Time is what makes us different

As I put time aside to browse through my email, the catchy title from Lisa’s email says ‘3 reasons why I am ultra productive’. Even though I know she is trying to sell her home organization program, I can not help but go check it out. Reason #1 got me thinking about a personal post I had a few months back, as I was reading the book ‘168 hours, you have more time than you think’. She talks about how productive people don’t waste time and about how she is not at mercy of time but rather in control of her whole 168 hours of her week. That is when I knew she also must have read the book.  At the time, I heard on a podcast what is likely to become one of my favourite quotes:

“Time is the only real democratic asset. We are all awarded the same time, it is what we do with it that distinguishes us”. 

Now, I do recognise that most of us need to work to survive and that is not democratic throughout. But on an equal opportunity basis, this is an interesting way of putting it. For many years I did not understand why MS thought my resume was so interesting. In fact, they chased me during the entire recruitment process, even though I had no idea of moving to London or working in Finance. I wanted to be a consultant and stay in Lisbon forever. But traditional consultants in Portugal saw nothing in me, and MS did not let me go. It was not until I started screening resumes and hiring people a couple of years later that I understood why I was different. TIME.

I was truly different about what I did with my time.

Not necessarily the basics – choice of degree or anything. But really what I did besides that – the tennis, the piano, the volunteer teaching, the German lessons, the published poems, the working on my Mum’s shop to close the till after Uni, the working on my dad’s company as a teenager picking up the phone (which barely rang) while reading Scarlet O’Hara or helping in the accounting department. And this was even before I set up my own charity. Nothing of this looked major to me. I was keen to do it and always felt I had so much time in my hands. In fact, I was one of the first to do the study notes and would often spend my Spring semester studying at my favourite cafe at the time, “Bar do Fundo”, in Praia Grande.

My social life was very active too. Even the way I went back and forward to Praia Grande during the summer was different. I would go spend the day at the beach, come back to eat dinner with my Mum and go back to go out. Most people in their right state of mind would not do that and skip one or the other. But for me, I valued both, and benefiting from little limits in how much gas I spent at the time (which I recognise was a luxury) I just enjoyed my ride blasting music on the radio. The way I spent my time and I devoted myself to my friends and family has always made me what I am. Yes, at times it has consumed me, but it is a trait I could not imagine different. And time being my greatest asset, I cherish every time spent with people as very special. Hopefully, that is why so many bounds have been kept along the way, despite my living away from family and friends.

Today, the way I spend my time has only become more intense.

Time is what I wish I could have more and as such I make every choice of how I spend it wise and thoughtful. And yes, that sometimes includes spending it not doing much, though admittedly that is rare. From the moment I wake up, I chose how I spend my time and I rarely let it chose for me. When life chooses how I spend my time, I typically don’t react well and get frustrated by the changes happening. Over the last 2 years, I have perfected the science of time management as my second return to work was even more intense than the first, but knowing all the anxiety I suffered the first time around. I made sure there was time for self-care, time for nights out, time for play, time for homework (that is new), time for self-improvement, time for nothing (really?), time for sleep. I went from being a planner to being an obsessive daily planner, which has made me 10x more efficient in the way that i spend my time, especially at the end of the day, when I am tired and my brain starts to wonder.

Someone told me recently “it is very tiring to be you”.

I still have not recovered from that statement from someone that sees thousands of profiles and professionals’ psychometric tests. But it is true for most people. And sometimes I do wish some things could be different and I could throw overboard some of my worries. But mostly, I would not change how I spend my free time. Filled with wonderful things.

That is what makes me what I am. 

I reach the end of 2018 with great satisfaction. It is rare in me. Most people would have known me for always reaching for something more. But as my gratitudes revealed last week, this has been a good year. And it may not have been any better than many years before this one, but this year, I feel I mostly owned time. Time has not flown, I lived each moment with greater presence, I choose how to spend my time intentionally. That is what made 2018 different. Time.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

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