by Kim Childs
Recently, I returned early from a weekend trip to Cape Cod because my traveling companion had a Sunday appointment. While I typically stay on the Cape as long as possible and come home to jump right into the work week, this time I had a whole afternoon and evening to use as I pleased.
I took a long, therapeutic bath while listening to Brazilian jazz. I finished a book I’d been reading. Later, I made myself a delicious dinner and watched a movie. When I fell into bed that night, I was practically purring. Those hours of bonus time felt luxurious, and even a little decadent.
I first heard the term “time affluence” from our own Tal Ben-Shahar, and immediately resonated with it. Having an abundance of time for the things I need and desire to do is one of my favorite ways to feel rich. Tal was citing the research of psychologist Tim Kasser, who calls time affluence “a path toward personal happiness.” The problem is, most of us don’t cultivate it in our overstuffed culture.
“We are a materially affluent society, but we are a time-deprived society in most places around the world,” says Tal. “We need to slow down, because we are constantly doing too much. What we need to actually do is less rather than more if we are concerned about our happiness.”
Research by Kasser and others in the field of Positive Psychology shows that material wealth, beyond meeting basic needs and comforts, does not predict happiness and well-being. Time affluence does, as it allows us to relax, pursue and savor pleasures, and nurture the relationships that matter to us. Having some unstructured time, or “white space,” in our days also supports more creativity.
“We need to be carving out white space in our life, because innovation happens in the white space,” author and creativity consultant Todd Henry says in a recent interview. “When we squeeze all the white space out of our lives, we’re not allowing our ideas to marinate. We’re not allowing them to breathe. We’re not allowing them to emerge into their full potential.”
That’s the reason that kids need time to simply play, and be. Remember how we used to do that?
Since leaving my radio news career in the late ‘90s, I’ve been deliberately downsizing my schedule and leaving more white space on my calendar. This from someone who was formerly overscheduled to within an inch of her life. These days, I find that I simply need more time between things to feel sane. It also makes me a nicer person.
I’ve shared this prescription with coaching clients and students who’ve told me that it takes some planning and getting used to in this age of distraction and addiction to busyness. It can also be challenging to protect our time from those who want some of it. That’s when “Sorry, I’m not available” becomes a phrase worth repeating, with no need to explain why all the time.
So how else do we grow richer in time? Here are some ideas:
We often say that we don’t have time for the things we truly love and value, when the truth is that we’re likely misspending time on things that we don’t. It helps to start tracking where our time is actually going, and reclaiming chunks for we’d really like to be doing.
“Time is a created thing,” wrote Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. I invite you to cultivate more time and space in your life, for your greatest happiness and truest wealth.
Kim Childs, a graduate of CiPP2, is a Boston-based life and career coach who specializes in positive psychology, creativity, and soulful living. She is also a writer, Kripalu Yoga teacher, and facilitator of workshops on creative and personally meaningful living. Read more at kimchilds.com.