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(Not) Balancing It All: Finding Time for Both Kairos and Chronos

A new-to-me way of thinking about time.
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There were a string of days (maybe even weeks?) leading up to our trip to Italy where I felt like I'd completely lost track of any balance in my life. I spent the majority of each day closed off in my office, attempting to be productive, and then feeling guilty when I wasn't. And the problem was, even after I'd leave the office at the end of the day, my evenings were filled with things I "had to" do in order to compensate for my lackluster output at work. I'd bring up the pile of dishes into the bathroom sink (the joys of not having a kitchen while under construction), pay bills, or look for inspiration online in order to bring me out of my funk. I was sort of in a holding pattern, assuming everything would be cured once we left for our trip, and it wasn't until reading Sloan her bedtime story one evening when I realized where I had gone wrong.

A Kids Book About Technology by Amber Case was perhaps a littttle over Sloan's head, but resonated with me deeply. It talks about the Greeks' definition about the two types of time. There's Chronos time, which is made up of things you need to do—things like work, doctor's appointments, etc. And then there's Kairos time—quality time that comes from doing things you love that leaves you feeling rejuvenated. It seems so silly and obvious looking back, but it was at that moment, lying with Sloan in her bed that I understood how imbalanced my life had become.

Like a lot of people, my anxiety the past year and a half has been overwhelmingly high and to cope with it, I've tried to bury myself in things in which I have control. That long to-list? I'll finish it all by the end of the day! The new project we're hoping to launch early next year? Let's add it on! Instead of returning to the simple things, in which I've always found the most comfort and joy (baking, reading, antiquing, trips to the beach), I did the opposite and filled my days with obligations since they made me feel productive. I had virtually no Kairos time, despite my flexible schedule, and so the next day I decided to make some changes. 

I left for a walk the next morning at around the time I usually sat down at my desk. The first few minutes felt heavy and guilt-ridden, thinking about all the emails that were piling up and the questions from my team that would go unanswered. But after some time, and the distraction of a true crime podcast, I found myself lost in my thoughts, in the best possible way. I didn't rush home and instead wandered the aisles of Trader Joe's, settling on some new snacks and fresh flowers to take home. And guess what? Those emails that had worried me and questions from my team were still waiting when I got back and nobody even noticed that I'd gotten a slighter later start to my day. But my energy levels and enthusiasm felt like they'd been refilled and it brought a level of buoyancy and happiness to the rest of my day.

I shared this experience with my friend, about how even the smallest of changes can have profound effects on our psyche. She told me one of her tricks for always remembering to make herself a priority that's straightforward yet effective: She has a list of things she repeats every day, every week, and every month that bring her joy and help ground her. Each day at around Noon, she heads outside to eat her lunch, followed by a 10-minute meditation. Every Friday she goes on a date with her husband where they sit outside and she drinks a martini while people-watching. And on a monthly basis, she makes sure to get out on their boat. I was so inspired by the idea of setting up these little moments that I decided to do the same for myself.

My mornings now start with a meditation in bed. Instead of reaching for my phone and doom-scrolling or jumping into my emails, I focus on my breathing and what I'm most grateful for that day. I like that it's literally the first thing I do since it sets the stage for incorporating other similar moments throughout the day. Each week, without fail, I grab lunch with a friend. It feels fun and indulgent and no matter how busy things are, I know I can always carve out some time in the middle of a day. On a monthly basis, I make plans to leave the city, even if it's just for a few hours. Last weekend we went to Laguna Beach. We arrived by 9 am, grabbed breakfast burritos we ate on the sand, made a "sand castle car," got gelato, visited my favorite candy shop, and visited the Pacific Marine Mammal Center on the way out of town. I see these reoccurring moments as a jumping off point, the bare minimum I commit to that reinforce the importance of spending time on what matters most.

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