Time for a meaningful life balance

The book will be out soon. I find it strangely ironic that someone who researches and promotes living a balanced lifestyle has battled the time demons so much in the writing of it and consequently had little or no time to keep my posts up to date.

But then time is an interesting concept. In modern Western cultures it is conceptualized in terms of the macro or chronological concept of time that most of us know and love: the tick-tock of the clock on the mantelpiece that measures the minutes and hours of the day as they pass and identifies and shapes how we spend our time. This kind of time is absolute and linear; a precise and deterministic measure of the physical world, structured in a sequential continuum from past to present and on toward a future point.

Metaphorically speaking chronological time holds its roots in the mythology of the ancient Greek god of time Chronos, or in some texts Cronus, who symbolized a powerful, destructive and all-consuming force that created and maintained an externalised sense of control over the individual’s subjective experience of time. Put this ideology into the context of neoliberalism ie global free markets based on growth and it hardly surprising that time has become synonymous with human efficiency, driving working people to intensify their working practice and, consequently creating the relentless performance orientation in the modern workplace.

This kind of orientation has a two-fold effect. First people become busier and busier trying to do more in less time to achieve efficiency; time is experienced as speeded-up and begins to feel fragmented or desynchronised as people strive to achieve the next goal or task without thought for the present moment. Second, the space for work orientated ‘doing’ activities in any one day becomes pressured and squeezed as more and more is packed into every minute and more and more is expected. This prevents people from spending time in other types of activities outside of paid work because they are exhausted (Clouston 2014). Time as money prevents meaningful time; time for appreciating the natural world, the more spiritual, reflective or ‘being’ pursuits, the personally focused or ‘becoming’ activities and the relational, social and familial ‘belonging’ activities (Clouston 2015). So in this madcap neoliberal world can we experience time differently?

What about Relational Time

This kind of time encompasses the relationships we hold in life. In the relational concept of time, time is viewed as a conduit, or tool that we use to build relationships with significant others, the social and natural environments.

Returning to Greek mythology, the Horai, the three goddesses of the seasons, the natural cycles of spring, summer and autumn represented this vision of time. Rather than counting or worrying about clock time, this concept of time works on the notion of events, measuring these by the full lunation (cycles) of the of the moon, the motions of the sun in terms of day and night, the rising and movements of the planets and constellations and the changing seasons. The Ancient Celts marked the eight festivals of the druidic year in similar way, celebrating midsummer (Litha), midwinter (Yule), the spring (Ostara) and autumn (Mabon) equinoxes and four sabbats, Lughnasa (pronounced loonah; now often called Lammas), Samhain (pronounced sowain), Imbolc and Beltane within a relational and interconnected sense of being in and connected to the world, significant others and the universe.

In the fast paced, modern Western world we have lost these essential links to nature and communities and in that loss we have misplaced our own sense of connection to our planet and relatedness to self, others and all things.

Meaningful Time

This flows smoothly into the context of time as an experience or instrument of meaning. When time is measured by personal meaning it becomes subjective and is frequently experienced as an event or happening in the here and now: ‘people do not so much think real time but actually live it sensuously, qualitatively’ (Urry, 1995 p.6). Because meaning time is a sense of time in the present moment, it has a micro as opposed to a macro temporal quality i.e. seeing and attending to the present moment and recognizing and interacting with our connectedness to it, the self and those around us (Clouston 2015).

Returning to Greek mythology, Kairos, the god of the opportune moment embodies the appreciation of the quality of time not the quantity. For him it is not what you do but grasping the opportunity to what you really want to do that matters. Kairos signifies living in the moment: carpe diem, literally grasping the day. When considered in this way time becomes pertinent to personal meaning; in essence it is the subjective feeling about an activity or an event as it unfolds that becomes relevant. When time is about relationships, opportunity and living in the moment and not about money, it accommodates all activities in life that have personal meaning. It is not just about productive activities like paid or unpaid work, but about you and what you find engaging, specifically those activities you find fulfilling for their own sake.

The first step to achieve this is to invest in your time wisely: focus on the most important things in both your working and non-working life and prioritize them. By incorporating a meaning orientation into your life and not a performance one so you can begin to live differently. It is through living a life populated with meaningful activities that promote doing, being, becoming and belonging activities that we experience the variety, colour and bricolage of a life worth living and find, in that, a sense of love, caring, kindness and wellbeing for all of us, our families, communities and planet.

The book is out in June and I am regaining my balance and sense of place (naws am le as the Welsh would say) in the universe. I hope you find yours.


Clouston TJ (2014) Whose occupational balance is it anyway? The challenge of neoliberalism capitalism and work-life imbalance. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 77,10, 507-515

Clouston TJ (2015) Challenging stress, burnout and rust-out: Finding balance in busy lives. London, Jessica Kingsley

Urry J (1995) Consuming places, London, Routledge

One thought on “Time for a meaningful life balance”

  1. Buying your book Teen.
    Dick Penderyn gave his all for this Teen; we are just cattle in the field of capitalism! The concept is as simple as that. Think outside the box??? What box?? The box we make for ourselves. Mind you, there is the internal bodyclock that each of us has got ; one that suits ourselves that is, not Greenwich or any other meantime. Fitting that kind of personal individualism into the Richman’s farmyard of labourers (and that is what we are) is always going to be a strain on mind and body. Lets not kid ourselves, we are all just cattle in the field of capitalism, unless of course you were born in Westminster’s square mile etc etc ; and that comes with its own confines. Rather be working class and proud of it. At least you can cut the middle class, mirage crap when you want to. Gxx ;-))

    Liked by 1 person

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