Hey warriors! Welcome or welcome back to Words! Today’s post is written upon request by Emma Thrasher (and others!) and it’s meant to answer a lot of questions I had and sometimes still have about time. This post was the hardest post I’ve ever written because time is such a difficult thing to understand. But I think I covered everything I know and taught myself a thing or two, so it’s worth all the writer’s block and it’s length. I hope you’ll take some of your limited time to read it. Here’s what I’ve learned as a limited teen about limited time.
A View of Time
The biggest lie I ever tell myself is “I’ll do it tomorrow.” The second biggest lie is “I don’t have time.” I do, in fact, have time. The question is how I’m using the time I have. Every day we have around 12-17 hours awake. That’s up to 1,020 minutes or 61,200 seconds to spend on everything we need done in a day. Then think about how long things take. So many things take very little time and yet take up a large amount of time in our day. For example, practicing guitar can take as little as five minutes. I choose to spend 45 minutes on it. Making coffee takes five minutes. I choose to stand there, doing nothing during those five minutes and wasting time. Watching a helpful video can take up to 30 minutes. I choose to watch multiple videos, most of them less helpful than the first. A whole conversation can happen in 30 minutes or less. I choose to keep talking and texting for two hours. Is there anything wrong with these choices? No! Not at all. But when you add up the time spent, you get nearly five hours of time cut out of your 17 hour day. That’s just under a third of the day. These things don’t include work, school, transportation, events, and things you really need to do. How are you spending the time and how can you use it better?
Wasting Time vs. Renewal Time
The most important thing I’ve learned is that sometimes what we view as relaxing is actually a waste of time… but likewise we often label time wasted when we’re actually renewing. If you want to use time to your advantage, you need to identify the difference for yourself because there is a big difference. Here’s what I’ve found it to be in my experience:
- Wasted time drains energy. Renewal time restores it.
- Wasted time drains or discourages creativity. Renewal time inspires it.
- Wasted time requires nothing or little of you. Renewal time calms your mind down but doesn’t let it just sit.
If your definitions don’t match all of mine, I won’t be surprised or say they’re wrong because people are different. There are extroverts, ambiverts, and introverts. There are creatives, scientists, and logical imaginers. Everyone is different. But the very first point should apply to everyone: renewal time is time spent refilling the fountain. Wasting time is letting it sit there and leak away. Here are just a few ways to renew yourself:
- Take a warm bath and just think
- Listen to a podcast on something you care about
- Read a book you enjoy
- Talk to a friend or family member about nothing of importance
- Take a short nap (dreams are a good thing!)
- Play or listen to music
(You might also want to check out this post on self-care I wrote on Sketch Scribble Scribe!)
Another thing to consider is that any time not wasted or spent on renewal should be productive time. This means getting things done or doing things that challenge and push your brain and your body to healthier, stronger, and better places. Which means rock climbing and dancing around the room can be productive time too. Often I’ve found myself caught up in the idea that “productive” means math problems, laundry, and writing a thousand words. But sometimes it means reading the Bible, praying with a friend, teaching a sibling to do push-ups, and other less stressful things. Stressful doesn’t mean productive. That mindset keeps you from your check list and from enjoying the limited time we have. Productive means using your time for growth and for expansion. It’s learning, practicing, helping, teaching, working, and taking care of yourself. In a sense, renewal time is productive time too. It’s just a separate subcategory of productive time. As a teenage writer, I’d advise all my teen readers not to do what I’ve done before: drop family life, stress yourself over getting big projects done and maintaining friendships that might not last and will be fine without 24/7 care, and end up wasting time because it’s just too much. Instead, adjust your perspective of productive and start enjoying life even as you get things done.
Brett Harris, one of the co-authors of Do Hard Things and the founder of The Young Writer’s Workshop, has told his students something that could change how many look at things: instead of looking at something and saying, “I don’t have time,” you should say “it’s not a priority right now.” This forces you to decide if Bible reading and your morning routine are important to you or just things you sometimes skip to get to things you don’t need to do as much. Instead of telling the Lord I don’t have time to read His Word, I’m learning to say “Lord, I’m going to read Your Word because it’s a priority for me.” This mindset is an incredible tool in choosing how you use your time. By selecting your priorities, you get the important things done and often enjoy life more. When I choose to make writing a priority over reading, that is my choice based on two things: my preference and my goals. When other people are involved, a third thing is added. Then I also have to consider what others want and need from me. By sorting through what needs done most and what matters least, I make the most out of my time.
Replace vs. Cut
If you had a sped-up video of all you did in a week, you’d probably realize at least a few things could use some work. Some of us would take that to mean we should immediately force ourselves away from distractions and things that steal our time. However this can cause a lot of problems. When you only give yourself negative feedback, you tell yourself what not to do and not what to do. I’ve made this mistake and it never leads to more productive time. It leaves me stressed and overwhelmed as well as angry or annoyed at myself for not getting rid of bad habits and addictions (which I’ll talk about in a moment). When I do this, I set myself up for failure. Instead, offer yourself something to replace it with. Say “I’m going to replace this with that.” Instead of getting frustrated when you fail, go do the thing you said you’d do instead. For example, I most get distracted by certain apps on my phone. To fix this I can offload the apps, choose a better habit, and tell myself when cave and reload then to do that, such as reading the New Testament. This way my brain learns to turn to the Lord when it wants to watch YouTube until it stops craving YouTube the same way.
You probably noticed that I mentioned addictions along with bad habits and in a paragraph about avoiding distractions. When I say “addictions,” what do I mean? I mean things you intake constantly. To twiddle your thumbs in history class every time the lesson gets boring is a bad habit. To watch YouTube videos or eat a certain food every day is an addiction. An addiction is a hunger for something that affects your health, physical or mental. Most people thing addictions only mean drugs and drinking but sometimes they mean videos and books. When you take in something by watching, reading, or listening to it or by physically eating, drinking, or breathing it, it affects your health in some way. Food, water, and air are essential to life and so are things to look at and listen to, if you have those abilities. Humans were made to take things in. But too much of anything is an addiction and can sometimes harm you. From listening to rap constantly to eating sugar every day, it affects the way you feel and the way you think. Addictions that affect your mental health affect your time a lot, but any addiction can steal your time. If you’re addicted to something you don’t want to be addicted to any more, tell one or two people and ask them to check on you every day. Have them ask you if you’ve taken in that thing and try to hold yourself accountable with reminders asking the same question. If it’s a website, block it. If it’s a book, get rid of it. If it’s music, block the app for a while or delete the songs. Keep yourself away and put something in its place. Change it up or choose a new habit or addiction. Decide to be addicted to reading the Bible, which you can’t get too much of, or to reading books that teach you. Choose to go for a quick walk when you feel tempted or to close your eyes and breath. Addictions aren’t always evil things but are often harmful things. They shouldn’t be taken lightly but can be overcome.
Communicating With Others
Our lives are very much entwined with others lives, and when you decide to take advantage of the time, you still need to double-check your schedule with others’ schedules. I like to think of groups of people as a body, like the Body of Christ. Each member has to cooperate for the body to function properly. Think about it: within you are trillions of cells, each dependent on others. Most will never touch each other, but many still interact. If we want to change our schedule, we need to consider that our actions affect so many people. When we communicate, here are a few pointers:
- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you by genuinely considering their time as valuable. Make sure that you prize others because then they’ll be willing to prize you.
- Ask instead of suggest, if possible. Instead of saying “I’m changing my schedule. I’d like to switch our meetings to 5 instead of 4, does that work?” try asking them what times they have open. By being open, they’ll be open to you.
- Claim responsibility where possible. As a teen, I often fail to take responsibility for things I need to do outside of the house because my parents drive me everywhere. But in all reality, it’s my responsibility to remember the time and to bring the things with me that I’ll need. 90% of the time it is not their fault if I don’t do something.
- Remember to prioritize the people who you need most. For me, I depend on my family a lot and would need to talk with them about my schedule before my friends. I also need to talk to my writing teacher before I talk to my writing partner. By working this way, you guarantee time with the most important people in your life.
Creating an Ideal Schedule by the Real Schedule
When you go to change your schedule, don’t try to change it all at once. You can’t entirely transform 24 hours by writing a very different schedule. Start small. Adjust a few key things and do that until it’s habit. Adjust it more. Keep going until you’ve got the schedule you need and want most. And if it takes a long time, don’t worry! You can still make the most of your time even when your schedule isn’t perfect. Remember when you were a kid and found every second of play you could even though your parent chose how much time you really had? Embrace that now. You have time and can use it, if you choose to.
This post wasn’t directly writing centered but I know it can change the amount of time a writer writes and that can change the quality of their writing, so I think it’s well worth it. I hope you all enjoyed this post! See you next month!
(Psst! You might also want to check out this post full of study tips from Sketch Scribble Scribe!)