Before we start talking about this, let’s all take a breath. Time: it is a hard topic.
One thing that is true is that pretty much everyone is legitimately busy. We all have more things that we would like to do than we do hours to do them in. I would bet my favorite book that in every age, people have felt busier than ever before: our jobs, our family structures and responsibilities, and our tools for communication are all getting to be more diverse and complex all the time.
Another thing that is true is that we all do things that are not essential. There is nothing wrong with this! Rest is an important spiritual practice. (Another time, I will tell you about how I spent a whole year trying to get more sleep and how much better it made my life. For now, suffice it to say that the answer is a lot better.) Some rest is probably more useful than others, as any of us who have stayed up too late to finish a trashy novel can attest, but no one can take all of the slack out of their days.
A third thing that is often true is that there are times and ways when most of us do things that we don’t really want to do. I don’t mean that in the I don’t feel like going to the gym sort of way, but in the sense that we often do things out of a feeling of obligation that isn’t lined up with our values or in order to fulfill expectations we don’t wholeheartedly endorse.
Nearly all advice on finding time focuses on this third category, and there’s good reason for this. Things we do out of obligation or expectation don’t just take up time; they also take energy without feeding us and so they are downers out of all proportion to the amount of time we spend on them. Looking for places where saying no would free up your time, energy, money, or other resources for things you deeply value is a good idea, but it also will only get you so far. If you work diligently on this, you will end up with a schedule that contains only things that feed your core goals, and it will still be packed.
Eventually, if you turn out to want a very serious practice, other things will have to go to make room for it. But a few minutes is always better than no minutes, and there is nothing wrong with starting with the low-hanging fruit. Early morning is a good time for many of us, since it’s less likely to be taken up with other commitments, but evening can work for night owls, too. Parents, especially those of you with little ones, might need to squeeze practice into a time when kids are sleeping — or, in a pinch, into the time you spend in the shower! — while those of us with office jobs might be able to take a few minutes during our lunch hours. If you can’t find fifteen minutes at once, look for stretches of five minutes, or two minutes. During your commute? Before you get up in the morning or before you fall asleep at night? While you wait for tea or coffee to brew in the morning? It’s lovely to know how much time you would like to have, and also wise to be realistic about how much time is a good fit for your life right now. If you end up hungry enough for more, you’ll find a way to make further shifts.
Where do you find the time for practice or for self-care?