August 12, 2006

Cultivating Quality Time

By Alan Pritt
Over the past couple of weeks I've been clearing brambles from the back of our garden. These long, thorny, and tangled weeds choke the plants we want to grow and stop the garden achieving its full beauty. In order to make room for new, stronger and better growth, the weeds have to be uprooted.

As I was carrying out this task, I couldn't help drawing an analogy to how we organise our lives.

While our potential is debatably limitless, there is one major constriction: time.

Our time is a finite resource, yet many of us waste it. Some people spend hours watching television that doesn't improve their lives in anyway. Or they play games, with opponents that are not challenging enough. Or cook the same meals, day after day; never experimenting.

Many people go to work everyday, completing a job that has become simple. When the challenge of the work disappears, learning stops. When learning stops, there is no growth.

A forgettable day is a wasted day. It doesn't matter if you took time off and enjoyed yourself lazing in the sun. Unless you deserved that break and needed it to recover, you've achieved nothing. You will forget what you did, and it will not serve you at all in the future. If you're going to take a day off, do something memorable.

I believe in investing in the future; in making every moment count. Sometimes that means creating, sometimes that means learning, and sometimes that means experiencing new things. Many of our activities stop that investment. They act like weeds that constrain our growth.

Whenever we choose to do one activity we are sacrificing the chance to do something else.

If we are to sow the seeds of intelligence we have to make room. We have to weed out those activities that are standing in the way of new growth. We even have to get rid of the old activities that once served a purpose, but now constrain us like any other weed.

We need to make time.

Some of the activities we do are worthwhile, but not the most worthwhile. Even some brambles bare fruit, but some fruit is tastier than others. If you have to make a choice, go with the best.

Wise Choices

Our time is a limited resource, so we need to spend it wisely. Yet we usually ignore the activities that are depleting us.
It's time to clear out those brambles and make room for activities that will make us grow.

  • Take a look at the books on your 'to read' list. Will you be a better person after you've read these books? Will the knowledge or the stories they portray be of help to you in your life, or are they just amusing? Even if it is worthy, are there other books that are even more worthy of your attention?
  • Flip through the television schedules. Are you planning to watch soaps that are predictable and badly acted? Are the dramas you watch challenging and stimulating? When you finish watching the programs do you think about them deeply afterwards?
  • What are you cooking? Is the food good for you? Are you trying new recipes? Or are you just eating the same things over and over again? When did you last try something new?
  • What newspaper do you read? Could you get better news from a different source? Are you reading news which is a waste of your time? Would it be better to read a weekly summary or to get it from the Internet? Or maybe to read a paper from the other side of the political spectrum?
  • What magazines do you get? Do they stimulate and educate you or are they just gossip and window shopping?
  • Is your job stimulating and fulfilling, or does it just pay the bills?
  • What do you talk about with your friends? Are you complaining about work, or are your conversations more stimulating? Is the time you spend with your friends engaging and memorable? Are you trying out different activities with them?
  • What are you studying? Is it something that will be beneficial in your life, or could you be studying something more important?

Most of our activities are habits: the forums we visit, the TV programs we watch, the radio we listen to, the papers and books we read, and the games we play. While these activities may have started out as worthwhile pursuits, we have likely learnt all we can from them and it is time to move on. Clear these brambles out and make room for new activities that will further your growth.

Think of at least one thing now, and vow to replace it with a better activity.

If you try to give something up and you feel an emotional reaction to doing so, you're likely addicted. Often that emotional reaction is the thorns from the brambles digging in and not letting you go. It's not a real attachment. Listen to yourself and introspect. Why don't you want to give it up? Is there a logical reason? A TV drama may, for example, provide you with inspiration or a new way of looking at the world, or you may have simply become involved with fake characters. Letting go of our habits can be tough, but holding on to them will only make you weaker. Fine, you may enjoy watching soap operas, but are they honestly the most enjoyable and worthwhile thing you can do with that time? Don't let your addiction tell you 'yes' when the answer is really 'no'.

With a bit of effort you can weed out some of those depleting activities.
And let your life flourish!

Some people are incredible. It is my quest to find out how they get that way. What habits do they have, what strategies do they use, how do they focus, how do they use their time, how do they learn so quickly and perform so well? seeks to find answers to those questions.

See also: Cultivate inner beauty with better mental health / Inner Beauty / Laughter, the best medicine/Sense of humor-tips to regain it /Beauty and emotions-kinship between them / Beauty and health effects of negative emotions / The art of listening / Self-esteem- Why is it so important? / Test your level of self-esteem /Beating stress-some tips


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