The Hindu

The Hindu Anna Jelen

Anna Jelen The Hindu

The time-keeper

Anna Jelen calls herself the time expert, helping people prioritise and stay focussed

Anna Jelen was just your average 17-year-old living in the Swiss mountains, when she had a near-death experience, lost in a snow storm. “Just before my body thought, ‘That’s it,’ I saw a flash.”

She describes it as feeling like “browsing through the storybook of my life. I was very astonished by these pictures, because most of them were very ordinary moments, moments from my everyday life. Not really my first bungee jump or ‘big’ things, but small moments.”

Her second revelatory experience was in her 20s, and was more a process, as she worked with women who had breast cancer, in her role as a product manager for a health company. “That is where I heard the famous regrets about life: ‘I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings and live the life that I wanted to live, and not the life others expected me to.’”

Her third encounter with time was when she was interviewing elderly people for her work. “The question was: ‘What does time mean to you?’ Most people told me that one day, we will all remember all the moments we have experienced.”

She realised that the first step was to ‘catch’ the moment and to appreciate its simplicity. “And the second step was to create moments for me and also for others. How can I create a moment for my team mates? How can I create a good moment for my customer?” And so she began to work as a time expert, doing so for 10 years now.

Here, she tells us about her beliefs about time and how we can make the most of it, through workshops and her podcast. Anna hopes to come to India in 2019, for a training programme.

Is the service you provide a bit like life coaching?

If you want to look at it from the marketing side, yes, we could say I am a life coach. For me, personally: I am a woman with a mission. My mission is to inspire people to use their time wisely. To understand, that the time we have is limited. To motivate them to fill an ordinary day with special moments. We are living in a time crisis. This means, that the biggest lack people have nowadays, is the lack of time. And my mission is, to explain to people why this is happening, and how we can come back to the feeling that we do have time.

Typically, what percentage of the day do we waste, in terms of unnecessary things that we do? What are these?

Everyone defines a ‘waste of time’ differently. For one person, it’s being on social media three hours a day. For another one it might be cleaning the flat. For another one it might be sitting on the bus/train.

The first step is to ask yourself: ‘What is a waste of time for me?’ Name the activities and then ask yourself: ‘How can I reduce this?’ It has a lot to do with priorities and the way we want to live our life.

How do daily rituals contribute to time management?

I am a big fan of rituals, because in a world like this, where time is a rare ‘property’, we can find calm and peace in rituals. For example, morning rituals. This could be with meditation, with yoga to wake up the body. I drink my tea in silence. Then I do my yoga practice and I will end this session with a meditation. Afterwards, I will ask myself this one question: ‘How do I want to feel at the end of the day?’

The answers will motivate me to start the day at work. But there are plenty of rituals which can be experienced at work in a team. In the perspective of time management, I believe, that we should make space for these rituals. They provide social coherence and a good team atmosphere.

Considering life is a mix of elements (of things we like to do and of some we may not), how would you say we spend our time?

I believe, that with time and age, we can try to find out, which elements we need in our life and try to have more of the elements which satisfy us. Because like this, we also stay healthy. And sometimes we need to do things we don’t want to do. If this is the case, find the positive aspects in it.

If you spend too much time doing things that you don’t want to do, the day will come, where you will be very frustrated. Can you change it? Yes? Then you should. If no, you need to work on the attitude. I am interviewing people who live in prison and they will never get out. So they are living a life where they can’t change the facts. But most of them are trying to do the best out of the situation. They will even be able to find joy in their daily lives.

Do we need to specifically schedule some time each day for meditation?

I’m always better in my life when I am doing my meditations. So with this insight, I have started to schedule my meditations. But not in the agenda; it is like eating or sleeping: I just do it, because I need to do it. Sometimes it’s shorter, sometimes it’s longer, but I am sure, that meditations will simplify our life and keep us healthier. And if we look at the topic time, meditation will make us feel time and that’s lovely.

Sunalini Mathew and anna jelen
Sunalini Mathew
Sunalini Mathew writes on health and everything that feeds into it: fitness, nutrition, beauty, fashion, sustainability. She is Delhi-based