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The Art of Stopping Time

Practical Mindfulness for Busy People

By Pedram Shojai
  • Read in 16 minutes
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  • Contains 10 key ideas
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The Art of Stopping Time by Pedram Shojai

The Art of Stopping Time (2017) answers the questions on many of our minds these days: Where does all our time go? And how can we get it back? Fusing practical time-management principles with the philosophical ideas of mindfulness, author Pedram Shojai shows us how we can make the most of our limited time on Earth.

Key idea 1 of 10

What you get out of your time depends on how you spend it, how much energy you have, and how mindful you are.

Imagine you could stop time – not just figuratively, but literally. Snap your fingers, and poof – the clock stops ticking. Congratulations. You now have unlimited time to finish that work project, write that memoir, or do anything else you want.

But what if you ended up just messing around with your phone instead? And what if you were too tired or scatterbrained to focus on anything more worthwhile? Well, in that case, you might as well take all of that newly created time and flush it down the toilet.

The key message here is: What you get out of your time depends on how you spend it, how much energy you have, and how mindful you are.

On one level, time is something very fixed and finite. There are only so many hours in a day, a week, and a lifetime. Meanwhile, an hour is an hour, no matter how you slice it: 60 minutes, 3,600 seconds – it’s always the same. And there’s only so much you can do with an hour. A good workout? Sure. A vacation? Obviously not.

But on another level, time is a much more fluid phenomenon. What you get out of it depends on three factors.

First, how are you spending it? Are you doing something interesting, useful, meaningful, or pleasurable with your time? If the answer is yes, you’ll end up getting much more out of an hour than if the answer is no. Going for a run? More endurance. Working on a side hustle? More money. Reading a book? More knowledge. But just sitting around, looking at photos of other people’s lives on social media? You won’t have much to show for that.

Alright, now the second factor: How much energy do you have? If you’re feeling revved up and ready to go, you can spend that hour pleasurably and productively. But if you’re exhausted, you’ll barely be able to do anything, let alone enjoy it. Maybe you’ll end up flopped on the sofa, zoning out in front of the television.

Finally, the third factor: How mindful are you being? Are you paying attention to what you’re experiencing? If the answer is no, you’re essentially losing that hour. Even if you’re doing something amazing, like hiking through a beautiful forest, the time will slip by as if you barely experienced it.

So no, we can’t actually stop time. And we can’t change the fact that our time is limited. But we can get more out of it. And we can stop losing so much of it.

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