Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Flourishing: Time

I recently grabbed a book out from the library called 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. And by chance in my private writing, I've been working through some prompts around the themes of how I spend my time. For example, what my favorite childhood activities were in those wonderful bygone days when time was mine to kill; and also if I've ever had any time addictions, so to speak, ways that I escape if I possibly can at all. (For the record, besides reading and looking at plants, as a child I loved to draw imaginary neighborhoods/subdivisions and make winding streets that I gave all sorts of creative names. And my only time addiction or escape is sleep. Ah, blessed, blissful bed...) 

And, this is my bedside table. Way beyond possible. 

Ironically, I've decided my priorities right now do not include reading a book about time management, and that I need to be much more realistic about the size of my pile of library books.

Beyond that, though, I've been thinking about time and how it's really not as linear as maybe I envision it. It's more a pearl or cupped hands to fill than a path to be trod one way or another. I want to think about it as something more vital than a set of railroad tracks carrying me forward against my will. 

 Elder Uchtdorf spoke wonderfully about this topic last October: "Sad to say, we even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life."

How do you flourish without time? You can't. But while time is not money, and you can't hoard it, or give it away to someone else (not really), I've started to notice my relationship with it change over these years as I've tried to flourish and be my true self. 

You can use time to give yourself more time. You can't get time back once it's gone, but you can claim it to fuel important things first so that crises don't take over down the road. Though, important things are often small things, not momentous ones. You know, Quadrant II and the jar with rocks and sand and all that.

On the other hand, it can be valuable to just let time go and not stress about it. That one's hard for me, though I know the balance may skew in the other direction for many people. I just have to tell myself that some things that come up, or get in the way, or take time from me almost by force -- illnesses, the DMV, car accidents -- are just water under the bridge. To borrow a phrase from the most entertaining fitness instructor out there, do your best and forget the rest.

In an odd way, time is the seed of eternity, the real measure of our identity. I don't think it's just a matter of having the right apps on your phone, multitasking, or being inflexible. Time is the sum of what we become, because it's the medium in which we act. We don't always choose when and where things happen, but we're the only ones living that moment and recognizing it within ourselves. Meditation, good whole food, exercise, sleep, loving relationships with people and with Deity -- we've got time for those things. We burnish the time we've got when we nourish ourselves in those ways. 

One of my nitty-gritty personal tricks is what I call a "work party". I hate that paralyzing, overwhelming feeling when you have too many things to do, you know you can try with all your might and you'll only be swimming upstream, and you wonder where to even start. For those moments when I just want to scream or cry or go crawl back under the covers and I haven't even started on my day, I have a little idea that gives me some built-in perspective and jump-starts my momentum. The kids like it too on occasion. This only works on a day that doesn't have too many external time constraints, but is just bursting at the seams.

I put down a list on paper of everything, everything that's on my mind to get done. It's funny how for me, at least, that list gets longer the more stressed and busy I feel. My brain just keeps churning out reasons to be discouraged...Anyhow, I let it all out, each item on its own line with some space between. Then I think of some things that I want to do, that I would choose to do if I had complete free time that day. If I have little kids underfoot, I add things that they will want to do as well. Quick bike rides, making cookies, or just reading a book or having a giant group hug have been popular ones around here.

Then, I cut all the items up into strips that I put into a hat. I find a timer. Then I draw one task, and go for 10 minutes. That's it. I figure I can do just about anything for only 10 minutes, even something I really hate; and that combined with the chance that I might draw something wonderful from the basket (like playing the piano, or reading a magazine) is decent motivation to start. Even the kids are willing to do something if they know that particular misery will end in only 10 minutes; and I give them the added incentive that if they happen to finish a particular task early, they can read until the timer goes off. Often, if I'm working alone, I find that I don't like to leave a task halfway done, so I keep going a little longer and finish it off and feel amazingly proud of myself.

Of course, I never finish all the items. That's not the point. But I often get a head start on things I would have otherwise procrastinated, which is an awesome feeling, and I totally more than break even in terms of what I would have done if I puttered around on my own, afraid of facing it all. Knowing that I won't finish it all is sort of a relief going into it, as well; then I don't think of it as a mongo list that I'll never conquer, I just take it each task at a time and accept that I did my best.

Of course, that best varies over the seasons and stages of life; I wouldn't have been able to sit here and work on my writing for hours when I had newborns. But I see the time then and the time now as related. The way I spent my time with my very young children set the path for me to have (relatively more) time to flourish now. My abilities, priorities, and outer emotional and physical boundaries were stretched and stretched again, more than they ever would have been if I had lived as even my most ambitious, driven self without kids. I continue to find it amazing, that what I thought I lost of my core being during those long years was only dormant, and has come roaring back even brighter than before.

I found someone else's blog that put this sense of time very well: "So listen closely, darlings. Time is not anything like what we have been told. It is not a linear thing with equal increments of seconds, hours, months and years. It is fluid, dynamic, malleable. It breathes and stretches and bends to expand and contract the moments, to hold the possibilities. Time wrinkles to bring us together right here, right now, when our bodies aren’t face to face, but here we are, interacting, connecting, me and you." (Link)

Glad you're here.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Not to make light, but I couldn't help think of Doctor Who: "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective point of view it is more like a big ball of wibbily-wobbly timey-wimey . . . stuff. :)