How My Client Used “Elephant Time” to Live a Happier Life – And You Can Too

More time. It’s what we all need, isn’t it? The magic ingredient that’s missing from all of those unchecked to-dos on your list. 

What if you could magically feel like you have more time? What would you do with it? What would it feel like? 

Recently, one of my clients found the magic secret to feeling like she had all the time she needed. Want to know what it is? Let me tell you her story.

My client felt like she was working all the time, but never getting anything done. Sound familiar? I know she’s not alone in this.

To help her prioritize what mattered to her and enjoy her work more, we did get rid of a bit of freelance work that she didn’t enjoy. But the real transformation came from changing her perspective about her time and productivity. Let me tell you more about her situation. 

Most days, she had consistent childcare where she could focus on her freelance work, except for on Tuesdays, when she was home with her kids. Still, she found herself trying to get stuff done, while getting interrupted a thousand times and feeling frustrated. Then at the end of the day, she felt guilty for not having spent time with her kids. 

It was the same on the weekend. “I’m just going to work on a couple things I didn’t have time for during the week,” she told herself,” but with her whole family around, it was hard to focus.

She never felt like she got as much accomplished as she wanted, and her partner was frequently irritated that she was distracted all the time. Monday soon appeared, feeling like she hadn’t really had a weekend, but ALSO wasn’t that far ahead. Lose – lose. 

During one particular coaching session when she was wrestling with this problem, we did a fun exercise where I have clients look at a problem through different “lenses” to give our brains new ways to see an old problem. 

So, if our problem is time, we look at time from different perspectives. For example, how might an elephant view time?

My client, imagining time from an elephant’s perspective, said this: 

“They never seem to be worried about being somewhere else. They just are where they are. They’re presence feels intentional, steady, and wise – full of grace for this moment.”

Suddenly, there were tears running down her cheeks as she said, “I’m missing it. I’m never really present for my life. I’m missing it ALL this way!” 

She realized the thing she wanted most was to be more present for whatever she was actually doing at that moment. Whether that was work, spending time with her kids or relaxing with her family, she wanted to just be where she was – intentional, steady and wise – without being worried about being somewhere else. 

Anything less was cheating herself of part of her life and, in the end, not actually that productive.

She used this insight to begin to craft how she showed up for her time. She decided that on Tuesdays, she didn’t actually get that much done when she didn’t have childcare, and so we reorganized her week so that she just spent that day with her kids. 

They went to the beach, the zoo, played at the park, built forts. She just enjoyed her kids that day. Completely in the moment, without guilt. In the afternoons, when everyone was tired, they got a little screen time, and she might answer a few emails and make sure she was ready for the next day, but that was it. 

Reflecting on her weekends, she started to realize that her projects were stretching over her entire weekend like a shadow. She wasn’t really making any progress on them, but their looming presence divided her mental energy. 

Now, if they do something on the weekend she’ll want to create content from, she just snaps a few pics and quick videos as any mom would, and then puts them in a file to look at during the week day she has specifically blocked off for content creation. 

Recently, I asked her to reflect on what she’s the most proud of during our coaching session, and she didn’t hesitate: elephant time. Being able to really BE with her family. There’s more fun, more peace, and – as it turns out, the exact same level of productivity.

Most of us would say that it’s not healthy to be working all the time, right? So why do we end up doing that to ourselves?

For my client, the activity of “working” synced up with her identity as a hard worker. After all, what right did she have to enjoy any other time when there was so much she could be doing in her business?

But the cost was missing her life. And the dividends weren’t that great – she wasn’t actually accomplishing that much. She felt like she was being “productive,” but upon further reflection, she wasn’t actually getting much done. So what was the point? 

She gave herself permission to enjoy where she was now. To be present. To be on elephant time with the people she loves. 

Then, on Monday morning, she brings her most productive, focused self to her work.

So if you’re feeling like you’re working all the time and not accomplishing much because of constant interruptions, how can you surrender to the thing that wants your attention? 

How can you be present with it, fully engage with it, enjoy it? Then, when it’s complete, come back to your work. 

I decided to do this with the process of moving this week, after talking to my own coach. 

I’ve been feeling frustrated with moving AGAIN so soon, even though it’s for good reasons. 

After taking a  few weeks off, I have so much on my to-do list post-vacation! But trying to work while my office is half-packed isn’t going great. My husband is a little irritated.

I’m not helping pack because I’m “trying” to work. But honestly, I’m not getting that much done because I’m struggling to focus, feeling like I’m needed elsewhere. 

Yesterday, I decided to just stop. 

I looked at what absolutely had to be done this week (supporting my clients – it always just comes down to that). Then I let the rest go and decided to show up and lean in to moving time.

I had to be present with moving, to be present with what my family needed. 

And – what do you know – I started to feel excited instead of irritated! This is a moment to set up my environment for the next stage of living in Colorado.  What do I want? How will the house serve us best? What book do I want to listen to for fun while packing? 

My husband and I put on a favorite record while we packed, laughed at stupid stuff we’ve been moving with us for the last 15 years, and ordered take out from our favorite restaurant when we needed a break.

Surrendering to the moment completely changed the experience, instead of struggling while “half-assing” (not a word ????) both things. 

The stuff I had on my list will get done with focus and efficiency on Monday. Or the stuff that turns out not to actually be that important will drop off. 

Right now, I’m present for something important in my and my family’s life. 

It’s changing the experience and productivity level for both things. 

So, stamp your feet and swing your trunk. Blink slowly as you look around at what matters. Ignore the rest. It’ll wait. Walk down to the watering hole and take a drink. Be intentional, steady and wise. 

Elephant Time. 

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