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Why There’s Never Enough Time

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I have this dream, and maybe you do too, of one day having enough time. It always feels like I’m in a particularly time-squeezed period of the year, or of my life.

The state of having enough time seems like a real place but we but never seem to be there. Once I finish this project, once Christmas is over, once the move is done, I’ll have time. But right now, there’s not enough time to do everything.

Quite a bit gets done, but something is always falling behind: emails, bookkeeping, self-improvement promises, things I said I’d do. Am I still learning French? I’m not sure.

Sometimes I wonder if having enough time is achievable at all, or if it’s like trying to reach light speed. We can approach it, if we have vast amounts of energy, but the laws of reality prevent us from quite getting there.

That doesn’t make much sense though. You always get some things done, and if those things were all you felt you needed to do, you’d have enough time. If you had another couple of hours a day, you would have kept up with Spanish lessons, you would have culled your sock drawer, you would have finished the 30-day yoga challenge.

The amount we fail to do is finite—we aren’t literally trying to do everything. We do say no. We decide to learn guitar, but not piano. We vow to spend more time with Grandma, but not necessarily with cousin Steve. We plan to read The Great Gatsby but not War and Peace.

This elusive state of “enough time” is possible. We only need more time to budget, or fewer pursuits eating it all up.

It’s a simple equation:

Time available to you

divided by

Time required to do everything you have to do

If the result is greater than 1, you have enough time.

Even though we have a lot of control over what we intend to do with our time, there’s strangely never enough of it. How do we always mess up this simple equation so badly? Do any of you feel like you have enough time?

We often argue that we don’t choose our time obligations, so we’re stuck in a permanent time deficit and that’s just the way life is. Bills need to be paid. The body needs sleep. The dogs need walking. We don’t have time for all these obligations, yet we can’t get rid of them.

But I think that’s mostly just a bad faith tactic we use to relieve ourselves from having to disappoint others, give up on dreams that aren’t working, and make other bold but nerve-wracking lifestyle moves. Besides, if we’re constantly failing to meet some of our obligations, it can’t be true that they must be done.

We do say yes to things we could have said no to. The big house that requires the big job to pay for it. Entertainment choices. Self-improvement ventures. Social media time. TV time. Reading the paper. Spending two years talking about who to vote for. There’s a lot of choice hidden in our overstuffed lifestyles.

As if to rub it in, some anthropologists tell us that thousands of years ago people had much more time available to them than their hunting, gathering and child-rearing required. Three or four hours of work a day paid the bills, so they had a lot of downtime. Then came agriculture, and eventually industrialization, and somehow these helpful developments turned almost all of us into people living under time debt.

This is ironic, because both of those developments were essentially revolutions in efficiency, slashing the time required to produce food and other stuff. When one farmer’s workday creates enough food for ten people, the other nine people can do other stuff all day long, like make art, map the night sky, assemble armies, build temples, or think up jokes.

I’m sure there are complex political and social reasons why all these time-saving innovations ended up leaving us perpetually out of time, and you can consult your nearest social sciences major for some ideas.

Mass production freed up a lot of time, and we essentially used that time to make new ways to use up all our time. Twenty thousand years ago, the idea of deciding what to do with your life might have seemed like an absurd question. Nobody was perturbed by a lifelong yearning to be a poet until there was such a thing as being a poet, or going to India before anyone went to India.

It may not have been on purpose, but we’ve created a steaming buffet of possibilities for time-spending. Many of them are enriching and more than worthwhile.

But we all know the problem with buffets. They aren’t conducive to rational thinking. Clearly the savannah did not equip us to deal sensibly with forty glistening tubs of hot food. You see something you like, and you’re already stacking mini-quiches next to meatballs next to egg rolls sitting in tikka masala, reaching to every corner of the vast palette and never looking at what’s going on the canvas.

The self-consciousness sets in only when you return to the table and begin to dismantle the nihilistic, Lovecraftian pyramid of horrors you didn’t know you were creating.

I recently spent a few of my hours (and few hours’ worth of earnings) going to see Jerry Seinfeld do standup at one of our local temples. He commented on the bizarre human institution of the all-you-can-eat buffet:

There’s something about the buffet that breaks down the mind, reason, judgment… Nobody would go into a restaurant and say to the waiter, “I want a yogurt parfait, spare ribs, a waffle, four cookies and an egg white omelet.”

(Watch the whole bit here)

Certainly, an abundance of food is preferable to scarcity, and the same is true for ways to spend our time. More options do give us more to work with in our quest to build a satisfying life.

But there’s a huge danger here. We are covetous creatures, and grasping at too many things leaves us feeling stressed and inadequate, and constantly wondering whether we’re on the best path. Psychologist Barry Schwartz tells us that a wealth of options has a way of making us less satisfied with our eventual choice. When there are fifty possibilities rather than two, we know it’s unlikely we will choose the best one.

So maybe that’s why we’re perpetually trying and failing to find time to bake our own bread, learn Brazilian jiu-jitsu, see all the Best Picture nominees and master the guitar solo in Stairway to Heaven—on top of a stable life of working, sleeping, eating and socializing. The modern world puts so much within reach if we just play our cards right, but there are a thousand cards to play. The stakes are extreme—these are our lives, after all—so to avoid playing the wrong cards, we try to play them all.

I do believe living with “enough time” is possible, and I believe it’s more worthwhile than the fruits of any 25-hour-a-day schedule I could think up. But for that pruning process to be effective, it needs to be harsh.

The math involved creates a serious existential dilemma. When there are ten thousand ways to spend your time, having enough time can only mean saying no to the vast majority of the things you’ve imagined yourself one day doing. And that means never becoming most of the people you imagined becoming: the novelist, the world traveler, the dinner party host, the black belt, the keeper of spotless inboxes, the guy that knows his wines.

It’s a scary thought, all the letting go that must happen. But it must happen consciously, and if we never get around to it, there will never be enough time.


Photo by Colin

christine January 16, 2017 at 2:33 am

great post that I think gets to the nub of why it is hard to make decisions to do less – it is really hard to let go of the alternative ‘possible you’s’ – ironically particularly if you’re committed to personal development and changing, “moving out of comfort zone”, et cetera.

Michael January 21, 2017 at 7:41 am

So very true!

Dave Hughes January 16, 2017 at 3:06 am

Excellent post (as usual)! This is something I have been wrestling with more than usual lately, and your article provided a lot of wisdom and clarity.

“Never becoming most of the people you imagined becoming” is a hard pill to swallow! But I think this is also an opportunity for delayed gratification. Many of the things I want to do can be spread out over 10, 20, or even 30 years. For example, I can focus on writing my novel this year and save learning Spanish for next year – but I try to be Superman and do it all now!

Daniel January 16, 2017 at 3:22 am

This is exactly the problem I have, very well put article

John Norris January 16, 2017 at 3:30 am

Mr Money Mustache taught me that money is time, rather than the other way round. So I reduced my expenses and saved enough to retire at age 57. Now I have plenty of time :)


David Cain January 16, 2017 at 9:18 am

His stuff really helped me stop wasting both and take control of them. It’s so common to try to use one to outpace the other, like working tons of hours so you can buy a big house that just takes more money and more time.

Freedom35 January 16, 2017 at 9:41 pm

I still find pairing down commitments and time-wants, like David was talking about here is essential. There is still only so much time in the day .. and doing nothing peacefully eats a lot of it :)

Linda Vesate January 18, 2017 at 3:45 pm

Thank you for the link! Did not know this guy but started reading tonight and seems very inspiring and helpful !

John Norris January 16, 2017 at 3:37 am

“I don’t have to do anything” is a sentence that brings a lot of freedom.

I don’t have to perform, achieve, grow, please others or even have a bucket list. What a relief. There may be consequences of course :)

David Cain January 16, 2017 at 9:20 am

Yes! We could all just sit in a corner and do nothing. Fulfilling our “obligations” is actually voluntary, and doing things with that mentality makes a huge difference.

Brenda January 16, 2017 at 1:03 pm

This! I have finally come to this approach to life. It doesn’t mean that I do nothing. It just means that I reject outside influences and instead focus inwardly towards doing what actually brings me joy and peace. I won’t lie; it’s a difficult thing to turn your back on all of those time “demands”. It’s unsettling at times. But the longer I practice it, the easier it gets. The hardest thing for me is not caring what others think of what I do with my time. They will surely judge me for not being enough of this and enough of that. They will deem me lazy or selfish or antisocial or whatever. But eff it, it’s my life; the only one I get.

Anna January 16, 2017 at 3:44 am

I think about this a lot. I’ve tried to stop saying to people and myself that i dont hve time. Insted i say that its not a priority. I found myself having to say to myself the other day that playing with my kids was not a proiority which made me really sit up and think. Playing board games with my kids should be on the priority list, reading a story at night should definately be a priority but i usually tell myself that i dont have time. I could make time if i really had it on my priority list. My priority list seems to be filled with things that involve other adults, and that if i dont do it i will let them down or i will be badly thought of.
When my computer broke i got loads done but i still didnt have enough time.This really shocked me because i always thought that i didnt have enough time because i was on the computer too much. I did however have a feeling of satisfaction at the end of the day, that i had really given it my best shot to get everything done and i was happy with myself. Im happy about reading your article because i have to just accept that there will always be too many things on my list of things to do and that i should work outmy priorities and be more satisfied with the moment.

David Cain January 16, 2017 at 9:24 am

Good point Anna. It is a matter of priority, and when we phrase it like that it breaks that illusion that we don’t have control over what we do with our time. “I don’t have time to go to the gym” is like saying “my health and fitness are not a priority right now”.

John Norris January 16, 2017 at 3:12 pm

I wish my dad had time to play board games with me when I was a kid. Or play cricket in the local park like my friends dad did. I don’t remember my dad reading a story to me. My mum, yes, but not my dad.

However, I remind myself, he did take me on river cruises on Sundays on his boat. It’s not all bad :)

Joel February 10, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Every now and then a comment is just as good as the article. By the way, this article is really good.

Anna, your “It’s not a priority” as opposed to “I don’t have the time” is a small, simple mindset shift that creates immense personal power. When you talk about it as a priority instead of time, I believe the brain unconsciously understands it differently.

Great comment, awesome post.

Oh, and Robert. Do you mind if I use your equation?

Time available to you

divided by

Time required to do everything you have to do

Zoe January 16, 2017 at 4:34 am

Aha, you caught me… right in the middle of post-Christmas, pre-move stress. My favourite sentence at the moment is “I refuse to be stressed” but as soon as any more admin lands on my plate, this excellent intention goes out of the window. I look at all the time that is going to be eaten up by preparing for the move, in the next two weeks, and feel overwhelmed… even as I allow myself to scroll through social media (using the excuse that a little downtime will help me “keep my sanity”).
It’s a tricky balance to keep, I think… and I do believe it comes down to not letting your brain debate what needs doing too much. If I get on and do things instead of thinking about getting on and doing them, it all seems a lot easier.
It bears reminding (as you did) that it’s okay to say no. It’s also okay to accept that you will never be great at everything you enjoy… and it shouldn’t detract from the enjoyment itself.

David Cain January 16, 2017 at 9:25 am

Yeah, a big thing for me is to avoid thinking about “everything” as though it’s one big monster of stuff to be done. As soon as I think of everything at once, I get overwhelmed and usually start using my time really badly, because I’m avoiding the monster. But if I just think of one thing I can do, and do that, I use my time much better.

DiscoveredJoys January 16, 2017 at 4:47 am

I’ll throw a stone into the pond and argue that the ‘shortage of time’ is a feeling and a symptom rather than a factual matter.

As a generalisation pre-adolescent children don’t seem to suffer from feelings of ‘not enough time’ and can play for hours with a few twigs and stones. Also those later in life (such as retirees) also seem to manage, as a generalisation, without feeling time-short.

Is it because pre-adolescents and retirees can’t do so much? No, I’d argue that they don’t feel the compulsion to win and defend their status with their peer groups so a lot of possible tasks no longer seem particularly meaningful. My guess is that adolescents, young adults, and mid-life adults are all competing with their same sex peers (and less so with their opposite sex peers) to maintain their social status and their opportunities to have and raise children. Much of this is subconscious motivation. The excess meaning they paint on displaying many ‘desirable’ activities is driven by (child raising) hormones which are reduced in pre-adolescents and seniors. Similarly children and seniors often appear to care less about ‘their appearance’ than those in mid-life.

So if you regret being ‘time poor’ perhaps you should consider meditation, mindfulness, or some other practice to try and decouple the ‘need to display’ from your ‘need to do’ lists.

David Cain January 16, 2017 at 9:29 am

Totally agreed. As we become adults we tend to view life in a more abstract and conceptual way, living from the map rather than the territory. Meditation reconditions us to view life as immediate experience.

But I think the bottom line is that that feeling of enough time is worth achieving, and it is going to require pruning for most of us, because of the modern tendency to take on too much.

Barbara January 16, 2017 at 2:06 pm

I’m one retiree who finds myself more anxious about how I use the time now at my disposal than I did when I was involved with a demanding employment situation. The anxiety seems to arise from how do I best use this time available resource, when I may/will kick the bucket any time soon and the self-imposed pressure of what priorities do I chose among, can lead to analysis-paralysis. However, as the author of my destiny, I also have the resources to sort this out. Some really helpful strategies here.

John Norris January 16, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Relax. As a retiree, my strategy is to be grateful and amazed. This I can handle :)

Tspora January 16, 2017 at 5:24 am

It’s partly an age thing. You’re less likely to feel this time pressure as a child as any parent of a child who has homework will tell you. It’s just not a priority for them as it is for us and their teachers who impress this urgency upon them when all they want to do is have fun with their friends and chill. Likewise, the elderly often have a more relaxed approach to time management even though technically they have less of it. There is a wisdom in the perception of time at the beginning and end of life’s journey. We need to let people be; but everything around us is urging us on to buy, work, eat etc. There is an urgency that is justified and that is to awaken others to certain truths or ideas that benefit humanity and to serve others from our own true desire and in a manner that is not obtrusive or aggressive.

David Cain January 16, 2017 at 9:37 am

I think you’re right about this, and I suspect that urgency in the middle years has to do with the fact that they are the “earning” years — the period of life where we’re trading time for money. I would guess that in non-consumerist societies, time pressure isn’t very prominent.

Chris January 16, 2017 at 7:11 am

Read recently to stop saying that we don’t have enough time for things and to change it to “X is not a priority now.” Health and happiness come to the forefront when you’re willing to change your perspective.

David Cain January 16, 2017 at 9:37 am

Yes! See Anna’s comment above, it’s a good one.

Monika Evans January 16, 2017 at 7:41 am

Great article. While I was reading I also thought that in some cases we are subconsciously scared to have time, to be with ourselves, to face silence, to not be able to distract and avoid… so we move on to the one thing that – as we convince ourselves – has to be done.
Just a thought on a Monday morning..
Thank you for your blog!

David Cain January 16, 2017 at 9:40 am

That’s got to be a big part of it. Human beings are not well-equipped out of the box to deal with idle moments. Mother Nature seems to give us an antsiness towards silence and stillness, so that we stay competitive, seeking advantages and desires.

Victoria January 16, 2017 at 7:53 am

Great article. This really speaks to us as we recently retired so EVERYTHING seems like an option.

David Cain January 16, 2017 at 9:41 am

How is it going so far? Is it overwhelming to have a lot more time, or liberating?

Sandra Pawula January 16, 2017 at 7:55 am

You’ve really touched upon a core human challenge! We will have to give up all these things when we die, so starting now could be a good practice for that eventuality. And a reminder that there’s more to life that material accomplishments.

Jérôme January 16, 2017 at 8:22 am

Time is money. I took the time to read that. Because It’priceless.

Tonya January 16, 2017 at 8:38 am

I’ve been working really hard to never say the word “busy.” I think all of us probably spend way too much time filling our day up with not very useful activities. I think a nap could be very useful, so I’m not against downtime, but more like wasted time. I’m also working on being more present…that I find to be more challenging than anything else!

David Cain January 16, 2017 at 9:44 am

I think feeling free to have the odd nap is probably a good benchmark for having pruned things down enough. At least that’s where I want to be with all this. Nothing says “Time doesn’t pressure me” like having a mid-day siesta.

Kathy January 16, 2017 at 9:07 am

I really enjoyed this topic and your description of not enough time. I also struggle with defining my lack of time and I was actually telling myself to read it faster so I’d have enough time to respond!! Thanks again for the clarity you’ve found on the subject. It really helps me to be clearer on my own seemingly endless want of things to do and accomplish and to keep it simpler moving forward.

David Cain January 16, 2017 at 9:45 am

Haha! Well I am flattered you made it a priority to read this (and respond to it). I wish you a free and time-spacious Monday.

Burak Şahin January 16, 2017 at 9:34 am

Curious timing again David. I’ve recently been contemplating the idea that “if you need more than 24 hours, there is something you need to fix about your life”.

BTW, this buffet analogy is really enlightening.

David Cain January 16, 2017 at 9:50 am

Totally, yet almost all of us have more than 24 hours worth of stuff on the schedule every day. In a world with so much on offer we need to exercise a kind of vigilance against too many aspirations.

Seinfeld’s description of the buffet was so brilliant and said so much about the human condition. His whole routine was brilliant in that way — very much about the absurdity and near-sightedness of the human creature.

Dennis January 16, 2017 at 9:39 am

Thoreau: “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”

David Cain January 16, 2017 at 9:53 am

Yes. And he was writing that almost two hundred years ago! We really need to do some focused letting go, if we’re going to live in a world with this many luxuries and possibilities.

John Norris January 16, 2017 at 10:33 am

Yes. “The secret isn’t to seek what you don’t have. The secret is to want what you do have” ~ Byron Katie

John Norris January 16, 2017 at 10:35 am

PS. Thanks for responding to comments left on your blog! Much appreciated :)

Dmarie January 16, 2017 at 10:11 am

I feel busy most of the time as well and so your post absolutely resonates – not sure if “busy” is actually a feeling, but we’ll go with it. Childhood felt so slow; it took forever to turn 16. My 20s were manageable, plenty of time, energy, but little money. My 30s have been bonkers (plenty of energy, money, but no time). For me it has more to do with increased responsibilities and ownership of stuff. For example, I have noticed that time will slow down substantially when I’m not at my own house or at my job. I really don’t enjoy the ratrace so I’m reevaluating a lot of my choices I’ve made up to now. It’s odd to consider downsizing and/or downshifting when a majority of my peers are upsizing/maximizing to accommodate growing families and higher salaries and more vacations.

Cindy January 16, 2017 at 10:55 am

Excellent perspective David, that how we spend our time is mostly a matter of choice, and too many choices isn’t necessarily a good thing. In recent years someone publicized the concept of FOMO or Fear of Missing Out…and that too was a real eye opener. How many parties or meetings did we go to simply because we feared missing something, when in reality what we were actually missing was the chance to spend time doing as we pleased? It took years for me to realize I rarely enjoy loud parties or networking events, and I’m missing nothing by skipping to catch up on rest or simply take a walk.
Point is…there is enough time. For the important things in life!

John Norris January 16, 2017 at 1:12 pm

You may like this XKCD cartoon…


Michael G January 16, 2017 at 12:01 pm

I have plenty of time to do the things I HAVE to do, it’s the time for the things I simply WANT to do that I lack. These are two completely different things for me and making that distinction keeps me content. And with most of the things I want to do, the delight I receive from them is primarily derived from the experience of doing them, far out weighing (in most instances) the joy I find in their completion.

Rebecca January 16, 2017 at 3:28 pm

But how’m I supposed to find my Thing unless I try a bunch of stuff?

David Cain January 17, 2017 at 10:50 am

Good question. I definitely advocate trying a bunch of stuff. But there is a difference between trying a lot of things and actually intending to learn three languages, two martial arts and a musical instrument while building a business from scratch. Trying things out implies that we intend to let go of a lot of these pursuits once we see which is the most important one.

No matter what we do or don’t do, we are constrained by the same twenty-four hours human beings have always had. It’s just that it’s easier than ever to commit ourselves to more pursuits than we can possibly follow through with.

Dennis January 16, 2017 at 5:43 pm

I’ve been retired for almost 3 months. I’m in my late 50s, and I’ve done rewarding work and led a fairly mindful life, but man oh man, the joy of the time-related change has exceeded my highest expectations. Being a lover of solitude and not a naturally social creature, the most meaningful challenge so far has involved pulling myself away from my overflow of personal interests to devote more time to volunteer for others not close to me. I’m now stripped of time-related excuses and explanations, which, ha, forces me to pick up the donkey’s tale and look my self-absorption right in the face. Sheesh, wherever the retired me goes, there I am with another first world problem.

David Cain January 17, 2017 at 10:53 am

That is interesting, to be stripped of time-related excuses, because we use them so often to justify to others (and just as often ourselves) why we don’t do things that are clearly important. I like the tactic others have suggested of replacing “I don’t have time” with “It’s not a priority”.

B January 17, 2017 at 3:38 am

I never write to you saying how much I appreciate all the reading I have been doing in you blog. Perhaps because English is not my natural language and it feels hard to express what I need. But all this time, I have learned that perfection it’s an illusion, and keep going and doing my best is all I need. So, thank you. Sometimes what you write is the exact thing I need to read. And it makes a difference.

David Cain January 17, 2017 at 10:53 am

Aw thanks B!

Marcy January 17, 2017 at 6:26 am

Great post. I have this exact problem, and I have finally come to grips with the fact that I can’t do everything I want. And as an introvert with a pretty high need for downtime/alone time, I will accomplish even less. I think I’ve finally made peace with it.

For the gentlemen who said he has time for what he HAS to do but not what he WANTS to do, I saw a YouTube video of an awesome Ted Talks:


He talks about dividing your tasks into things you have to do versus don’t have to do and things you like to do versus dislike. So, if you don’t like doing it and you don’t have to do it, you just elimate it. If you don’t like it but you have to do it, then you automate it. Examples would be wearing the same outfit, eating the same foods, automatic payments for bills, etc. Then you use your time to focus on the things you like doing, whether you have to or not.

Joshua January 17, 2017 at 10:50 am

Great article. It all boils down to priorities, not the amount of time you have. At least, that’s what I thought before I became a father. Now I don’t have control of my time at all, really. My clock (and world) revolves around my son, but I still make time to pursue my own projects.

Granted, the lens that I see my priorities has changed completely. Now it’s not about doing projects that I simply think are fun or fulfilling; it’s all about whether the project I’m working on will be fulfilling for me and offer support for my family.

For instance, when faced with the option to work overtime at my day job or spend time at home working on my business (so I can also spend time with my family), I now opt for my business every time. Before, I would simply work the overtime to get the quick paycheck. Now I can spend time with my family at home when I’m taking breaks, and hopefully build a legacy for my son.

Ah, time. I could talk and ramble about it forever (ironically), but I’m off to focus on some priorities, now. Thanks again for the article, David. Great stuff.

David Cain January 17, 2017 at 10:55 am

Constraints can actually help us focus on the important. I remember having a mini-lesson on that every time I returned to school after the holidays. Suddenly sleep felt so precious and important, because there was less time to do it in.

Julie January 17, 2017 at 5:42 pm

Two good ways to make at yes/no decision:
Hell yes or f@&$ no,
Am I willing to commit to the process even when it’s not fun, or do I just like the idea of the outcome?
It’s not necessarily about excellence but about knowing your goal and committing to it.

F January 18, 2017 at 12:46 am

I have seen this challenge of not knowing what to choose emerge since I moved from a small town to a capital city.

From a library with a dozen comic books, I now have thousands available.
From a school system with very few options, I could now study anything and choose any career I wanted.
From a town very much closed to strangers and new opportunities, I’m now at a place where everyone travels on a regular basis.

Plus, my choosing system is not optimised: in order to try new things and grow, I am even open to doing things I don’t like.
I guess it’s all a matter of trying something knew every once in a while for a short time (1 month or so) while at the same time sticking with what I really like.

Which also implies the very challenging mission of finding one’s passion. The idea of failing at that terrifies me. How awful would it be to do things you don’t really care about, just because you can?

Primal Prosperity January 18, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Wow, you hit the nail on the head, of exactly why I named my website “Primal Prosperity”. You are right, back in our hunter gatherer days (and some current modern tribal cultures), we probably only ‘worked’ about 15-20 hours per week and that included getting in our movement and sunshine requirements. The rest of the time was spent playing, pondering, creating, and being. Many anthropologists call these tribes, the true ‘prosperous society’.

In more recent years, some of our greatest thinkers and inventors, like Einstein and Benjamin Franklin only spent about 2-3 hours per day doing ‘busy work’. The rest was spent pondering, creating, being and getting movement. Sounds similar, huh?

I like to tell people to spend their time focusing on their ‘inner musts’ and ‘societal shoulds’.

rachel January 18, 2017 at 4:22 pm

Well, I did learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for a while. There was a lot of sweat (mostly not my own), a fair amount of suffocation, purple ears and the occasional black eye. So maybe you can cross that off your list without too much regret.

chacha1 January 19, 2017 at 4:16 pm

Marcy, upthread, mentioned a Ted talk that addressed automation of necessary tasks that don’t convey a lot of immediate pleasure. I have done that and found that it really works.

A “uniform” for work (a wardrobe of readily combined pieces), arranged so that I can choose pieces easily, means I don’t have to spend time deciding what to wear.

The same breakfast & lunch on workdays means I don’t have to spend time deciding what to eat. And a meal plan + shopping list means I don’t have to give much thought to which quickly-prepared dinner option is on the roster. (I have it easy here – it’s a two-adult household, and the other adult will eat whatever I serve.)

Doing a series of quick exercises in the kitchen while my morning tea is brewing means I don’t have to think about “when will I exercise,” and doing my morning yoga in the bedroom while I’m on the floor after combing my cosseted cat means I don’t have to think about “when will I stretch.” (Tea + cat + yoga is a 15-year-old, 15-20 minute routine and it’s really nice.)

Staying in my office at lunchtime and eating something I brought from home means I don’t have to spend time (or money) going out; instead I can catch up on personal correspondence, read blogs, do my banking, etc.

Big fan of routine, here. Big fan of a short commute, too. In my city it’s commonplace to have a 40-80 minute commute each way. Mine is 20 and that time is priceless.

Francisco January 20, 2017 at 2:30 pm

I strongly recommend this book:


It’s about that subject!

Tracy Davis January 21, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Thank you for addressing the fact that we say yes to things we could have said no to. While I agree that we cannot choose to do everything, in my particular case I fritter away time on things that I don’t really care about.

Eve January 21, 2017 at 4:58 pm

So much good information here and in the comments. I have slowed down since I became a minimalist. I had to face it that I was never going to make me own clothes for instance. Tons of sewing stuff plus my machine found a good home and I got all this lovely space. No guilt. Craft supplies that I know I will never use need to go. Cookbooks already gone. Guilt about them goes out the door and time and space moves in. Wish I had got wiser sooner

Anto January 21, 2017 at 7:44 pm

Good article. For years, I tried to succeed in everything. Music, writing, sports, studies, work. I’m hard on all of them. I wanted to be a ‘perfect’. But recently I realised that ‘I’m fairly good at them’, but never will be ‘I’m really good at them.’ I realised I have to abandon a lot of them and just living and focus on or two of those.

George H January 22, 2017 at 6:06 pm

Here’s a revolutionary idea:

Maybe, just maybe, “not having enough time” is a good thing? Maybe the problem isn’t that we chase too many dreams, but our obsession with perfection and control over our lives?

Having “enough time” may be a sign of a neat, safe and predictable life, but living life to the fullest has very little to do with being neat or playing it safe. So yes, if you seriously commit to live the life of your dreams, you’ll tend to feel there isn’t enough time to do it all. There’s nothing wrong with that. We do what we *can* do, and that’s what matters.

Matt February 3, 2017 at 11:25 pm

With proper planning you can make more time. Instead of using money for more consumerism, you can use it to buy time. Check out this article on how to convert money to time:


However some people will have trouble giving up their luxuries for more time!

Shannan February 6, 2017 at 3:38 pm

This post resonated with me today. I’m starting to feel better after a six months of various, non-serious but painful health issues. I’m starting to feel up to doing things, but my experience has shown me not to take my health for granted. Reflecting on the buffet analogy. Thanks for your post.

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