Time is Not My Terrorist

For years, I never felt like I had enough time. I would watch anxiously as my calendar filled up with more than I had time to do. I would feel exhausted with the heavy responsibility that weighed on my mind about getting it all done. Friends would call, and I would be abrupt and stingy with my time telling them “I can’t talk right now”. It got so bad, that my mother would start our conversations with “I know you are really busy but…”. It was more than a bit excessive.

On some days, I could actually cross items off of my calendar as ‘done’. Momentary satisfaction was lovely when I acknowledged the completion, yet it didn’t last very long before I was worried about having time to complete the next thing I had committed to.

In meetings, I’d start getting anxious towards the last 10 minutes worrying about the next thing I had to do or get ready for. This made it hard for me to stay focused and present during meeting wrap-ups.

Thinking about my calendar would keep me up at night as my mind thrashed around a thousand options to fulfilling on my promises. I would wake up anxious about not missing anything critical, work hard to stay focused all day, and then end the afternoon exhausted from keeping up with it all.

After seeing that most of the time on my calendar reflected obligations to others, not to myself, I realized that I had connected my value to my time. The more of it I gave to others, the more valuable I believed I was – to my family, colleagues, customers, and friends. My calendar was filled with doing things and achieving things for others.

I was not alone in this view. Many of my friends, colleagues and clients felt the same way about their time between obligations for work, their children, family, and community filling up the hours, days, weeks months, and years.

We wonder where the time goes even though we are the ones filling up our days. We feel concerned when our calendar is full and even more concerned when it’s empty! We often present our busy-ness as a badge of honor.

The limiting belief I had lurking underneath my intense and fearful relationship with my calendar was this; “when I do something for someone else, I’m adding value. If I add enough value to others, I’ll feel like I’m good enough”.

This perspective made it hard for me to say no when others asked for my time. Every time I said yes to something I really wanted to say no to, I lost a little more energy and built up a little more terror about how I’d get it all done. Every time I didn’t make time for what felt best to me, I felt a little more heaviness in my heart and a deeper drain on my energy.

When I started swapping out activities on my calendar that were obligations, to ones that were solely of my choosing, something big changed inside.  Less than one year later, time is no longer my terrorist. I only work on activities I have chosen instead of saying yes from that old sense of obligation. I can feel the difference and can say no to projects that feel too heavy or scattered to be successful right now. All of my projects and clients are energizing and I feel clear and creative in supporting them. I can really feel the difference between now and how it used to be. It’s the difference between how you feel when you see ‘meeting’ written on your calendar vs. seeing ‘vacation’ written on your calendar.  Every time you see ‘vacation’ you feel good. And every time you think about it, you take a deep breath of relief or excitement rises to the surface in anticipation of the break from ‘obligations’. Now that I’m only doing what I love in my work, I don’t seem to need the same ‘break’ at the end of the day, on weekends or through vacations.

Now that I work exclusively for myself and only do what I truly love and feel called to do, the content on my calendar has changed. I don’t fill it up with obligations anymore – I fill it up with what feels good to me so I can be filled up and give of myself from there.

If you feel you have too many obligations or describe yourself as the ‘overly-responsible’ one in your family, your team, or in your group, time may have turned into your terrorist. If so, here are a few things you can do:

Tell the truth about what time/your calendar means to you.  What is the meaning you have given your calendar/schedule? Does it reflect your importance, your financial status, your value, your contribution, your worth, your being a ‘good enough’ person, sibling, friend, child, or student?  Taking a look at how you relate to time is a great first step towards changing it to something you want.

Challenge and change limiting beliefs. We learned as children that if we make others feel good, they will help us get our needs met. We were rewarded for doing what our parents asked of us and they in turn felt good about being ‘good parents’. Many of us never learned how to turn that external approval inward, into self-approval, keeping us stuck in the old habit of looking outside of ourselves to bosses, spouses, friends, and children to get our needs met. Our calendars are filled with taking care of others in the hopes that our needs will get met in turn. As adults, we can question this belief about making others feel good as a way to get our needs met and ask; “is it really true?”

Start with what feels best (kindest) to you. It’s our job to make ourselves feel good, and others’ job to do the same for themselves. When we live this way, relationships become unconditional, honest, and uplifting when we are no longer responsible for the happiness of another. You can begin to make choices like this in every aspect in your life – and your relationship with your calendar will change automatically.

When we look for others to give us what we need, we lose touch with our desires in an effort to be what others need or want. When we fully support ourselves by taking personal responsibility for what we have created, and start asking for what we want and saying no to what we don’t want, the universe supports and life changes around us.

Are you ready to take your time back?

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Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coachhttps://www.belief-works.com/
WENDY is passionate about enabling individuals, organizations and communities to value themselves and each other in the ongoing process of change. Wendy has guided hundreds of individuals and over 750+ public and private sector organizations to achieve tangible increases in impact and performance. Her successful practice in mentoring and coaching has led to authorship of the book, ‘Live a Life You Love and Make a Living Doing It’. Over the last 30 years, Wendy’s skills have been honed in leadership roles at MTV Networks, The Rensselaerville Institute, and a variety of community based projects in her town. In 2015 she launched BeliefWorks and offers Belief Coaching as a way to address the root cause of what limits the results we can achieve both personally and professionally. This is an 'upstream' solution to change. Instead of changing limiting behavior, she focuses on changing the limiting beliefs that drive that behavior. In all cases, her clients and partners speak to the specific increases in achievement that her consulting, coaching and partnership roles make possible.