How often we casually use those words – “take your time”. Whether to hurrying children, to stressed colleagues, or to ourselves when we are rushed off our feet, we probably hear these words so often that we forget what they actually mean.
So it’s worth reflecting for a moment on the real sentiment behind this stock phrase. Two things strike me once I really start to contemplate its meaning and how that might relate to my own life.
First, it envisages time as “mine”, something which I take ownership of and make use of, not something which rumbles relentlessly past me. So often the daily routine and its attendant pressures feel as if they are taking control of us, and we rush about in a harried way looking (and feeling) stressed. It’s as if time runs us – whereas the notion of thinking about time as “your time” challenges you to turn the tables and take active control of it.
And that’s the second striking thing – your time is there to be “taken”. Grab it, seize it, own it, make it count! Take control of that time which is yours, and make it work for you. None of us gets to control the span of our lives – the total amount of time we have available to us – but we all of us get to make choices about the time we have right now, in the present moment.
This was brought home to me very forcibly ten days or so ago. I had a hundred and one things to do that day – or so it seemed to me – and only a finite amount of time in which to do them. It was stressful – I was running about like a mad thing, trying to fit everything in, and failing miserably. In fact the faster I tried to work, and the more things I tried to juggle at once, the worse it became. I was letting time and task take control of me.
Eventually, in sheer desperation and feeling thoroughly shattered, I just stopped and sat still for five minutes. I took my time – in every sense of those words. And that one act started to make things clearer. I gave myself space to prioritise what I needed to do. In recognising that even with the most Herculean effort, it was simply physically impossible to complete my to-do list, I gave myself permission to control my agenda for the day.
So next time life is getting on top of you, and the stress of having far too much to do builds up, resist the urge just to go faster and faster. Stop. Breathe. And take your time.