I bet the words “I’m so busy” and “I don’t have time” cross your mind and lips quite often. We wear these phrases like badges of honor, as if our busy-ness gives us status as worthy human beings. Each day has twenty-four hours, and many of us try to fill every single minute with several “important” things on our To Do list, like buying knickknacks for our houses and cutting the grass.

What we fail to realize, however, is that instead of honoring our time, we’ve become slaves to it.

Here’s a question. When you leave this earth, are you going to think about how happy it made you to wait in a two hour lineup so that you could save 50% on garbage from an outlet store? No. What you are most likely going to wish for is more of your most precious resource: time.

I recently returned from a vacation in which one of my main goals was to stop being such a time-slave. Usually when I go on vacation I jam-pack my schedule in the same way that I jam-pack my regular life. I create endless To Do’s and try to cram in as many tourist attractions as possible, so that when it’s time to go back to work I actually need a vacation from my vacation.

But my most recent vacation was different.

I rented an apartment on Martha’s Vineyard for a week-long getaway with my husband, and planned only one thing: a mid-week night out for a fancy dinner. Otherwise, our schedules were completely open. At first I found this very difficult. Before opening my eyes in the morning, my mind would be desperately trying to plan events for the day. It went something like this:

“It’s only 8:30am, that’s way too early to go to the beach. So maybe we’ll eat some breakfast and then drive around for a bit to see what we can discover. But then I’m not sure where we’ll be at lunch time so maybe I should pack a lunch for us. I wonder what time we’ll be back from the beach. If we’re back at a decent time then maybe I could make fish for dinner. I’d love to visit that one little beach town, but I’m not sure if we’ll get a chance. Maybe in between lunch and dinner…but then we might not make it back in time for me to cook the fish…”

You get the idea. My To Do’s had me in a death grip. I’m so used to treating my life like a series of tasks that I had a very hard time letting this pattern go. But eventually, after a couple of days of doing nothing but laying on the beach, my To Do mindset started to disappear.

And that’s when miracles started to happen.

As I gently released my tendency to fill up every minute of my time, my days started to get filled for me in amazing ways that I never would have imagined. Here are a few examples:

  • As my husband and I were lazily browsing through a store (something that I rarely do in my regular life), I noticed a flyer for a free writing workshop that just happened to be taking place the next day in the tiny town where I was renting an apartment. The workshop was awesome, and gave me some ideas for a future book.
  • At a farmer’s market that we stumbled upon, I found out about a herbal apothecary class that was happening at a beautiful arboretum later in the week. At the workshop I got to make my own tea, honey salves, and lavender body mist.
  • While stargazing one evening, we noticed that the moon seemed very large and that there were a lot of shooting stars. It ends up that there was a super moon and a meteor shower that week.
  • During an aimless country drive, we came across a beautiful field of wildflowers where you could to pick your own bouquet for $10.
  • When we first arrived at our apartment (while I was still in planning mode), I decided that I wanted to schedule a massage. Unfortunately the masseuse was completely booked. I was frustrated, but eventually I let it go. A couple of days later she called to let me know that someone had cancelled during a time slot that worked perfectly for me.

My point here is that by releasing my need to plan everything, I entered into a beautiful flow in which the universe took care of my plans and provided more amazing opportunities than I would have come up with on my own. Eventually I lost track of what time it was and what day it was. I just existed in the moment.

I think that many of us try too hard to force our lives to happen instead of trusting that everything will unfold with perfect timing. We just need to surrender to time instead of trying to hold on to it so tightly.

Two additional vacation experiences really hit this point home for me. First, I read a sweet little book by Janice MacLeod called The Paris Letters. In the book, Janice tells her personal story of leaving her life as a time-slave in California and opening up to wonderful opportunities in Paris. Janice did everything that you aren’t supposed to do at age thirty-four. She left her high-paying job, sold everything she owned, got down to one suitcase and then went traveling around Europe. She refused to believe that her time should be sucked up by twelve hour workdays and the results were miraculous.

I also watched a documentary on Netflix about Laura Dekker. The film, called Maidentrip, chronicles Laura’s attempt to be the youngest person to sail around the world alone. At age fourteen, Laura left her school, parents, and friends to set out on her dream. At some points during her two year journey she spent up to a month or more at sea – completely alone. Time stopped mattering. She had no one telling her where to go or what to do. Her courage confirmed a deep knowing that I’ve always held within, namely that:

We all have immense potential. We just have to be brave enough to use it. @BethanyButzer (Click to Tweet!)

Here’s another question. How would you like to spend your most precious resource, your time? Do you want to spend it as a slave to your To Do list, or even worse, as a slave to other people’s notions about how you should be living?

I deeply believe that there must be another way. A better way. A way to use our twenty-four hours in a manner that feels fulfilling and purposeful. And while I don’t have all of the answers figured out, I know that it doesn’t have to involve something as drastic as quitting your job or sailing around the world. It might involve simple choices like cutting your To Do list in half, or doing one small thing each day that makes you feel whole.

What small step could you take to stop being such a time-slave? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, researcher, and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love. Check out her book, The Antidepressant Antidote, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and join her whole-self health revolution.

If you’d like tips on how to create a life you love, plus some personal instruction from Bethany, check out her online course, Creating A Life You Love: Find Your Passion, Live Your Purpose and Create Financial Freedom.

Image courtesy of Sonja Langford via Unsplash.com