Time, they say, is a scarce commodity. Underlying this idea is the morbid but unavoidable truth that, one day, we all die. A common response is to try and cram in as much as possible while we are here. This is understandable and often unconscious. It is particularly strong in the modern, industrialised West, where the feeling of time scarcity, coupled with the Protestant work ethic, contributes to the popularity of life hacks and productivity tips.
Yet there is more to life than getting things done. Time isn’t a commodity at all, scarce or otherwise; it isn’t a uniform, undifferentiated, raw material (even to a physicist, there is more to time than that). Time, as we experience it, is wildly different, depending on what we are doing. A minute waiting for the bus is not the same as a minute doing press-ups or a minute savouring the taste of ice cream. We may have a limited amount of time available to us in this life, as measured by the clock; but you are not a clock.
I want to invite you to let go of the idea that time is linear, regular and objective, and think of it in the same way we experience it — as elastic, variable and layered. I am not so interested in how you cram more in to your life, but in how you get more out. To do so may require all sorts of strategies, but one thing I am sure of: it entails being able to pause.
A pause is an opening. It acts as a portal to other options and choices, giving more dimension to your experience. Just as a small amount of yeast makes light of heavy dough, a small amount of pause here and there can leaven or lighten your life. You don’t need much but it is a vital ingredient.
Experimenting with pause gives you a way to play around with the rhythms of your life. You might pause to rest and regenerate, to become more creative, to connect with other people or yourself, or just to enjoy whatever it is that is going on around you (or inside you). There are many possible reasons to pause, ways to pause and lengths of pause. There are many different practices you can adopt. You can play around to your heart’s desire and choose whatever suits you: pause is quite the opposite of a task to tick off. It is a subtle, powerful, life-giving idea — one that is worth spending a little time with.
Use the code PAUSE for a 15% discount on copies of Do Pause purchased here. The book also comes with a free ebook download.
Rob is speaking at our 2019 London Bravest Conference on 6 November at the Science Museum. Book your tickets now.