Forty Ways to Tame Our Relationship with Time

by Belinda Munoz on February 22, 2010


To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else. ~Emily Dickinson

Time.  It is arguably our most valuable commodity.  Unlike treasured gems, precious metals and any other prized possessions, time can’t be hoarded, collected, earned, or bought with hard work, money, dignity or our soul.  It slips away whether or not we choose to pack meaning into it.  Use it or lose it, so goes the saying.

Though we are all cognizant of the limitedness of each of our lives in the time-space continuum, we sometimes act like we don’t know the value of time.  We use words like spend, kill or waste when we speak of how we while away the finite number of hours in each day.

Time management systems abound and still, we flounder and falter at making the most of every sunrise.  We plan for the future and neglect to cherish the present.  We’d rather look back wistfully when the future is full of hope.

And yet, for many of us, it seems there are not enough hours in a day.  We cram all that goes with living into twenty-four hours of ticking, bargaining with Father Time, naively expecting him to budge to our willful and resolute intentions to produce more, accomplish more, be more.  We paddle in paradox, limbs flailing, trading in the quality of our lives while doggedly pursuing an idealized quality of life.  Fighting for a cause that never had a chance.

Time.  Like all the treasures in the world, we can’t take it with us when we reach our final stop.  Some among us may never be willing to embrace happiness in and with the time that we do have.

For the rest of us, here are ways to improve our relationship with time. (Some things may appear to be contradictory.  This is a testament to the complex nature of our relationship with time.):



  • Block out a chunk of time only for yourself.
  • Make an appearance but don’t linger.
  • Take a vacation day.
  • Wake up earlier/Go to bed later. (Habitual lack of sleep not recommended.  Better sleep is.)
  • Delegate a task to your child (i.e. put toys away, make his/her bed, etc.).
  • Push back a deadline.
  • Double-task (i.e. go for a hike with a friend, an activity that takes care of two — social and physical — facets of your life).


  • Do only those things that matter.
  • Limit (not cut out completely) dawdle time.
  • End a conversation/relationship that isn’t going anywhere.
  • Stop doing things that don’t bring joy or results.
  • Cancel a commitment.
  • Skip a task.
  • Silence all distractions.
  • Choose a task or a path.  Don’t relent.  Focus.
  • Say no.


The years teach much which the days never know. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Spend a minute to list what you’d like to accomplish while being realistic about how long each item will take to complete.
  • Arrive late/Leave early (aka swoop in/swoop out — not recommended for one-on-one meetings).
  • Show up for things that matter.
  • Keep doing things that work.
  • Multi-task (laundry, dishes, Crockpot and Roomba/iRobot work well simultaneously with little drama).
  • Take advantage of in-between times (i.e. sneak an important two-minute call between appointments, take a few minutes for a Walking Gratitude Meditation or micro-meditation moments).
  • Respond/Engage only when you’re ready.
  • Let efficiency increase naturally (don’t force it).
  • Do only those things that have an urgent deadline.
  • Screen calls/Scan e-mails.
  • Partner with another taskmaster and take turns doing each other favors.
  • Make chores fun (crank up Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, dance around and get an exercise in).


How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. ~Annie Dillard

  • Ask for help (hire a professional or an intern or enlist a volunteer).
  • Let chores slide (relax on the definition/expectation of clean).
  • Let things be (wrinkles, jiggles, warts and all).
  • Let go of guilt and enjoy every second.

Jeanne of Dream a Happy Life inspired this post when I read a beautiful piece she wrote about stealing time to merge her two lives.

Whatever begins, also ends.


Do you have a healthy relationship with time?
What are some ways you’ve made peace with time?


Image by carbonNYC

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tess The Bold Life February 22, 2010 at 4:53 am

A long time ago I stopped doing things I don’t enjoy . That’s when i realized there is always enough time! Now what I struggle with is the wrinkles, jiggles warts and all. I also struggle with canceling commitments…I always feel guilty. Now I only make them when I’m sure I’ll follow through. This is very well written. Lots of new ideas.


2 BK February 22, 2010 at 5:49 am

Quoting something from ‘The Last Lecture‘ by Randy Pausch, “Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think.” We really must treasure time as when it is lost, it can never be recovered.


3 Eva February 22, 2010 at 8:20 am

What an excellent list! I especially like the “Be Fierce” section. These are good tips I need to implement. I love to dawdle, but I need to work on limiting this. Also – cutting off conversations that aren’t going anywhere – oh, this is so hard! How can you do this tactfully and effectively?
Thanks for great food for thought.


4 Thekla Richter February 22, 2010 at 8:22 am

This is beautiful, Belinda. I especially love the concept of fierceness. and the idea of managing not just time but developing your relationship with time, just as you’d nurture any important relationship. Neat stuff!


5 Barrie Davenport February 22, 2010 at 11:43 am

I recently did a little exercise to try to figure out how many days I have left to live. If I live to age 85, I have 12,775 days left on Earth. That realization definitely gave me a new perspective on time. Every single day is a gift, and I want to live each day to the fullest, doing what is most important to me. It’s a lot easier for superfluous stuff to drop away when you see a finite time limit to your life!


6 Patty - Why Not Start Now? February 22, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Are you sure you’re not reading my mind, Belinda? I wrote about time today too. I love what Barrie says in her comment above, and for me, realizing that I will eventually run out of time motivates me to want to use it wisely, and deepen my relationship with it, sink into it, savor it, slow it down. Btw, you’ve got quite a list here! All good ways to do exactly what I’m wanting to do.


7 Phil - Less Ordinary Living February 23, 2010 at 3:13 am

Belinda -

A very timely post for me. I’m reading Time: A User’s Guide by Stefan Klein at the moment. The way that we perceive and use time is so complex and starts with our DNA and cellular / body clocks. I love that you offer contradictory suggestions about time – it shows that there how complex our relationship with time is.

I try to enjoy every second and live it with joy. Living in the now seems to be the best way to deal with the subtle march of the eternal. Brilliant post as always.


ps -thanks for the link to my writing about focus – you are wonderful.


8 Tony Single February 23, 2010 at 4:37 am

Well, even though me and time aren’t the best of friends, I am glad that I took time out to browse through your wonderful blog, Belinda. I may just apply some of those suggestions in my attempts to woo time into treating me a little more kindly. :P


9 Jeanne February 23, 2010 at 5:47 am

Fabulous list, Belinda! I tried to read it all, but ran out of time (just kidding :) ) — I think when we improve our relationship with time, it responds delightfully by slowing down a bit. At least that’s how it feels to me. I think, too, that the stuff we say to ourselves makes a difference — I’m thinking that I have all the time in the world, so the pressure’s off!

BTW, thanks a bunch for the link!!


10 Bob Bessette February 23, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Hi Belinda,
I love the multi-task line. My wife utilizes the crockpot extremely well. If she is busy during the day, she loads it up, and we have a great meal at the end of it. The older I get I try to spend my free time(not at work) only on the things that I want to spend time on (if at all possible). I’ve been spending a lot of time lately on the weekends helping out building theater sets at my daughter’s high school. I love working with wood and I love theater so it’s a nice mix. Very gratifying…
There is so much to this post. I especially love the let go of guilt. Guilt is a huge time-waster to some of us (yes, I’m guilty). By the way Belinda, thanks for the link!



11 Tracy Todd February 24, 2010 at 3:33 am

My life was turned upside down nearly 12 years ago when I was left paralyzed from the neck down after a car accident.

The one gift I have now… is TIME!


12 Madeleine February 24, 2010 at 7:59 am

Belinda, You have some great ideas here. I see areas where I could definitely improve. A key one would be reducing “dawdle” time. That’s a tricky one because it’s not really wasting time (up to a point, anyway), and it can be a tempting way to procrastinate.

However, I think I’m doing well in the double-task area. I really enjoy organizations like Toastmasters which combine serious learning with wonderful social interaction. It’s double-task but also double-benefit.


13 April February 24, 2010 at 10:16 am

Hi Belinda,
Loved the article…all the parts, fierce and mild. I found lots of helpful tips, smiles, and things to improve upon. I do NOT think I’ll ever accept the jiggles….must have time for the gym because jiggling makes me fiercely disgusted with me! And that’s a celebration of my imperfection of being a mild perfectionist!

I love the blog, the articles and the photos. Will be back for more, for me. And to link from my new blog,, a way of sharing positive thinking and ideas because that feels great to me, and hopefully to somebody(ies) else out there. Rippling out the good. Thanks for yours! Cheers,



14 Sara February 24, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Belinda — What a great list your provided for improving our relationship with time. You even saved me time because I read your article and then went back and found some wonderful sites to add to my readers.

My favorite heading was BE FIERCE!! I love the visual imagery I get with that one. My favorite suggestion was “Arrive late/Leave early (aka swoop in/swoop out — not recommended for one-on-one meetings).” This is something I definitely need to learn.

Regarding my relationship with time, it has dramatically changed in the last few years. I used to feel like I had to be busy EVERY moment of my day and then wondered why I was so tired all the time. I literally rushed through my life.

Now, I spend a lot more time just savoring time. So, I sit on my porch in the evening to either read or just watch the birds eat. I don’t wear my watch very often and if I do, it’s more a piece of jewelry than a time piece. I am learning to enjoy time, rather than fearing it.

I loved this article. You are such a creative writer in how you present a topic. Thanks:~)


15 Jenn February 25, 2010 at 6:59 am

Another great post. Thanks for being my inspiration on my perfectionist post too.


16 Kitzie Stern June 12, 2010 at 4:36 pm

I found this on Tiny Buddah–what a great post. Thanks for the new ideas. Also love “Be Fierce’.


17 Belinda Munoz June 12, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Welcome to The Halfway Point, Kitzie! Lori Deschene, the woman behind Tiny Buddha, is one of my favorite bloggers.


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