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Frequently, I think about word choice when it comes to describing certain phenomena and how that word choice reveals how we view or feel about those things. Time is an interesting example. Think about the verbs we use to describe how we interact with time: saving, spending, wasting, etc. If we take a step back, we realize how often we view time as a commodity, like money or material wealth.

But it isn’t. Not even close.

Truth is, we all get the same 24 hours in a day. Regardless of wealth or status, nobody on this planet is able to have more or less. Above the planet, if you’re an astronaut, well, things change a bit due to relativity and all, but we won’t get into that.

So, how we choose to divvy up those 24 hours makes for an interesting and surprisingly enlightening study in self-awareness.

When Apple released their Screen Time report in 2018, I don’t think a lot of us were ready for the results it produced. According to the NY Post, the average American spends a little less than seven hours a day staring into the tiny screen, where time goes to die. That adds up to a bit less than 50 hours a week, which is the equivalent of an additional full-time job, and this is one we not only are not paid to do, but one that we pay for the privilege of using.

Recently, I assigned a simple activity to some of my classes: Spend one hour alone. This had to be completely alone – no phone, no music, no books, no other person – fully and totally alone for 60 minutes. The purpose behind this activity is to start paying attention to our thoughts and use that time to slow down, organize our minds, and take back control over our attention spans.

Student reactions to learning of the activity are oh-so-very telling. Most view the activity with dread. Many become fearful of how this hour would affect them. Still more refuse to do it because they “don’t have the time to waste.”

Hold up. Back up the thought train for a second.

We willingly stare at tiny screens for more than 40 hours a week, scrolling endlessly and mindlessly checking for updates at stoplights, while waiting in line, and even when we should be fully present with loved ones, but when it comes to being alone with our thoughts for merely one of the 112 waking hours available to us each week, the excuse is that we don’t have time?

We DO have time. We ALL have the same amount of time. It’s more of a question of how we choose to occupy our time. Allow me to restate that: It all comes down to choice.

How much of our time are we willing to sacrifice on the altar of screen addiction, as life passes us by unnoticed? What if we had an extra 40 hours a week with which to pursue nobler efforts?

What could YOU get done with all that time? We have it in our power to choose…