The Traps Of Time Confetti

girl blowing colorful confetti from her hands
Reading Time: 9 minutes

THE WAITING ROOMS OF LIFE

You’re at the dentist’s waiting to be seen. To quell your boredom, you grab a magazine from a towering stack on the coffee table and flip through the Bulova and Chanel N°5 ads.

After some time, you glance at the overhead clock above the receptionist’s desk. This particular visit’s taking a little longer than usual, you think.

Dazed by your boredom, you abandon the magazine and scroll through work emails on your phone. You read one from your boss ten times over. Its tone is more aggressive than usual. It makes you wonder whether you did something wrong last week when you were handling the main account while micro-dosing on LSD.

Whatever, you think as you withdraw from your inbox and tap on the Candy Crush icon. “Time to relieve stress!” this sweet app promises with its colorful array of “jelly fish” and coconut wheels.

But you’re furious at the degree of difficulty you face on level 2513, so you exit the game and examine your cuticles. Then you take ten minutes to compose a text message to the person you’ve been dating on Hinge for the past three weeks, who may or may not be ghosting you.

Later that day, as the Novocaine in your mouth subsides, you join a virtual brunch that your happy-go-lucky friend organized, not because you genuinely wish to attend, but to “save face” among your pack of besties and show further signs of life.

You toast to another “Pandemic Sunday,” your mimosa glasses fake-clinking in the air, carrying the heavy hopes that Covid will soon end and will be long forgotten by the end of 2021.

“Where has all the time gone?” your friend asks. 

“I know, right!” you say.

Funny how we agree with the notion of “lost time” without giving it much thought.

It’s funny because we know where it’s gone: allocated to our emails and social media accounts; surrendered to Disney+ and Prime Video memberships; spread across appointments and engagements that we keep out of a sense of duty.

If time seems fleeting to you, chances are you’re either doing too many things at the same time or jumping quickly from task to task in short spans of time. As a result, you feel disconnected from the present experience and often forget what you were doing a month ago, last week or even yesterday.

Life is short, as they say. And in the grand scheme of things, I can agree with this.

But you can learn how to extend time, so to speak, as one author will teach us below. 

But first, let’s explore how each of the things you did at the dentist’s office and during your Sunday Mimosa Brunch Session can set the unfortunate traps of “time confetti.”

TIME CONFETTI VS. TIME AFFLUENCE

The thing that sucks about actual confetti is the cleanup process. Besides that, feel free to blast it in my face and play Katy Perry’s “Firework” from the sound system! I will happily dance to that in my underwear (for no good reason.)

But sometimes, we have good reasons to sprinkle confetti all around us. We celebrate special occasions like welcoming a brand new year in Times Square or cheering our best friend on their wedding day. 

Time confetti, on the other hand, isn’t as jovial, dear reader. And here’s why:

Coined by author Brigid Schulte, time confetti is the practice of fragmenting your leisure time into unenjoyable moments that end up stressing you the-fuck out rather than relaxing you.

It’s often accompanied by a sense of shame over wasted time. (I mean, did you really need to spend 100 cumulative hours on TikTok last year?)

By contrast, according to Harvard Business School professor Ashley V. Whillans, “time affluence” is the “feeling of having control and [enough time] on an everyday basis, [which] can promote happiness.” But it’s not just about having enough time (more on this later.)

The relationship between time confetti and time affluence is the stuff of comic book heroes and their corresponding villains: a vicious cycle of cause-and-effect — heroes cleaning up the villains’ messes — all that confetti sprinkled over the floorboards of your life.

Do you know how annoying it is to clean up little bits of paper?

Like, hella-annoying!

And this is why you try to catch as much as you can before the confetti hits the ground.

happy man catching colorful confetti in the air

TIME VS. MONEY

Capulets and Montagues. Hatfields and McCoys. Daniel Larusso and Johnny Lawrence. These are the great rivalries in history.

But there’s another one taking place every day right under our noses: the inexorable battle between Time and Money. 

These opponents impact your ability to cultivate happiness in a way that’s seamless and optimal. What’s more, they mess with your pursuit of happiness by hijacking the time you should be spending on cultivating joy and allocating it to things that simply don’t add up to pleasurable experiences.

To understand what I’m getting at, may I ask, dear reader:

How do you measure happiness?

If your answer consists of material possessions — the latest Tesla model, an expensive wardrobe worthy of the Kardashians, the quintessential million-dollar house — this means that your happiness depends on money.

And this is pure affluence: the state of having a fuck-load of money to wipe your ass when you run out of toilet paper.

Time affluence, on the other hand, can help you achieve a state of permanence in the happiness department, but it requires time well-spent on experiences that are personally meaningful and lead to a greater return on your investment.

This notion of “time ROI” further proves how inextricably linked time and money have become.

Think about it:

We spend time.

We also exchange it for money.

But what we seldom think about in the time-money paradigm is the ROI we receive as a result of the time we spend doing the things we do.

If we can think of time in terms of its ROI potential, we can apply better metrics for measuring happiness and leap over the traps of time confetti.

GRAY GARDENS

They say that money doesn’t grow on trees. But let’s pretend, for a minute, that it can.

Suddenly, the gardeners of the world unsheathe their pruning shears and their spading forks and plow the land feverishly like mad archeologists. It’s a get-rich-quick scheme, one that requires a green thumb. 

But like any scheme, something’s gotta give.

In “The Art of Stopping Time” by Pedram Shojai, the author wants to know: what are the weeds growing in your garden?

In Shojai’s analogy of time wealth, we each have a limited amount of water to bestow to the varied plants we wish to grow. Some require more water than others, like gardenias and marigolds. Others require less. And yet these low-maintenance plants can grow abundantly.

We notice that the weeds at the edge of our garden are taking root much faster and growing at an exponential rate compared to the prettier flowers. So we figure, why not grow some money on these thriving weeds and ignore the rest of the plants in our garden?

Soon enough, the vibrant gardenias and marigolds wilt away as a direct result of our negligence. The weeds that were once at the edge are now imploding towards the center, strangling the roots of other plants as they colonize every inch of our garden. 

Perhaps we’ve gone too far, we think to ourselves.

Our garden — a once splendid and happy place — is now a wasteland of weeds.

bouquet of wilted hydrangeas

HOW TO “STOP” TIME

As Shojai points out: it’s time to pull out the weeds and nourish the other “plants” in your garden that are more deserving of your precious water.

In other words, you must decide how to allocate your time amongst those things that will provide a greater return on your investment.

Some of you will no doubt show indignation. I mean, how dare I assume that you even have time to sprinkle in other areas of your life?

Don’t I know that you’re already too busy running a business, raising a family and rewatching videos of Walter Geoffrey on Instagram?

(Shame on me!)

But if you’ll forgive me, dear reader, I can point out the 30 seconds at your disposal — and that’s all it takes: 30 seconds — to send a thoughtful text to your loved ones as you wait in line at Starbucks for your Venti Green Tea Frappuccino; to refrain from watching the same news bits across various networks; to practice deep-breathing at the dentist’s office as you freak out over the terrifying root canal you’re about to face.

According to Shojai, this mindful practice can help increase your sense of joy in the present moment. In turn, it can help construct positive frameworks around negative experiences.

This, in part, is the art of “stopping time.”

Obviously, we can’t turn back the hands of the clock like Marty McFly.

But we can certainly contribute to our long-lasting state of happiness by converting time confetti into time affluence.

A SUBWAY RIDE TO TIME-AFFLUENCE STATION

How do you know when you’re catching time confetti or withdrawing funds from your time affluence account?

It’s a subjective experience, dear reader. You’ll need to decide for yourself what constitutes a good time investment.

In my case, journaling for twenty to thirty minutes a day offers me a greater ROI than scrolling endlessly through social media feeds.

But this doesn’t mean that I don’t scroll through them at all.

It means that I make time for other things (like keeping a journal.)

I also keep a small Moleskine notebook where I jot down ideas, words and phrases that I might use in future stories.

Sustaining these practices requires time and devotion. But when the reward makes you feel great about yourself, doesn’t it make it that much easier to sustain them?

I’d happily spend time on things that enrich my life, even when I don’t feel like doing them.

When I lived in New York City, I was able to convert a lot of time confetti into time affluence while riding the subway to and from work.

My friends would gasp at my two-hour round trip commute, but I didn’t mind as much.

It was in that vast underground realm of NYC that I changed my approach to time confetti. I decided that I’d spend more time on things that were conducive to my mental health and personal wellbeing.

So, rather than waiting for bedtime to fill the pages of my journal (because some days I was so damn tired that I didn’t even want to look at it), I’d sit on the cold plastic seats of the A train and jot down my thoughts while whizzing through underground tunnels.

And when there were no seats available (which was most of the time), I’d open the Lumocity app on my iPhone and train my mind how to read and write better, rather than spend my hours-long ride playing Candy Crush.

Since moving to LA, I cash-in much of my time affluence in the car. I listen to podcasts and audiobooks (“Overhead” on National Geographic is pretty great) or listen to world music on Spotify.

THE ART OF SHAVING TIME

Here’s a tongue-twister (if you can read the following sentence faster than Cardi-B throwing her shoe at Nicki Minaj):

What can you do that you’re already doing much faster than what you’re used to doing it? 

Are you standing in the shower for 30 minutes, hot water pouring all over you, struggling to “wake up?”

Guess what: you’re already awake. Might as well lather yourself with shower gel and keep it movin’.

What else might you do a tad quicker?

How about squeezing in a pit stop at the grocery store when you’re on your way back from the cannabis dispensary? Or better yet, how about paying a few extra bucks to get your groceries delivered to your home via Instacart?

You might be in the habit of saving lots of money and little time. But the latter’s just as important as the former. 

What’s even more important? Knowing when and where to shave off clumps of time from the tasks that occupy way too much of it.

Sometimes, when I sit down to write and notice that one page is taking me thirty minutes to finish, I slap myself in the face, crack my knuckles and just fucking write.

Our time management skills leave much to be desired. So does our choice to catch the shreds of time confetti as they fall.

But that makes sense: it’s easier to indulge in distractions and forget about ROI than to accrue time affluence.

The latter skill requires mindful practice. 

And practice, dear reader, is what’ll get you to Carnegie Hall.

time clock with roman numerals

STANDING THE TEST OF TIME

There will always be fragments of time in our lives that’ll test our behaviors. For example, when we’re waiting in line at Starbucks or sitting in the waiting rooms of Life.

What will you do the next time you’re put to the test? 

Will you think about the ROI of your actions and leap over the traps of time confetti? Or will you address “boredom” with the plethora of technological gadgets and gizmos at your disposal?

Whatever you decide, don’t beat yourself up. Time confetti, in smaller doses, might keep you sane as you work towards building more time affluence (and it’ll take time.)

Whatever path you choose, I hope it leads to that happy place where you no doubt deserve to be.

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