Sunday, October 26, 2008

Time Flies; Tip One - Ditch Your Watch

As promised, here is the first essay (in a series of ten) which I call "Time Flies: Ten Ways to Make it Walk Nicely." If you missed the original post you can read it here.

Lately I've become fixated on learning to "live life in the slow lane." This little series of articles is the result and will give more details on some of the techniques I've learned, and which are helping me to live my life more slowly and with more care.

The techniques truly work for me, and I hope you'll find one or two useful in your own life.

To me, time is more important than money. I can always earn more money if I need it, but I can't increase the length of my life. I can only increase it's breadth.

Time Flies - Ten Ways to Make it Walk Nicely

Tip One: Ditch Your Watch

My philosophy is this: if you have to wear a watch you are overbooked.

If you're overbooked the days are going to fly by at warp speed while you rush around trying to get everything done, get everywhere on time, get more done in less time, and in the meantime get very little enjoyment out of anything at anytime.

We're all very busy. Too busy. Busy, busy, bizzy.

And that's the Number One Reason why Time Flies.

Before I quit wearing a watch I was overbooked, too. Some of it was out of my control, like at work when there were (mostly useless) meetings ad nauseum and scheduled tele-conferences (ridiculous invention) and lunchtime was strictly between noon and 1 p.m. However, the bad habits spilled over into my personal time, too. I was involved in too many things, my calendar was packed, and my watch was a constant reminder to hurry, hurry, hurry, or I'd be late.


Now fast-forward three years to an incident that happened just last week.

I was at the grocery store, standing in line to check out. As I amused myself with the tabloid headlines, I heard a foot tapping impatiently behind me, then there was a touch to my arm and the woman behind me asked, "Do you have the time? My watch appears to have stopped."

No, sorry," I answered, "I don't wear a watch."

The woman was shocked enough to leave off tapping her foot. "No watch? How do you manage that?"

"I try to live my life so that I don't need one," I said.

At first the woman looked at me like I'd just fallen off a turnip truck, but then her expression suddenly changed. It softened and her shoulders relaxed. She let out a breath, nodded, and said, "What a great idea."

I nodded. "Makes a world of difference." Then I stepped to one side and indicated that she should move ahead of me in line because, as I told her, "I'm not in a hurry."

Back again to that day three years ago when I took off my watch for good: You could say I had an epiphany that day because, not only did I realize I'd become a slave to Time and that my life was passing by in nothing short of a blur, but I suddenly understood that there were more days of my life behind me than ahead of me.

According to CNN Health the life expectancy for women in the United States is currently 81 years. I had passed the halfway mark to that age nearly a decade previously! I felt sick. I still had so many plans, so many things I wanted to do. Where had the time gone?

Into the Black Hole of Bizzyness, that's where.

I couldn't change the past; it was gone and in what seemed the blink of an eye, but I could do something about how I spent each hour of each day from then on. When I removed my watch that day it was more a symbolic gesture than a deliberate step taken with the specific purpose of slowing down time. The fact that time did slow down as a direct result of my symbolic gesture only dawned on me gradually over the next few years.

Today I can say that it's been time-tested and proven to work. Try it yourself.

Without a watch you'll find yourself paying more attention to what you're doing at the moment instead of thinking ahead to what you'll be doing next. Without a watch and the (dubious) ability to constantly check the time you'll find it necessary to schedule your To-Do's further apart. More time between tasks means you'll accomplish fewer things on any given day. Doing less will require eliminating some tasks from each day. And I'm not talking about postponing them to another day, either, but eliminating them completely.

Can you see where this is going?

Stop doing anything that's not truly worth doing. Time is the ultimate non-renewable resource. Let the absence of a watch on your arm be your reminder to spend time with the greatest of care. A reminder to slow down, pay attention, and fully enjoy the things you do keep on your schedule, the ones truly worthy of your time.

I know, if you have a job, this will sound ridiculously impossible and impractical, if not something that might get you fired. It's true you won't have the luxury of eliminating anything you feel isn't "worthwhile," but trust me on this. I've been there. You can still embrace the philosophy and ditch your watch.

Don't worry, you won't be completely clueless as to what time it is. You won't suddenly begin showing up late to every meeting or missing lunch. There are clocks everywhere. On the wall. On your computer. In your car. You'll begin to notice other clues, too. The co-worker who goes outside for a smoke every day precisely at 8, 10, 2, and 4:00. The growling in your stomach as lunchtime approaches. Even subtle differences in the energy and noise levels of your workplace, and changes in the light coming through the windows, will give good indication of the time of day.

As the days pass you'll find yourself relying more and more on your own internal clock to guide you through the rhythm of each day.

If you're lucky enough to be a stay-at-home Mom, retired, work from home, or in any other way able to control your own daily schedule, you'll have the great luxury to leave your day as unstructured as you like. You'll need to figure out what works best for you. To have nothing on your To-Do List at all and just let the day unfold naturally, one major task to focus the day on, or several small ones to divide up the day. Or, like me, you may use one method one day, and another the next day.

I have an artist's temperament so it's a lucky, lucky thing for me that I was able to quit my high-stress "corporate" job and start a small business here at home, where my schedule is entirely under my own control. One day I may get up raring to go on a project that I'm in the middle of, and the next day have no desire at all to continue it and will put it aside for later. In the past I would have forced myself to continue with the project, struggling along until day's end when I'd realize I'd made no headway at all and the day had been a complete waste.

For me, an overly strict routine does only one thing: it makes every day look alike. When I gave up my watch, I gave up my "schedule," too. I also granted myself permission to simply go with whatever mood I was in. Some days I get up and I'm like a Tasmanian devil whirling through the house, cleaning, sorting, organizing, and cooking. Other days I'm at my computer from dawn until midnight (or later!) because I've gotten on a roll with my digital scrapbooking projects and am knocking out the layouts one after the other. There have even been days spent entirely on one project, perhaps a cross-stitch sampler, because I'm enjoying myself so much that I don't want to go on to anything else.

Don't get me wrong; I don't let everything else go. I do try to keep my house picked up (for the most part), get bills paid on time, take care of the cats, and make meals for Mike and me. There's always some of that going on around here but I look at it as more of a foundation on which the optional activities are made possible. The bulk of my days are mostly unstructured. I'm averse to deadlines, and I try not to schedule more than one appointment per day, whether it be with a doctor, a client, or a friend.

The result of this is that my days are leisurely and each one is distinct from the others. When I look back over my week I can clearly see the things I've accomplished, feel yet again the pleasure of the accomplishment, and know that I've spent my time in ways that make me happy and feel fulfilled. The other stuff, the things I eliminated because they were just too far down on my list of importance? I don't even remember what they were.

I hope you'll try ditching your own watch. Dump the unimportant busywork (I'll write more later on how to separate the un from the important). Restructure your days so they're more rewarding, a better fit for you, and contain an unhurried agenda of activities, people, and places.

Time will still pass, yes, but no longer as a high-speed blur.

Instead, it'll walk nicely.

Enjoy the stroll.

"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life
in your years."
~ Abraham Lincoln

1 comment:

Queenly Things said...

These are such simple but profound truths. If only everyone would heed your words.