On Saturday I misplaced my watch. It turned out to be under a pile of papers on my desk (not unusual in the world of B- housekeeping stint), but I was without it for the day. Then a brief power outage set the oven clock awry, and afterwards it obstinately withheld setting functionality and refused to display the correct time. Thus... a day without a time-telling device.
It drove me bonkers.
I remember, years back, a friend intentionally took her watch off each Saturday to enjoy a day with no time pressures or demands. We were in our early twenties, and even at that (comparatively unhampered) stage of life, it felt like madness to me. Not knowing the time made me feel disoriented and edgy. Because isn't time something to be watched, managed, and "used wisely"?
Yes... and no. It's a dicey topic. With each passing decade, it gets dicier. Time is THE pressing concern of every modern. I find I circle back to it, usually in exasperation, every couple months for another round of attempted self-help. And yet my resolutions trend toward short-lived with early expiration when it comes to time (a la #4 below).
Here's C.S. Lewis, a favourite quote, from Surprised by Joy:
"I number it among my blessings that my father had no car... The deadly power of rushing about wherever I pleased had not been given me. I measured distances by the standard of man, man walking on his own two feet, not by the standard of the internal combustion engine."
The deadly power of rushing about. Hard to imagine capturing it much better, though Christie Purifoy's recent words may come close. She says: "There is risk in productivity... You might discover you have accomplished so much in a day that the day has gone by in a blur. I can think of few things more tragic than a lifetime of blurry days." Can she get an amen? She sure gets one from me.
There's the rushing and blurring, yes. There's also the multi-tasking, the procrastinating, the chronic escapism (which turns to time-wasting) into the worlds within my phone. The problem of course is what to DO. Because I'm stuck with... myself. My unrealistic expectations. My habits. My self-indulgence on one side and avoidance on the other. Time's terrible capacity to trip me up at both ends. If I force myself to lay out my real Day-in-the-Life worst habits when it comes to handling time, the current vice list would look like this:
1. I'm greedy and lazy with time - first wanting to do to much, then refusing to do the work of pruning my priorities toward something realistic. The greed and laze can leave me tyrannised by a day's agenda, frantic and rushed. Then guilty that I didn't have the wherewithal to enjoy and saver the good moments as they came.
2. I often take the wrong kind of "two-minute vacations," vacations that a) stretch to way longer than two minutes and b) return me more harried to my present (and less satisfied with my actual life) than I was when I left. By these I mean escape to social media outlets.
3. I tell myself the lie that I can double time by doing two things at once. OK, so I won't take the damn two-minute social media "vacation;" I won't leave my here-and-now for another space. I'll just quietly straddle the line between the two, being "present" to what's happening here while simultaneously peeking into another more interesting world. Or straddle the line by trying to knock out items on my too-long to-do list while "being with" my people. Either way, we've got me: absent mother pretending to be present to her kids. Hate.
4. I harness self-discipline in all the wrong ways. I "discipline" myself by trying to lay out the day's tasks ahead of time, but since they are often too many, they slave-drive me. Then when I'm moving through my work I feel harried, so I set "discipline" aside for a quick hit of social media. Theoretically quick, that is (see #2 above.)
And for solutions... See this is the part where I envision the post like a "problem-solution" column in a magazine. I insert a tidy paragraph under each point on how I've solved (or am solving) each shortcoming.
But it's not going to happen. I wish it would - wish it were that easy - but it's just not.
Dealing with time is lifetime work for me, and let's be honest, it's lifetime work for all of us. We do battle with our faltering, divided hearts till we die - they're not going anywhere. And neither are the vices and distractions of the modern age. Given 'progress' and technology, we can in fact expect the distractions to go up.
Even with all that, though, there is hope. Because there always is. Yes we cycle through our shortcomings again and again (related to time challenges, or whatever else our struggles our), but each time we engage them from a slightly more mature perspective. More honesty, more experience, more self-awareness. And, if we're faith-walkers, more power from the Holy Spirit to bring to the battle. Because the power grows as we grow.
Right now, here's what I got for tools I'm trying to employ in my "Use Time Well, Don't Abuse It" arsenal:
- Pray more. (Because, of course. What is this not the solution to, I ask you? And yet...) The morning that include quiet and prayer always, always yield days with fewer time-related challenges. My task expectations are more realistic. The productivity idol can be put in its place; the self-indulgence idol can be dethroned before it gets its hooks in. I'm reminded what I'm here on this earth for anyway.
- Stay off social media till afternoon. For me it's like chocolate: if I don't start on it, it's way easier to stay off of it. Once I've had my first hit, I can't not go back. (At the very least, don't get on it till after the kids have left for school. And never leave the phone beside my bed at night.) Best for me is a realistic, allocated time slot without competing demands where I can enjoy it without competing demands.
- Carry a book with me. It's supreme irony that our age demands ever-higher doses of self-control to effectively use its powerful tools (like smart phones), yet engagement with those same tools serves to decrease self-control. You know what I mean - quick text turns to grocery list turns to weather check to media.... Suddenly you're back staring at the thing again. So much temptation! A book has one purpose, and that purpose is clear to everyone - including me. Much cleaner.
- Install the Moment app on my phone. It tells me how much time I spent on my phone, and the number of times I picked it up. I also shows the time and length of each pickup, and what apps are being used most. Accountability? Yes. Fun? No. Necessary? For me, right now... yes.
So. We got all my time-related vices out on the table, and my current combatting strategies. How 'bout you - care to share any of yours?