Where Did My Time Go?!

Using spirit, work, and buffer time for a more efficient and joyful day.

Posted Feb 06, 2016

Image from pexels.com
Source: Image from pexels.com

Every so often after finishing a book we may set it down, mentally checking off an outstanding item we’ve meant to complete.  But sometimes our mind continues to process, letting the lessons we’ve learned percolate long after we’ve set a title back into our bookshelves or libraries.  I had this particular experience upon finishing Lynn Grodzki’s Building Your Ideal Private Practice.  Interestingly, despite her countless helpful ideas, tips and tricks for business, it wasn’t all the practical tools that stuck with me.  It was one concept in the final chapter of the book (and discussed only briefly) that made an immense impact on me.  Grodzki discussed looking at how our time is organized using 3 simple descriptors: work, spirit, and buffer.

She described work as things that bring you joy and money.  Spirit time was something that would rejuvenate your soul, and buffer was everything else.  Simple enough.  She shared learning about the concept from her coach and using this framework to categorize her own time.  She saw that as a busy private practitioner, while her work brought her money, it did not always translate to joy.  Weekends involved running errands, extra paperwork, and maybe dinner out and a movie, but not enough to fully re-energize her.  As a result, her weeks on end were lots and lots of buffer time. 

This was striking to me, as I realized that I was guilty of something very similar.  Especially after planning and coming down from a wedding in the Fall, I came to realize for the last several months of my life most of my time was pure buffer.  Return Crate and Barrel plate; purchase bowl; write and mail thank you cards; unpack moving boxes; put things into storage.  On and on it went. 

I love seeing patients part-time, but added a second position to add other elements of what I love in life—connecting with fellow colleagues, doing research to enhance lives of more people than I could in a one-on-one setting.  But then down went my spirit time drastically.  I read about Grodzki’s coach making her put spirit time into her calendar first, and then work and I thought about how it could possibly be done.  She had entire days dedicated to spirit, and I could barely find time to load the dishes into the dishwasher.  I realized with my husband’s help that for now, spirit hours would have to do.  So back came the yoga classes, time to blog, read, and experiment with recipes.  Scratch that, long tedious recipes were out, meal planning for the week was back in.

I also learned to check in with myself and test if what I thought was spirit time, truly functioned in that way.  For example, in the past, going to the mall was spirit time.  I’d wander around midday when there were no crowds, look about, make a few modest purchases, and beam the rest of the day.  I often felt accomplished and that I’d purchased meaningful items that added ease and joy to my day.  But just last week I tried this only to find the mall was a nightmare, crawling with people (thank you Portlandia for increasing Oregon’s population 1000-fold).  Spirit time no more!

Although an extremely simple concept, the idea of spirit time has resonated with me profoundly.  As I worked with clients, I’d ask about the makeup of their days. Though there were many other reasons contributing to anxieties or depressive thoughts, unsurprisingly they also lacked spirit time which they desperately needed.  I wouldn’t ask them to make drastic changes, but rather to look at how they could restructure their time.  I often work with students who have pretty set schedules.  But sometimes they would have a late arrival to school or early release.  That was time they could devote to reading something uplifting, playing guitar, or whatever else they could truly lose themselves in. 

By no means would I say that I have “mastered” this concept, as I still continue to think about it on a daily basis.  When I’m watching tv, I ask myself, “is there a more meaningful way I could use this time?”  Many of us have creative interests, wants and desires.  But endless scrolling through email, Facebook and Instagram feeds leaves us depleted and anything but energized.  As we are still in the early months of a new year, take pause and examine your hours and days.  Can you steal back precious time for yourself?  Though we often feel guilty doing it, it is actually the best things we can do for ourselves and those who touch our lives.  A happier bank teller leads to a happy customer.  A more fulfilled mother can attend to her children more fully. 

As you’re reading this article right now, see if you can stop and put your phone down or computer away.  Did you come across this page as you were in the midst of buffer work, or was it a scheduled spirit time break?  Become mindful of where your time goes.  In doing so, you can live each moment as fully as possible. 

Follow me on Twitter at MillenialMedia where I’m unlikely to be highly active as I deem it buffer time.