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The Truth About Not Having Enough Time

“How I escaped being a mindless, task-obsessed, spectator in life.”

Lost connections
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Photo by Clayton Robbins on Unsplash

I’ve been on “autopilot” for years and hadn’t realized it until earlier this spring when I hit 30. I had time to stop and reflect, wondering if thirty correlated with a newfound awareness or if I had decided it was enough.

In reflection, I’d found I needed to slow down, focus, and wake up.

The first step is awareness

It’s true, they say, as we age, “life flies by right before our eyes” and only gets “faster” as time goes on.

I’m not so sure about everyone else. However, as an adolescent, I was so absorbed in the tasks of the day that those tasks or games were all that mattered to me.

As an adult, my mind has been fixated on activities, relationships, failures, situations of the past, and worry about things to come or something I’d hope for in the future.

Life has flown by as an adult because I stopped being absorbed into what has mattered most in the present.

Defining autopilot

So, “autopilot” has been a combination of “going through the motions” throughout the day and checking things off a to-do list. I’ve found myself participating in activities because I was invited and wanted to be nice or thought it’s what I “should do” with my time.

I became a “professional” — competent enough to show up, physically present, converse, and get the job done despite my mind and attention being in separate places. Not aware, just a spectator. A bystander. Returning comments or remarks to carry a conversation just enough that no one would suspect anything different.

Likewise, I haven’t had time to connect with people because I have had several tasks to complete on any given day. An unhealthy truth.

I have wanted to complete everything, not fail, and be everywhere that my mind has become flooded with several high-speed, mindless thoughts. The process is exhausting, overwhelming, and forgetful. It’s humbling as being “mindful of your thoughts” and becoming “present” is what I teach!

What I’d found

I’m still wondering whether I’d finally reached full maturity, or did it take me this long to realize I had been checked out of life?

I don’t have an exact answer, but I noticed I had become removed from what I wanted to focus on most in my life.

For years, these three domains have been most significant: connection with family and friends, focusing on improving my overall fitness (I love trail running and hiking), and developing my career as a therapist.

The harsh reality is I have half-committed to all of the above because I had been removed from reality, half-present, mindless.

Connecting with Family

I maintain a close relationship with my sisters, which is how a red flag caught my attention. My youngest sister had found a new love for cooking and began preparing a series of outstanding meals for my niece. They were elegant, and I could tell how much time she put into this passion!

One afternoon when texting, I went to return a text message, and it was as though I’d woken up inside myself, “what are you doing,” I would say to myself.

It was saddening when I looked at a string of our messages, and the conversation had been entirely one-sided. My sister often sent or shared something from her day, and I would give a brief, quick response and/or a thumbs up. But then, because my mind was trying to contain everything, I wouldn’t have the “attention span, time, or energy” to return a thoughtful response. Even if it was later in the day or the week, I would forget.

I had failed to make time for someone so dear to me because I had been unable to slow down. That truly hurt.

Focusing on Fitness

I have always found a love for fitness. I am excited by pushing myself to be faster or more muscular, and I enjoy it when I can feel the difference.

However, I noticed that I’ve taken the time for granted over the years. Like everything else — fitness became another task versus enjoying something I adore. It became another checklist item instead of self-care and, therefore, had become negotiable.

Similar to connections with my family, I was half-committed, half-present, and disconnected from something I had loved and fulfilled.

With fitness no longer being a non-negotiable, I’d been kidding myself with activity. Tricking myself into believing activity equaled progress. However, I have been inconsistent for years.

When I have worked out, it’s been challenging, rewarding, and intense. Yet, there were periods when I would get lost in a cycle of “random visits to the gym” with no plan in mind or trade a good workout for drinking and a night out.

The results were mundane, and I would be stuck with thoughts such as, “what is the point of all of this If I don’t feel more in shape, faster, or stronger?

I knew the truth, and I wasn’t fooling anyone. I maintained weight and muscle, so it was easy to miss, but I hadn’t gained any skill or improvement. No change. Just the same.

Career Goal(s)

I started early in my career, volunteering, finishing school, and diving right into getting the most significant amount of experience I could gain. Unfortunately, I had flooded myself with so many demands in my career. I had achieved plenty quite early that I hit what felt like a plateau.

Honestly, It felt like I stopped “moving” forward. I was “doing” and filled my plate with so much that overload became the expectation. The only thing earned from a surplus of work is burnout and stress. I didn’t see it because I had maintained setting goals, although I stopped completing those goals.

Like everything else, work became something “I just did” instead of an activity that I enjoyed. That is a problematic concept because it takes up so much of the day, and I am in a field I have embraced since I was younger.

A common denominator

Sadly, there is a theme here for me: things have become a task, and I have been disconnected from significant areas in my life that fulfill me. Time itself had become a fear because I had convinced myself “there wasn’t enough.”

I’ve learned that it can seem there’s not enough time when prioritizing meaningless tasks. Indecision is the result of by being so overwhelmed by thoughts. The stress that comes from indecision locks me into only completing basic things such as eating, going to work, and then home to sleep.

Although, the truth is, it’s not that there isn’t enough time in the world. There is plenty enough time in the day to do the simple things that fulfill you.

Final Thoughts

So focus your attention on what’s most important, become intentional and mindful of your thoughts, and discard those that are not a priority or have anything to do with a goal or value.

It’s incredible how brilliant the human mind is. I’ve justified work-a-holic-ism through cute rationalizations and would tell you I live entirely happily. It had been nowhere near that for me.

On several occasions, I became stuck in this loop, a pattern made habit, fixated on the past and the future so that I’ve missed the most critical moment in life — this one, now.

Take-Home

I want to feel good in the present, alive, laughing, and connecting with those I love and cherish the most. Similarly, I crave the excitement of feeling stronger and hope to reignite the fulfillment I get from helping others.

I remind myself that past events are behind, and planning today prepares your future. If there was any other feedback I would give, it would be:

To pause! Pause by taking time out of your day to be mindful, take a much-needed break, call that friend and enjoy them, and fully engage with others.

Instead of just being “physically present,” be an active participant, thoroughly, and enjoy the things that mean the most to you today.


Thanks for reading. I had a good time drafting this article. Please share and connect with me on instagram — @modern.therapist.

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