Western society puts a premium on time off. Downtime is such a rarity that we’re constantly running our lives in the “Red Zone.” Instead of allowing our minds to rest, we keep things moving way too fast, for way too long, cramming as much stuff as we can into our daily routine. As we know with car maintenance, when you keep the needle in the Red Zone for too long, something will inevitably break.
I suppose the title of this post is a bit misleading. You don’t “create” time for anything. The real principle is what I call “selective paring.” You do actually have the time and the resources to travel, to knock those special spots off the Life List. The money is there, the time is there, and yes, the motivation is there. But you choose not to knock those trips off the list—instead you fill that time with, and spend that money on, distractions. Whether electronic devices, or games, or friends and family, or additional responsibilities, we keep adding things to our lives that add clutter instead of enrichment. The idea of the “gap year”— backpacking around Europe or volunteering in Africa—has been such an enduring tradition for recent college graduates for so long because those travelers are forced to live simply and deliberately. Distraction is not an option.
I love my iPad as much as the next Apple fanboy, but there comes a point where you have to unplug. That means stowing the electronic gear away for awhile, and making your offline life a reality again. Clean the house, donate those toys you haven’t used in years, go for a walk, explore, sit on the porch smoking a pipe, whatever. Pare down your distractions so that you can focus on what is truly important to you and will make you feel enriched. These moments of idleness are not wastes of time, as we—Americans especially—have been trained to believe. They are opportunities for us to take stock, to create, to daydream, to become better at being world citizens.
Author Tim Ferris wrote a book about this very premise called The 4-Hour Work Week. The point of the book is not to whittle down your work week so that you’re just sitting around watching cat videos on Youtube for 36 hours a week, but instead to get rid of the distractions and busy work that keep you from doing what it is you truly want to be doing. Tim “works” in the traditional sense only about 4 hours a week, but he’s always doing some form of life or business enrichment, something which he enjoys, during the rest of the week. If you realize that the work you do can actually be enjoyable, you’ll be able to pare down the distraction of “work” and get to the real things that make your life whole. Things like climbing Mt. Killamanjaro, flying to Brazil for Carnivál, fly fishing in Alaska, or photographing the Northern Lights in Greenland. You can create time to travel, but you have to let go of extra baggage first.
So, what is the next step? How do you actually pare down your life so that time and money magically appears? I’ll look into that in an upcoming post. In the meantime, add your ideas for making time, or your dream adventures on your Life List.