Friday, June 25, 2004


Okay. I appreciate that you're probably a more Advanced Being than I am, and most likely figured this one out a long time ago. Bear with me; I’m feeling a few cards short of a full deck and I still haven't quite got this time thing sussed. I don’t have an answer, just a couple of pointers, an indication that I was headed in a direction that wasn't taking me anywhere useful, and that maybe I should be looking somewhere else.

Time has been bugging me. There isn't enough of it and the amount of it that I spend on anything seems to be in inverse proportion to that thing's importance. Importance to me, that is. And yes, I know, that's a classic case of scarcity mentality, victim-hood, glass-half-empty and all that... But for better or worse that's the way I’ve been feeling. Trapping myself behind the bars of a schedule of my own making, restlessly pacing back and forth over the same worn out thought patterns, looking for a way out to the enticing but out of reach possibilities beyond. Nevertheless it didn't seem to make a lot of sense to the little rational corner of my mind that was monitoring things; surely I have a lot of choice about how I spend time? That set me thinking about choices, and a habitual desire to construct categories took hold.

These time choices seem to fall into three distinct groups. First, there’s the big life choices: how to earn a living, who to spend my life with, where to live. These are big time influencers in every way – directly or indirectly they account for sizeable chunks of time, they aren’t easy to alter if you want to adjust something, and even then changing them takes considerable time in itself. The knock-ons also account for a lot, like upkeep of a home or attending to children’s needs. There’s little scope for direct control of time spent on these activities without fundamental change to the core decisions, like changing job or moving house, or even changing partner.

Next on the list of time consumers come all the routine activities of living. Things like household chores, sleeping, washing, shopping, cooking, eating. Things that can be juggled with short term, but overall can’t be avoided long term. Not without unpleasant consequences anyway (hey, think of the time I could save by not showering…)

Finally there are elective activities. Things you do not because they have to be done, but because you want to do them for their own sake. That's both things done in bigger chunks of time - pre-planned activities which for me would be things like mountain walking - and things fitted into smaller chunks like reading, writing, engaging in dialogue, relaxing, thinking, blogging.

I’ve been finding that the first two categories have been eating all my time, with very little left for those things I want to do. So I keep circling round three states:
- frustration and angst because I want to change something but don’t know what;
- push through the immediate tasks in the hope of coming out the other side (but I never do);
- wondering whether maybe, on balance, I’d be better off believing that living without most of category 3 – the elective activities – is okay really, and so simply stop worrying about it.

Looking at those categories of time choices, I wondered how either to shift the balance by squeezing time out of one pot into another, or change the size of the pot altogether by changing the core decisions? Maybe simplify life by moving somewhere cheaper, closer to nature, getting a job that goes some way to fulfilling those personal, spiritual, needs that currently only get met through elective activities? But these aren’t decisions to be taken lightly; they affect other people in a big way too and in any case I’m not going to be able just to walk into a new job. Something along these lines may be possible, but not tomorrow. Or the day after.

So instead I tried some changes in routine, like cutting down on sleep, but that’s risky. I get very dysfunctional and cranky on anything less than 6 hours; 6 ½ hours is more like a realistic minimum, 7 is better still.

And although on days when I’m feeling particularly sorry for myself I get perilously close to convincing myself simply to abandon most of what I’m calling elective activities, the reality is that I’m not yet prepared to do that.

It crossed my mind that maybe I started looking from the wrong end of the scale. Looking at time in a macro way, starting with 24 hours and dividing it up. Looked at that way, it seems to be an obvious recipe for building in scarcity; dividing a finite resource into ever smaller pieces. But what happens if you start from the other end of the scale? Micro time? The seconds and the gaps between them?

I think... I THINK... that’s another way of saying it’s the classic case of being less about what you do and more about the way you do it. I was making a critical assumption - that the weekday hours between 7am and 7pm were pretty much written off as far as any worthwhile activity was concerned. Those hours – my best hours – have become a tunnel into which I rush headlong, charging through without looking left or right, looking only to that little pinprick of light at the end.

So juggling time perhaps isn’t the answer. I started out here talking about directions; I said I wasn't a very Advanced Being didn't I? So I’m afraid this piece doesn’t end with an answer, or even a proposition of one. I just have a feeling – nothing more – that there’s a better approach than trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot.

I had to laugh at myself this morning, having written most of that last night. I managed to get up an hour early by accident. Well, a 5 looks much like a 6 on a digital clock when you’re half asleep and haven’t got your glasses on. It wasn’t until I’d finished breakfast that I noticed the kitchen clock said 5.58. Doh!!

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