|Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash|
This is the question I've been asking myself recently, as I've been taking a look at the things I accomplished over the past 12 months, and the things I let slide. It's been a busy year, filled with things I planned for, and things I didn't see coming. Much of my time has been taken up with caregiving, moving, counseling, teaching, and occasionally trying to have a conversation with the Hubs that's deeper than the "highlight reel" of the day. So yes, much time...but not all.
Despite having my hands full with freelance work, homeschooling four kids, two aging parents who downsized this year, and launching the first adult child out into the world, I still had time to waste, and waste it I did...if I'm really being honest.
For one thing, I finally gave in and opened an Instagram account this year. A few weeks ago I had this sense that I was spending a lot more time on there than I would like to admit to myself. So I put a timer on it, allowing a certain number of minutes a day that count down from midnight. I freely admit that I was shocked at the number, and how quickly the time frittered away. I originally gave myself 2 hours a day, thinking that would be way too much time. But after a couple of days of getting close to that mark, I moved it back to 90 minutes, and then 60 minutes. As is often the case, just making myself aware of it helped curb the temptation to click on the app, unless I had something I actually wanted to post. But it also got me thinking...we make time for so much in our busy days, but are we really making time for the best stuff? The stuff that feeds our hearts, souls, and minds.
Case in point...prior to June, when I opened my account, I wasn't spending 120 minutes a day scrolling through a feed or watching silly little videos of guinea pigs and puppies. So what was I doing with those 2 hours of time in a day? Honestly? I was watching YouTubers live their lives on camera, documenting their travel plans or explaining minimalism. When school was done for the day, I would escape to our bedroom and sit down at the computer. After first scrolling through Facebook, I would turn to YouTube and lose myself (and an hour or more of my time) in the lives of other people and their quest for the perfect wedding dress, house, or airport lounge. The next thing I knew, I would look at the clock and realize it was 6 PM and I hadn't done anything for dinner. Two hours gone, and absolutely nothing to show for it.
In years past I have tracked 70+ books a year on Goodreads. Hours of reading, learning, and losing myself in words on a page. This year, the number was significantly lower at just 22. I was surprised at the lower number and originally chalked it up to being low on time due to the craziness of the year. But when I started taking an honest inventory of how I was spending my time, I knew it was more than that. And I knew that my time was going where I told it to go...which just wasn't to the best of places.
- I haven't closed my Instagram account, but I've lowered my own time limit.
- I haven't stopped watching some of my favorite YouTubers, but I have unsubscribed from several channels and accounts that no longer felt as important as the time I have been giving up to them and their notifications.
- I haven't found a way to add more hours to the day, but I am finding better ways to use the time in my day.
For example, I began using some of that time to plan our meals, which meant that I was more aware of what I needed to thaw out and prep for the Crock-Pot long before that six o'clock dinner hour was upon us. I even used YouTube and Instagram to find some of our new favorite recipes. Because it's not that the tools, when used as tools, are bad...it's all about how you use them.
Whether it's making space for my freelance writing and proofreading work, planning ahead as a homeschooling mom of four kids in three grades, or prioritizing my daily Bible reading above living vicariously through the lives of people on YouTube I'll probably never meet in real life, it's all a part of making the time I have been given work for me.
As nice as it would be sometimes, we can't add a single hour to the 24 hours we've been given. We can't squeeze any more out of the 168 hours that make up a week. But the time that's there is going to go somewhere, so we might as well be honest with ourselves about where it's going, because it may turn out - as it did in my case - that we have more time than we think.*
*If you're not sure where to get started in managing your time better, you might want to give Laura Vanderkam's book, 168 Hours, a try.