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.
Who is it for?
- Busy people wishing they had more time
- Meditation fans looking for more practical applications of mindfulness
- Anyone who wants to make the most of their time
Learn how to get the most out of your time.
What’s the most precious resource on Earth? It’s definitely not gold. Platinum and rhodium are actually more valuable – but it’s not one of those either. Nor is it money.
The answer is time. Want to dig up rare metals or earn some cold hard cash? You need time to do it. Heck, you need time to do anything. It’s the ultimate resource.
Unfortunately, it’s also in very short supply – these days especially. From demanding jobs to endless social media feeds, it seems like everything and everyone wants to take our limited time away from us.
If only there were a way to stop time. Well, there is – in a metaphorical sense at least. And you’re about to learn what it is!
In these summaries, you’ll find out
- why you have more time than you think;
- why you’re losing more of it than you need to; and
- what you can do about it.
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.
To get what you want out of life, you have to conserve your time, energy, and attention.
Picture your life as a garden. In this garden, you’re trying to grow some “plants.” Each plant is something you want to cultivate in your life – your career, health, relationships, hobbies, and anything else that’s important to you.
But here’s the problem. Your “life garden” has limited space – room for only about five to ten plants. And you only have so much “water” for your plants. The water is your time, energy, and attention. So, how do you help your garden to flourish? Well, the secret to success boils down to two words: resource management.
The key message here is: To get what you want out of life, you have to conserve your time, energy, and attention.
Inside your life garden, your “water” is an absolutely essential resource for your “plants.” However, it’s also very limited, so you have to distribute it carefully. If you don’t pour any time, energy, or attention into your career, it’ll never grow. But if you devote too much of your water to this one particular plant, it’ll prosper at the expense of your other plants. Your career will blossom, but your relationships will languish.
You also have to be wary of letting new plants into your garden, since they might crowd out the ones you already have. For instance, let’s say an old high school buddy tries to rekindle a friendship with you – but you don’t have much in common anymore. If you start spending time with him just out of politeness, that’s time you’re not spending with the people you really want to connect with.
The same goes for that boring book you’ve been reading for months, that online class you’ve lost interest in, or anything else that isn’t worth the time, energy, and attention you’re paying to it. In your life garden, there are other “plants” more deserving of your water – and they’re not getting that water if you’re wasting it on “weeds.” These are the plants you don’t want to grow – the ones that divert valuable space and water away from the plants you do want to grow.
Chances are, you’ve already got some weeds in your garden. Harsh as it might sound, you’ve got to pull them out – and then you’ve got to stay on guard against new ones sneaking in and taking root.
You need to think carefully about how you’re investing your time.
Have you ever worked in the business world or played the stock market? If so, you’ve probably heard the term return on investment before, or ROI for short. It’s basically a measure of how much profit you make when you invest money in a stock option or business venture. The goal, of course, is to get more money out of the investment than you put into it. The bigger the return, the better the ROI.
A similar logic applies to how we invest our time. Now, here are the million-dollar questions: What’s your ROI on how you invest your time? And what’s your time investment strategy? Do you even have one?
If the answer is no, then it’s time to do something about it.
The key message in this chapter is: You need to think carefully about how you’re investing your time.
Let’s say you’ve got half an hour to spend. No matter what you choose to do with that time, you’re going to experience some sort of outcome as a result. Go for a walk, and you’ll improve your fitness a little. Do a high-intensity workout, and you’ll improve it even more. Smoke some cigarettes, and you’ll do the opposite.
The choice is yours – and that’s the point. You’ve got to decide how you use your time. And that decision is essentially an investment decision. You’re putting a certain amount of time into one activity or another, and you’re getting back something else in return – whether that’s a better physique or a smoker’s cough.
Of course, the choices aren’t usually that stark. So how do you make your investment decisions under normal circumstances? Well, you should weigh your options based on the outcomes they produce. Do they improve your health, happiness, finances, or overall quality of life? And if so, how much?
If you measure your options by these criteria, you’ll see that some of them provide better ROIs than others. But it all depends on what you’re looking for. If you just want to whip yourself into shape, that high-intensity workout is an excellent investment opportunity. It squeezes a lot of exercise into a short period of time. In comparison, walking isn’t as much of a high-yield fitness option. But it could be a great way to reconnect with nature or have a conversation with a friend.
In any case, you wouldn’t plow your money into the stock market without weighing your options and thinking about your investment strategy, would you? So, shouldn’t you do the same thing with your time – your most valuable resource?
You have a lot more freedom over how you spend your time than you think.
Wait a minute, you might be thinking. Do we really have that much choice in how we spend our time?
After all, most of us have many obligations to fulfill and packed schedules to complete. Going to work, meeting deadlines, picking up groceries, returning phone calls – the list goes on and on. Even in our so-called “free time,” we don’t seem to have much freedom.
Now, to some extent, that’s true. But it’s also missing an important part of the equation.
The key message here is: You have a lot more freedom over how you spend your time than you think.
Yes, some obligations are imposed on us by reality. Taxes need to be filed. Dogs need to be walked. But if you went down the list of all the commitments of time you’re currently making to other people, events, and activities, you’d see that a lot of them are just that: commitments you’re making.
If a coworker stops you in the hallway for some idle chitchat, you don’t have to engage in a long conversation with him. If a friend invites you on a skiing trip, you don’t have to go on it. If you join a book group, you don’t have to stay in it. You choose to do these things – and that’s great, if you’re getting something out of them. But oftentimes that’s not the case. Instead, you might just be going along with them out of a misplaced sense of politeness or obligation.
We’ve got to stop doing this. All of these unnecessary, unrewarding commitments might not take up that much time themselves. But they all add up to a lot of lost hours per week.
That’s not to say you should start being rude to people. There are polite ways to cut a conversation short, decline a trip, or leave a book group. The point is simply that you should avail yourself of these options if your time would be better spent elsewhere.
You can also scale back or make various adjustments to your commitments. Consider phone calls. For many of us, these take up a lot of our time, both inside and outside of work. But maybe you could complete that client call in 15 minutes instead of the usual 30. And perhaps you could reschedule that weekly conversation with your mother to a time that works better for you – one where you’ll feel energized by the call, instead of rushed.
In any case, you’ve got way more options than you might think.
Even when you need to do something, you still have a lot of freedom in how you do it.
Alright, you might say. Maybe I can take back some of my time. But that’s just nibbling around the edges of my day. Most of it’s full of obligations I can’t get out of, and I can’t really change them.
For many of us, going to work is an obvious case in point. Short of working from home, starting a business, or winning the lottery, that’s just something you’ve got to do, right?
Well, yes and no.
The key message here is: Even when you need to do something, you still have a lot of freedom in how you do it.
Let’s say that due to personal circumstances, you have to keep your current job and place of residence. And let’s say there’s a long distance between points A and B, so you have to commute. No choice about it.
But how do you do that commute? On foot, by public transport, or in your car? Often, the choice is yours, and some options are better for your body – not to mention the environment – than others.
And even if you’ve no choice but to go by car, that still leaves things open. Do you drive by yourself? Or do you join a carpool?
And even if that’s not an option, you still have many other choices to make. What do you do while you’re driving solo? Do you listen to music, a podcast, or an audiobook? Talk on the phone? Or just stare at the bumpers in front of you and grumble about the traffic?
As small as they might seem, these choices can significantly transform the hours you spend driving per week. By listening to some peaceful music, you can turn your commute time into relaxation time. By putting on an audiobook, you can turn it into learning time. And by making a phone call, well, that depends on who you’re talking to. A client? That’s work time. A friend? Social time.
In any case, whether you decide to listen to a classic novel or catch up with your dad, your choices don’t stop there. For instance, what are you doing with your body? Are you slouching, or practicing good posture?
You could even spend the time doing Kegel exercises, where you tighten and relax the pubococcygeus muscles in your pelvis. This will help you build a stronger core and improve your sex life – all while you jam out to your favorite tunes, learn about history, or do whatever else you choose to do with your time!
You need to stop wasting your time on technological distractions.
Now, maybe you’re one of those lucky people who doesn’t have a morning commute. But even if you get to work from home in your pajamas, you still experience numerous situations per day where you’re waiting for something else to happen. If it’s not waiting for the customer service agent to pick up the phone, then it’s waiting for the elevator to open, the waiter to bring the check, or the microwave to finish.
Many of these experiences last just a few seconds or minutes, but they all add up, and they present us with a question: How do we fill up all of that empty time?
If we’re being honest, the answer for many of us is “not so well.” And the reason for this comes down to two words: technology usage.
The key message here is: You need to stop wasting your time on technological distractions.
Imagine you’re waiting in line at the coffee shop. What do you do to pass the time? If you’re like many of us these days, chances are you’re looking at your phone. Maybe you’re flicking through the news or one of your social media feeds. Or perhaps you’re checking in on one of those chat apps where you and your friends engage in mostly idle conversation.
In any case, staring at a phone has become the default, go-to activity for many of us, whenever we have any empty time to kill. Is it any surprise, then, that so much of our free time feels like dead time? We’re spending a large chunk of it as if we’re zombies, enthralled to various electronic screens. If it’s not our phones, then it’s our computers or televisions.
But no one is forcing us to waste our time this way. We can take back this time we’re losing and put it to better uses.
The first step here is to kick the habit. Next time you’re waiting somewhere and feeling the itch to pull out your phone, stop and take some deep breaths into your lower abdomen. Ask yourself, is there some urgent piece of information you simply must gain access to right now? Or have you just become uncomfortable spending time with your own thoughts or observing the world around you?
Maybe you could try some people watching instead, or do some stretches. Or, just stand there and think – anything that helps get you more in tune with your body, your mind, or your surroundings.
Mindfulness can help you get more enjoyment out of the present moment.
Take some deep breaths into your lower abdomen. Check in with yourself.
If that final part of the last chapter sounded familiar to you, there’s a reason for that. It was basically a mini-mindfulness exercise.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other ways in which mindfulness can help us focus on the present moment and try to make the most of it. In this chapter, we’ll look at one of them. It’s a powerful technique you might not have tried before, even if you already practice mindfulness.
The key message here is: Mindfulness can help you get more enjoyment out of the present moment.
As we’re going through our days, many of us are often so lost in our preoccupations that we barely pay attention to the world around us. Now, if you’re familiar with mindfulness, you know that part of the point of it is to snap your mind out of this distracted state of being and bring yourself back into the present moment. But how do you do that?
Well, try this out next time you find yourself in a place you’ve never been before. It could be a tropical paradise you’ve gone to on vacation. Or it could just be a neighborhood in your city that you’ve stumbled into for the first time. For this exercise, it doesn’t really matter. The thing you’re going to do is simply: stop, look around, and think to yourself, This could be the last time I’m ever here.
Notice how your perspective suddenly shifts. You’re no longer just walking through that neighborhood. You’re taking in the sights, smells, and textures of the people, streets, and buildings around you. You’re observing everything more closely. You’re noticing the magic of it all. In short, you’re fully experiencing this present moment of your life, instead of just barreling through it.
Now, ready for the kicker? You’re not just doing a thought experiment. This could literally be the last time you’re ever here – wherever that happens to be.
To put it bluntly: terrible things can strike us in the chapter of an eye, sometimes without warning. All we know for certain is that some day we’re going to die. That day could be today, tomorrow, or two decades from now. We just don’t know.
And that’s the point. We should try to savor our moments as if they were the last ones we’ve got – because they very well could be.
Mindfulness can slow down your experience of time, which can enable you to extend it and even stop it.
Alright, after all that talk about mortality, let’s start this chapter on a lighter note.
Has this ever happened to you? You sit down for a meal – pizza, let’s say. You’re eating quickly, without thinking. Maybe you’re doing something on your phone. Suddenly, you look down at your plate and realize the last slice of pizza is already gone.
Where did it all go? Well, you know it went into your belly – but you can barely remember eating the darn thing. It’s as if the experience didn’t even register in your mind.
Okay, you probably already know where we’re going with this. Yep, that’s right – once again, mindfulness is here to save the day.
The key message here is: Mindfulness can slow down your experience of time, which can enable you to extend it and even stop it.
Here’s another mindfulness exercise for you: next time you’re having a meal, stop doing anything else, and focus all of your attention on what you’re experiencing. Savor the tastes, smells, and textures of your food. Give each mouthful its own due. Chew and swallow it completely before you move onto the next morsel. Observe the muscular sensations involved in the process.
There’s a lot to take in! You just have to pay attention.
And if you do this exercise, it’ll not only enrich your experience of eating and make these minutes register in your mind. It’ll also stretch out the time, enabling you to experience more of it, in effect.
That’s not just because you’re eating slowly, but because you’re eating mindfully. When you’re paying attention to what you’re doing, time tends to go by more slowly – in a good way, not like when you’re having a boring experience and the time just seems to drag. This applies not only to eating but to just about anything you’re doing. You can practice mindfulness with the music you’re listening to in the car, the background noises you’re hearing on the street, the physical sensations of a nice warm bath. You name it, you can be mindful about it.
And if you’re really mindful, you can even achieve the seemingly impossible: you can stop the flow of time – in a sense, at least. When you’re fully plugged-in to the present moment, that moment itself can feel eternal. Sink into it, savor it, and let the seconds stretch out into infinity.
You need to make better time for yourself.
How’d you spend your morning today? If you’re like many people, you might have spent a lot of it in the shower. Many of us spend so much time in there that our bathrooms look like a steam room by the end.
Now, taking these long, hot showers on a daily basis is obviously bad for the environment. If you’ve got chlorine in your water supply, it’s not so good for your body either, since your skin can absorb the chemicals. But there’s an even deeper problem going on here, and it brings up a more general point that’s going to help us tie everything in these chapter together.
The key message here is: You need to make better time for yourself.
Yes, that long, hot shower feels good. But even putting aside the environmental and physical consequences, is this a good use of our time? Most of us spend our shower time just zoning out, basking in the warm sensation of the water and the sense of privacy we have.
Well, as car mechanics sometimes say, there’s your problem right there. For many of us, the shower is one of the few places where we have any sense of privacy. And it’s also one of the few times in the day when we do something nice and relaxing for our bodies. In other words, we have a deficit of “me time,” and we use the shower as a way of compensating for it.
The obvious solution? Reclaim some time for yourself. Perhaps there are better ways to relax and energize yourself. You could get a weekly massage, or do stretches every morning. Or, you could take a luxurious bath a couple of times per week, punctuated by quicker, more environmentally-friendly showers.
Only you know what your body needs, so this is yet another exercise in mindfulness. You’ve got to tune in to yourself and figure out what works best for you.
It’s also another exercise in time management. You’ve got to schedule your “me time” into your days and weeks. The same goes for all the other things that energize you and make you feel like you’re making the most of your time. Working out at the gym, going on walks with a friend, spending time with your family, having sex with your partner – none of these will happen unless you carve out the time to make them happen. So what are you waiting for? Your life is in your hands!
The key message in these summaries:
Maybe you can’t literally stop time, but you can slow it down and get more out of it by spending it more wisely, becoming more mindful, and energizing yourself. To do this, you have to carve out time to practice mindfulness and do things that give you energy. That requires time management. And by becoming more mindful and energetic, you’ll also be able to manage your time better – using it more productively, enjoyably, and meaningfully. The end result is something that can be called time prosperity, where your limited time here on Earth serves you as much as it can.
Actionable advice: Practice some gongs.
It takes about 90 days of practice to internalize better habits of time usage. To help you with this, the author recommends doing something he calls a 100-day gong. Each day, you practice one “time-stopping” technique for a designated period of time, which he calls a gong. In these summaries, we touched on seven of the gongs, so you could string them together into a whole week of practice. For instance, Monday: identify the plants and weeds in your life garden. Tuesday: do the meditation exercise with one of your meals. Wednesday: listen to an audiobook on your commute. Thursday: politely decline unwanted time commitments. Friday: take a luxurious bath. Saturday: carve out some family time. And Sunday: think about the ROI on the way you’re spending your time.
About the author
Pedram Shojai is an ordained priest of the Yellow Dragon Monastery in China, a Qigong master, and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. His previous books include The Urban Monk, a New York Times best seller. He also hosts a podcast by the same name.
Pedram Shojai, OMD, is the New York Times bestselling author of The Urban Monk and The Art of Stopping Time; the founder of Well.org; editor of BeMore! magazine; producer of the movies Vitality, Origins, and Prosperity; and the host of The Urban Monk podcast. An ordained priest of the Yellow Dragon Monastery in China, he is an acclaimed Qigong master, master herbalist, and Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Shojai conducts seminars and retreats around the world. He lives in Irvine, CA, with his family.
Health, Fitness, Dieting, Alternative Medicine, Personal Time Management, Meditation, Personal Transformation, Self-Help, Wellness, Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Personal Success, Psychology, Buddhism, Zen, Spirituality, Productivity, Philosophy
Table of Contents
DAY 1: Assembling Your Life Garden
DAY 2: Time for Gratitude
DAY 3: Nature
DAY 4: E-Mail Time
DAY 5: When to Lie Low
DAY 6: Anxious Time
DAY 7: Making Time in Your Schedule for You
DAY 8: Workouts
DAY 9: Digesting Thoughts
DAY 10: Time at Your Desk
DAY 11: Dream Time
DAY 12: When Less Is More
DAY 13: Chunk Time
DAY 14: Digesting Emotions
DAY 15: Mealtime
DAY 16: Time Earthquakes
DAY 17: Doing Nothing
DAY 18: Deceleration Time
DAY 19: Cutting People Who Suck Your Time
DAY 20: Big Life Events
DAY 21: Family Time
DAY 22: Time to Digest
DAY 23: Podcasts and Audiobooks
DAY 24: Communication
DAY 25: Dealing with To-Do Lists
DAY 26: When to Go All Out
DAY 27: Eternal Time
DAY 28: Time to Catch Your Breath
DAY 29: Deathbed Wisdom
DAY 30: Gardening
DAY 31: Framework before Work
DAY 32: Listening to Noise
DAY 33: Time on the Ground
DAY 34: Smiling
DAY 35: Drinking from Infinity
DAY 36: Cutting Existing Commitments
DAY 37: Workplace Shuffle
DAY 38: Daydreaming
DAY 39: Time Audit
DAY 40: Time and Money
DAY 41: Prayer
DAY 42: People Have Different Time Stamps
DAY 43: Purchase Decisions
DAY 44: Chair Time
DAY 45: Enjoy This Place
DAY 46: Pulling Weeds in Your Life Garden
DAY 47: Music
DAY 48: Quality Time with Your Family
DAY 49: Time and Technology
DAY 50: Setting Rituals
DAY 51: Stopping Time to Make Love
DAY 52: Phone Time
DAY 53: Relax the Back of Your Neck
DAY 54: Social Media
DAY 55: Five Breaths for You
DAY 56: Progressive Relaxation
DAY 57: Seasons
DAY 58: Reactive Decisions
DAY 59: Sweating
DAY 60: Time in the Sun
DAY 61: Teatime
DAY 62: Time by a Fire
DAY 63: Time and Light
DAY 64: Regular Breaks Daily
DAY 65: Shower Time
DAY 66: The Rings of a Tree
DAY 67: Building a Legacy
DAY 68: Time in Bed
DAY 69: How Many Heartbeats Do I Have Left?
DAY 70: Bath Time
DAY 71: Cardio Time
DAY 72: Time in the Dark
DAY 73: Enlisting Help
DAY 74: Time on a Lake
DAY 75: Bird-Watching
DAY 76: Car Time
DAY 77: Time and Weight Gain
DAY 78: Time with a Tree
DAY 79: Your Bucket List
DAY 80: Time to Heal Your Body
DAY 81: Vow of Silence
DAY 82: Trading Time
DAY 83: Time under the Moon
DAY 84: Learning Animal Tracks
DAY 85: Times with Low Sleep
DAY 86: Time to Read
DAY 87: Snack Time
DAY 88: Time for Your Neighbors
DAY 89: Utter Relaxation
DAY 90: Turning the Light of Awareness Inward
DAY 91: Stretching Out Trapped Time
DAY 92: Traumatic Events
DAY 93: You’ll Be Pushing Up Flowers
DAY 94: Time Lost
DAY 95: Creative Time
DAY 96: Time with the Stars
DAY 97: Eye Contact and Face Time
DAY 98: Boredom
DAY 99: Waiting
DAY 100: Time ROI
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Easy-to-follow mindfulness exercises you can do every day to fundamentally transform your relationship with time.
We’re all struggling to find time in our lives, but somehow there’s never enough to go around. We’re too tired to think, too wired to focus, less efficient than we want to be, and guilty about not getting enough time with our loved ones.
We all know that we feel starved for time, but what are we actually doing about it? Precious little. In The Art of Stopping Time, New York Times bestselling author Pedram Shojai guides us towards success with what he calls Time Prosperity—having the time to accomplish what you want in life without feeling compressed, stressed, overburdened, or hurried.
So how do we achieve this Time Prosperity? We learn to Stop Time. To do that, Shojai walks us though a 100-day Gong, which is based on the Chinese practice of designating an amount of time each day to perform a specific task. The ritual helps you become mindful, train your mind, instill new habits, and fundamentally transform your relationship with time. We can find moments of mental awareness while in the shower, eating a snack, listening to podcasts, and even while binge-watching our favorite TV shows.
He shares how to use Gongs to reprogram your habits, reduce stress, increase energy, exercise the ancient practice of mindfulness, and become a master of your time. Whether you do one per day, a bunch at a time, or read the whole book in one sitting, practicing the Gongs is a dedicated act of self-love that snaps us out of our daily trance and brings the light of awareness to our consciousness. The more we practice, the more we wake up, and the better off we are.
Read an Excerpt/PDF Preview
This is a book about the crazy life we live in which time is always scarce.
We’re all struggling to find time in our lives, but somehow there’s less of it to go around each year. We’re too tired to think, too wired to focus, and less efficient than we want to be. We feel guilty about not getting enough time with our loved ones.
Our perception of the scarcity of time is coupled with the epidemic of stress in the modern world: Stress makes us feel like the walls are closing in on us, which certainly doesn’t help us feel better about time. We live in a culture that has lost the script and is absolutely frantic about the loss of time.
This concern about time is warranted. Time is the currency of life. We have a certain amount of heartbeats with which to savor life and really taste it. Our time with our families, loved ones, pets, and hobbies is precious, and we cherish it. We also trade our time for money. This money buys us shelter, food, vacations, and college for our kids. We can also squander our money, and it’s as though we never had that time at all.
We develop health issues when we’re less conscious of time. We then wish we had some time back to make things right. Time is all we have, and it’s our most valuable gift in life. When we run out, well, the game is over. We can look back, but we can’t get it back.
When we don’t have a positive connection with the flow of time, we lack purpose. We wander around, aimlessly squandering the time we have, only to regret it later. We get so lost in time that we can’t even stop to look at the future and think through the impact of decisions today.
We see this not only on a personal level but also on a societal one: Our biggest political and environmental issues all stem from our personal relationship with time, which is in distress. We can’t slow down. We can’t stop consuming and polluting.
We all know that we feel starved for time, but what are we actually doing about it? Precious little.
This book is designed to change that and bring us back to a healthier connection with time. By adjusting our relationship with time and finding our center, we can take ownership of our commitments and reprioritize where our valuable time is spent and with whom. In a world where everything is available to us in an endless stream of information and opportunity, the onus is on us to control the gates and take ownership of our time. Our energy, our money, and our time are linked in ways we often don’t think about. This book teaches us how in a simple, easy-to-follow, and proven methodology. I’ve helped thousands of people find more time and peace by becoming Urban Monks.
My goal is to guide you toward what I call time prosperity, which means having the time to accomplish what you desire in life without feeling compressed, stressed, overburdened, or hurried. Time prosperity brings us peace, better decisions, better health, more family time, and a realignment of our priorities in a way that helps us bring
fulfillment and purpose back. If you can control your relationship with time and achieve time prosperity, you’ll bring down your stress, have more energy, gain more fulfillment, and actually get more done.
So how do we achieve time prosperity? We learn to stop time. In this book, I will walk you through ancient spiritual practices and practical life skills that help us stop time by tapping into our innate wisdom, taking control of our calendars, and developing solid boundaries around time commitment. Think of this as the practice of
mindful time management.
At the heart of this book, I walk you through a practice called a 100-Day Gong. Based on an ancient Chinese practice, a gong is a designated amount of time that you allot to perform a specific task every day. You pick a particular practice (or set of practices) and designate them as your gong and diligently practice them every day, without fail, for the time period. This not only builds resolve but also forces us to wake up and pay attention to our day-to-day routines. We know that our everyday microhabits lead to the lives we have now. Making small, simple yet significant changes along a longer period of time is the way forward. Change a little here and there and eventually life takes off in wonderful ways. A gong is a powerful way of not only building focus and determination but also ensuring that you train regularly. A gong is a dedicated act of self-love that snaps you out of your daily trance and brings the light of awareness to your consciousness. The more we practice, the more we wake up and the better off we are.
Because it takes at least 90 days for a particular good habit to burn into your nervous system, I have found the 100-Day Gong to be the most appropriate length to practice. You can think of it as a 100-day ritual that helps instill new habits. We all need rituals to snap us out of the trance of modern living and into a deeper personal interface where true change can happen. Instead of asking an already busy person who’s on the verge of breaking to add one more thing to her chaotic life, we’re going to take something you’re doing already and provide a swap that will help you liberate more time and energy each day. We’re going to check in, relax a bit, and slightly alter a current habit by offering up a better way. We do this each day and slowly build better routines.
Some practices will stick, and others will not. That’s fine. The key is to slowly and gently unlock more time and therefore more energy and enthusiasm in your life through the practice. You’ll keep some of the efficiencies or maybe come back to some later in life, but taking a 100-day walk through your life will fundamentally transform your relationship with time, energy, money, people, and life itself.
With short chapters, each day offers a quick lesson and action plan. That’s it. Some of the lessons focus on specific activities that you probably wish you had time to do. Some focus on general ways to find more time for however you want to use it. Some may be easy for you, and others may rattle your core. Over 100 days, life will be different. You will be different, and your relationship with time (and therefore life) will be fundamentally transformed for the better.
The ideal way to use this book is to run through it from start to finish over the next 100 days (yes, that means start now!) and simply do each day’s practice. As you roll forward, you’ll find that certain things have come along on the ride with you. You may have huge realizations one day and fundamentally change the way you do a certain thing. Other days, you may go through a practice and not connect with it deeply. That’s cool. Roll forward day by day and see what habits you pick up along the way. Write your notes all over this book. Journal in it and circle things. This work is your process. It’s your innate wisdom that’s being tapped as we go. Document it.
Once you’ve finished your first 100 days, I recommend using this book randomly each day. Let’s call it gong roulette. Carry the book around with you and randomly open to any chapter and make that your day’s gong. You’ll have seen that practice at least once in your first pass, and now you’ll have a chance to revisit it. You’re never going to be the same person when you come back to a chapter, so you’ll learn much about your journey as a human on this planet as you go.
Now go live your life and practice it. Let’s get to work. We’ve got 100 days together, starting today!
Assembling Your Life Garden
Today we look at life through the filter of a natural metaphor. Imagine your life is a garden. You have limited water and need to leave space for each plant to flourish. Some may be bigger and more important to you than others. Some you may not even like but are obliged to keep there.
Think about what’s important to you. What would make it into your Life Garden? Family? Career? Health? Relationships? Music? What’s important in your life?
List these items and then imagine how much energy needs to go into the sustained growth of each. Think of your energy as the water you need to nourish and grow each plant. It comes in the currency of time, effort, willpower, and attention. If you were to adequately nourish each plant, what would it take?
Some may require far more time and energy than others. Make an allowance for that. New cars cost money. If you want one, you’ll have to either make more (which means more water in the career area) or take away some funds from your family or elsewhere. Take a cold, hard look at what you say you value and then reconcile that against how much water (time, energy, attention, money, focus) you have to keep that plant happy and healthy. Can you manage to keep certain plants alive while directing the f low of your water to certain others for the time being?
Get realistic about how many plants you need to water and cultivate. You have room for five to ten plants and that’s it. Guard against any new ones that may be introduced into your garden, and pull up the ones that are sucking valuable resources away from your most important plants. Consider these weeds. It takes focus and dedication, but this is critically important. By saying yes to something new, you’re effectively saying no to your existing plants. You’ll find yourself watering newcomer weeds and diverting away from the plants you’ve deemed important in your life. Does this sound familiar?
This practice will help you grow more mindful. It’s important to set a Life Garden and then use it as a filter to see if new plants can root. Does something fall within the domain of an existing plant? If so, how much water will it pull from the others? Can you afford the shift? Is it a completely new plant? Where will you draw the water from to make room for it? Is that the best use of your resources? Be honest.
Qigong means energy work (qi = energy and gong = work). It is the cultivation of one’s personal energy through a yogic practice. The actual term “gong” is used to describe our practice here.
Over time, with qigong and meditation, you’ll have access to more energy, personal power, and clarity. This’ll help you draw upon more water for existing plants or newcomers. But for now assume your water (energy, time, and focus) is limited to what it currently is. With that, how do you need to allocate this water to make each plant flourish? Let’s get clear on where you want it to go and then assess if that’s what’s happening. If not, let’s make adjustments.
Using the Life Garden metaphor can help you be honest about how much time and energy you have to commit to things. This way you don’t overcommit, and you also simultaneously avoid the stress and regret that come with not getting things done.
When we align our goals with our plans, we plug in our focus and willpower to make it work.
Time for Gratitude
Today we pull over and take some time to be grateful for what we have. Gratitude is good medicine and is always time well spent. It helps relieve stress and build positive energy, and it gives us great perspective on life.
When’s the last time you did this? Are you hardwired to be grateful, or is it something you have to remind yourself about? Practicing gratitude is healthy. It helps paint a worldview of optimism and hope. People who practice it are consistently happier—we’ve seen this in multiple studies.
What tends to happen with people who are depressed and stuck is a phenomenon called stacking. This is when something bad happens to us and we take that isolated event and attach it to a series of other “bad” isolated events and create a pessimistic narrative.
Let’s say you stub your toe and drop your phone. People who stack go to a place where “this always happens to me; I have such bad luck; I remember when I tripped in college and was embarrassed” and on and on. A bill could come in and remind you of all of your financial woes, or something as trivial as your favorite team losing could trigger your personal narrative of how you married the wrong person.
It doesn’t make sense, but it’s what we tend to do. It’s a downward spiral that drags us into a “my life sucks” narrative that doesn’t serve us. It also makes us less fun to be around.
Gratitude is a wonderful antidote for this tendency. Today let’s practice this. Grab a piece of paper or pick up your phone and simply start making a list of all the things you’re grateful for. It could be your kids, your cat, your accomplishments, a tasty lunch you had recently, or the clouds in the sky. Just keep writing.
Spend at least 10 minutes going through this exercise and don’t stop. Even if it sounds stupid, write it down and keep flowing down your list. It may take a second to recall some of these items. That’s fine. The act of recalling them delivers a powerful therapeutic and spiritual value.
Once you’re finished with your list, stop and ask yourself how you feel. How did you feel before you started, and how do you feel after? Any difference? Take note of it.
As you go through your day, keep your list with you. Take a look at it a few more times and do a quick read through. Stop on any item that grabs your attention and let that gratitude fill your heart. Sit with the feeling of gratitude toward whatever the given item is. Bask in its sunshine, and let it fill you.
At the end of today go back and recall how you felt in the morning and how you feel on the other side. Any difference? Chances are, it’ll be subtle but definitely there. If you like what this is doing, keep your list with you tomorrow and add to it. In fact, see about adding things as they come up for you, and make this list a growing scroll of things you’re grateful for. The more you do it, the better it’ll serve you. Over time, this practice will radically transform your life and change your mood toward all things. It takes away the friction and allows us to live in a healthier, timeless space.
Video and Podcast
“Who knew that the way to gain more time was actually to stop, be present, and dedicate time to specific activities? In The Art of Stopping Time, the Urban Monk shows us that we can, in fact, have time to do the things we love—if only we make an effort.” – JJ Virgin, New York Times bestselling author of The Virgin Diet and Sugar Impact Diet
“Taking a 100-day walk through your life will change how you view your time, energy, money, and even relationships. You’ll never be the same again. Do this!” – Dave Asprey, founder and CEO of Bulletproof, Inc., and New York Times bestselling author of Head Strong and The Bulletproof Diet
“The Art of Stopping Time is a powerful book that will help you at this critical juncture in history, when time seems to disappear in an instant. I highly recommend it.” – Daniel G. Amen, MD, Founder, Amen Clinics and author of Memory Rescue
“How do you stop time and get more out of life? You follow my dear friend Pedram Shojai’s 100-day guided plan. This plan will not only revolutionize how you experience your day, but it will also bring a deeper sense of joy to everything you do and experience!” – Mark Hyman, MD, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine and New York Times bestselling author of Eat Fat, Get Thin