Pivotal changes come about when you set conscious goals to change parts of your life you're not happy with. By implementing these fundamental, subtle techniques in my own schedule, my happiness and sense of fulfillment have only grown exponentially.
Just like Beyoncé, Elon Musk, and your respective idols, we are all granted with 24 hours each day. However, we constantly find ourselves justifying our failures on a day-to-day basis with the same old excuse: “I don't have time.”
Deep inside, we know that isn't necessarily true.
There is an ancient Chinese saying: “an inch of time is an inch of gold; it's hard to buy an inch of time with an inch of gold.” Many of us are protective of our finances–meaning, we don't just give out our money randomly to anyone. But there is a problem with this: we don't do the same with our time.
In my first two years of living in San Francisco, life was generally exciting up until I found myself constantly burnt out. I felt needed, useful, and saw it as a good sign–now I wanted to do more! What I didn't realize was that my energy was largely channeled towards doing things for other people. At the end of the day, I would come home and spend my remaining energy scrolling through my Instagram feed, double-tapping, and watching stories on what wonderful things people had achieved that day. Then I fell asleep feeling unfulfilled and consoled myself by thinking, “I'll get to do those things when I have more time.”
If this sounds like you, there are two things I suggest you consider:
- Practice saying “no” even to your closest friends – I pride myself on arriving home before 12. Saying “no” to your close friends is painfully hard but necessary, and I find it helpful to address why this particular activity is important to me. Friends who know me are very graciously accepting and encouraging. If yours are putting you down for not hanging out, that's a red flag.
- Set a schedule that revolves around your well-being – If I had responded to every single external temptation fighting for my attention, I wouldn't have as much time as I have now to dedicate to my personal projects and internal environment.
Now that we have more time for ourselves, let's make the best out of it by doing things intentionally.
It is exactly what it is. Consume, date, work, and share all you want, but do them intentionally. For example: my intention of being on various social media is to share my stories of overcoming with you; to reach more of you who were in my position and need something you can apply in your lives right now. I do not share my home address, how old my dad is, or how many makeup brushes I have because these are not my intentions and are definitely not necessary.
Date intentionally. In other words, be very selective with who you let into your personal life and go out on dates with. Hanging out for the sake of doing so not only is a waste of money, it's a huge waste of time. Modern online dating, especially, has lowered the bar for so many of us and offered us unlimited possibilities. But with endless choices, we are rendered highly disposable, akin to shopping on Amazon. Used and didn't like it? Return. Package not as described? Return. My appreciation for cultivating organic connections through mutual friends and events has heightened significantly. When you start living in the real world and detach yourself from the virtual one, amazing, magical things happen.
Consume intentionally. Binging on Netflix and YouTube videos mindlessly promotes escapism and eats up time you can otherwise use to create content for others to consume. I don't usually put a cap on how many videos I watch a day. When I do find myself browsing YouTube in the morning, I'd add some interesting videos to my “Watch Later” list and close the tab right away. Later in the day, I'd pull it up to learn new things and refresh my creative juices. Best of all, I don't feel deprived. Be mindful of what you consume or they will consume you.
It's also crucial to take a step back and reevaluate your purpose of being on social media. Is it to share your passion for photography? Do you want to share your journey of building a spaceship, or simply want to catch up with your old, distant friends? When you have identified your why, it will be easier to act on it. And when you find yourself uninspired or have allowed a naysayer to put you down, treat yourself to a social media detox. A day, a week, a month–whichever feels the best for you. By doing so, you will be able to live your highlight reels and suffer less with FOMO. Hard, but necessary.
Here’s a fact: no one really notices when you disappear from social media for a day. Everyone else is so busy living their own lives, worrying about their own set of insecurities, and checking on Yelp to find the next best place to eat. The truth is harsh but a liberating one: no one really cares where you are or what you're doing. How often does it cross your mind if Cheryl has posted a picture today? Or is William walking his dog?
Now that you know, free yourself from the thoughts of others and get into the flow of doing what you enjoy. Even better, do more of the things that make you forget you even had a phone!
As you learn to prioritize your time and well-being, you'll also find it extremely helpful to break a huge responsibility into a task so small you can do it within the next 30 seconds. What's the one thing you can do right now that will bring you closer to your goal?
For just one week, push yourself every day. No matter how you're feeling, no matter how stupid you think it is, or if you think this “something” is not going to work. Paint a drawing, make progress on a project, or learn a new chord on your acoustic guitar. What you'll need is physical evidence to prove that you're actually inching forward to a place that's critical for your growth.
Stretching yourself also means taking a lifetime of roller coaster rides filled with occasionally unpleasant emotions. If you find yourself feeling negatively, whether self-inflicted or triggered by something as minute as your phone lagging or your food arriving late (ugh, and wrong order?!), you can choose to be reactive and go wherever life kicks you, or be proactive and take initiative to better your situation. The best way I have found to be proactive is to ask myself: “Will this conversation matter in a day? Would I remember this event in a month? A year? Ten years?”
Be the person you want to be, do what that person would do, and you will get what that person would have.
When you’re using your free time to its full potential, you'll find your health barometer in every other aspect of your life will tune up positively. You have the time; you just have to see it. As you make time to embark on your fulfilling journey, always remember to: remove yourself from situations that don't serve your well-being, set intentional goals, and lastly, don't be afraid to aim high.
Calista Tee flew out of a sunroof once and is still alive! Her experience taught her the importance of questioning our intentions and managing our time & energy. Growing up with her fair share of struggles, she has come to believe that she's been assigned these mountains to show others that they can be moved. We are already our best selves; we just need to unravel them with clear intentions and questions. Join her if you will.
And check out her post: 24 Things I Learned to Live By.