How to Make More Time

The Birth of Time Painting Alex Levin

Time is not something that we have. It’s something that we make. Unless we look at it this way, we may never have enough time for the things we want to have enough time for.

Making time is an art and it takes a lifetime to master it. The trouble is that by the time we do master it—that is, retire—we’re often no longer healthy enough or have sufficient energy to enjoy the time we have.

So we may as well start while we are still relatively young.

How can we make more time?

Saying No to the things we say Yes to while feeling that we should say No to them.

Trying to live without a TV or Netflix. We’ll gain hours every week may find it to be surprisingly easy.

Using our computers and smartphones less. Technology speeds up time. When we use it, we move at a digital pace, which is considerably faster than the analog pace of a screenless life.

Not multitasking if we can help it. Our brains haven’t adapted to multitasking yet. We are usually more efficient when we focus on one task at a time.

Trying not to live in our heads all the time. Feeling the ground under our feet. Breathing in the air. Becoming conscious of our movements and the things we are doing. Being present in our bodies, aware of the present moment, is one of the best ways to slow down time and make it last.

Doing new things or familiar things in a new way. We tend to do the same things around the same hours. Time feels like a well-oiled mechanism that just runs its course. But not if we change the way we do.

Creating rather than consuming. Whether it’s baking a cake, writing a poem, recording a song, or knitting something, the act of creation makes time feel like it belongs to us more.

Not reading too many blog posts. You’ve read this one, now go do something else!

An (Extra)Ordinary Day

Painting of greenery and bridge by Rizna Munsif

You wake up, get out of bed, get dressed and do things you have to do.

Noon comes and you do a few more things you have to do. Some things you do for yourself. Others you do for others.

The afternoon creeps on you, and behind the afternoon sneaks evening.

Night falls. You sleep alone or with someone. You dream.

In the morning you remember your dreams or you don’t.

You get out of bed, brush your teeth, get dressed and do things you have to do.

A week passes, a month, a year. Life seems so short.

Pause for a moment. Breathe. Be still. Is life really short?

It only seems so because we tend to do the same things at the same hours.

Our cells program us for efficiency. Our cells are selfish. But we are not only our cells. Between stimulus and response, there’s “I”. There’s “you” and there’s “me.” We can choose our response.

There are 24 hours in a day. 1,140 minutes. 68,400 seconds. That means quite a few choices.

You get more than one chance to make your day different from yesterday. In fact, you get many chances every day. You only have to pay attention to them…

1

When it’s time to eat, eat something new. Try a new recipe. Or ask the waiter for something you haven’t tried before.

2

Take a different route home. Wander. Take your camera with you.

3

Talk to a stranger. Be the one to start the conversation. It’s okay if they think you strange. Strange is harmless.

4

Read different books. If you stop in a bookstore, go to a bookshelf you don’t usually go to. Get rid of prejudices. Read philosophy. Read a treaty on medicine. Read a soapy romance.

5

Listen to different music. Shuffle more.

6

Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts and experiences. Writing deepens your experiences and also broadens them.

7

Become aware of your habits and routines. Change them bit by bit.

8

Do something you always do but do it in a different way. Brush your teeth with your left hand.

9

Don’t do anything at all. Stop. Still yourself in a chair, in bed, or on the floor.

Who are you? What do you want? How many days do you have left?

It doesn’t really matter.

What matters is that every day you try something new. Even if it’s only a different kind of salad.

It’s the simplest way to make your day belong to you more. To make life richer, longer.

In Praise of Routine

Man table work routine

Routine isn’t most people’s favorite word. Many try to escape it any way they can. But can quality be achieved without the repetition and regularity that characterize routine?

However tedious a routine may be, sometimes it’s often preferable to the stress and disabling tension of not knowing what to do or how to do it. With routine usually comes familiarity, constancy, and security. When you have a routine, it’s easier to have a plan. And when you have a plan, it’s easier to set objectives and track.


Routine is deeply integrated in the human mind. The mind needs structure and familiarity to function well. It sees patterns everywhere, it creates repetitions, it generates habits. Take the master of routine Himself, the Sun. What would happen if the Sun relinquished its routine and showed up on different days at different hours? Would we still exist?


Routine becomes tedious when it’s not aligned to our passions and values. School or work can easily create this type of routine. sYou may be trapped in what you think is a sad routine — studying boring subjects every day, filling out forms, or making pizzas. But even then embracing that routine and working to perfect it may be the fastest way to a new, better routine — an undergraduate degree or a better, more suitable job.


Writers and artists need routine, too. Read about the lives of the world’s greatest writers, and you’ll see that most of them, if not all, have a writing routine, working between certain hours on certain days. Routine keeps the words flowing, and it is from that flow that, like fishermen, we can scoop our catch — inspiration, creativity, and our best ideas.


Creativity, too, needs a routine to manifest itself. The creative process may be hard to pin down, but the stimuli that usually trigger it are deeply rooted in a routine of discovery of knowledge and sense impressions. When you keep doing certain things regulary — visiting galleries, spending time with artsy friends, traveling — inspiration tends to show up more frequently.


Looking back on my life so far, I find many enjoyable days spent among the simple pleasures and easy familiarities of routine. Days when I wrote, drank my tea, strolled through the park, cycled, cooked my food, took a warm bath, and slept quietly, without dreams. Days when nothing surprising happened to me. When I met no one and when no one bothered me.


Routine may not create vivid memories or titillate our senses. It may not make us feel intensily alive. But it can polish what we do and make it as good and as precise as it can be. The satisfaction of doing something well can be a stable, long-lasting, and positive energy in our life, more dependable than adventurous excitement.


Rather than trying to escape routine, we need to align it to our passions and values, to make sure we constantly do the things that we enjoy doing over and over again. That’s the only way to overcome routine, and probably the best way to be successful in life, too.


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Does routine make you uneasy? Do you usually try to escape it?