say that they simply don’t have enough of Time to do everything they’d like to do. Is it any wonder? From what I’ve seen, minutes and minutes go by to things that shouldn’t take up your time.

Minutes turn into hours and suddenly you realize you’re late for your yoga class or a friend is coming over – and you haven’t had the time to tidy up the apartment. The Time clearly isn’t on your side.

Or maybe it’s you – maybe the Time isn’t on your side because you aren’t trying enough?