Wasting Time or Taking Time?

I had an ah-ha moment driving to the gym this morning. My mind was busy yapping like it usually is – I don’t even remember what I was thinking about – when suddenly the VOICE OF JUDGMENT in my head responded, “What a waste of time!” Normally, this would lead me to feel terrible about myself and tell myself some story about what a waste I am and how I can’t do anything right, ruining the better part of a day.

But this time, for some divine reason, instead of flying up the ladder of inference and concluding that I am a bad-lazy-no-good-failure-of-a-person, I recognized that this is something the VOICE OF JUDGMENT tells me all the time. As one who trained to look for patterns, I knew it was time to look a little deeper.

What I realized was this: What I fear most and what I hear most often in my mind when I am operating out of fear is that everything I do is a waste of time, that I am never doing the right thing at the right time or that I am not doing it fast enough.  What happens as a result of those thoughts is that I get paralyzed by fear and so filled with doubt that I actually do end up wasting time…time I could have spent doing something productive, like stopping to breathe.

This is especially true right now, as I am somewhat hanging in mid-air in the process of starting this business. I feel constantly pulled and pushed by panic about what to do next, sure that my way of doing anything will be a waste of time. Some days I actually end up doing nothing except feeling exhausted and, well, wasted.

I have worked for so long in the world of deadlines and “emergencies” and schedule overload, that I have become accustomed to seeing time from place of lack. The VOICE OF JUDGEMENT, frightened by this wide-open span of unscheduled time that is up to me to fill had me convinced that if I am not pounding away, pushing through, multi-tasking and feeling pressed for time that I am wasting time. But no!

Today I realized that I have been given the gift – the rare gift – of an abundance of time. Instead of cramming it with spastic action out of fear that I am somehow this lazy sloth of a person who if given any time at all will waste away, I need to learn how to slow down and appreciate it. In short, I need to learn to TAKE MY TIME.

The truth for me right now is this: NOTHING is a waste of time when done with attention and intention, including (and maybe especially) taking time to be, think, take micro-movements and allow things to unfold.

It has been my experience across my career that people screw up more often when they try to force time to bend to their wills and when they try to do too much in too little time.  Really, “What’s the rush?” If a few hours or days go by before that email gets answered, or that plan written because you need time to think…So be it. And good on you!

Feeling rushed has been one of the core areas of pain for me as an introvert across my career. And today I challenge my clients with the idea of taking time to think even when it feels like there is no time to think. I want to cultivate in my clients a conscious, thoughtful use of time – EVERYONE’s time. Time to think is not just the prerogative of the leaders, but should be encouraged across companies. Mistakes are made when time is not taken and space is not given to examine decisions, evaluate plans and execute action items carefully.

Don’t believe me? Think things turn out better when you charge through and force results? Check out this recent study conducted by the Academy of Management and discussed in this Inc. article by business expert Margaret Heffernan illustrating that many ethical, often crucial, mis-steps are made by people NOT stopping to think.

Think of all that’s been wasted in the drive not to waste time. What a shame.


I am.

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