Time is a funny thing. It eludes us so easily, and yet without it, we’d all be lost. How would we know when to wake up? How would we know when to show up for work or a dentist appointment? It makes you wonder. If time didn’t exist, or if we simply chose to ignore it, would we be better off, or worse? If our lives weren’t so intricately bound to a schedule based on time, would we be more happy, or just lost and confused?
From personal experience, it’s refreshing once in a while to let loose the chains and not worry about looking at the clock on the wall. I’ve travelled to Cuba twice and the Dominican Republic once, and it was nice to not be concerned about the time of day. I just didn’t care. I figured if the sun was up, it was daytime, and when the sun went down, it was night-time. The only time we had to look at a clock was for our dinner reservations. Granted, when you’re on vacation, things are a little different. There’s no concern, because you’re not really under any pressure to accomplish anything other than your own personal relaxation. That’s not a bad thing, but in the real world we spend most of our time working to make a living, so the amount of actual free time we have is pretty scarce.
Consider my situation: I wake up most mornings at around 7:30-7:45am, and then hop in the shower, maybe grab a bite to eat and then I’m out the door by 8:30. I spend an hour commuting into work, and then spend the next 8-9 hours there. After work, which is usually between 6 and 6:30pm, I leave and then spend another hour commuting back home. I get home between 7 and 7:30pm on most nights, and if I’m lucky, Lorrie is home before me and already has dinner on the go. If not, I spend the next hour or so making dinner, sometimes longer. Lorrie rolls in, sometimes as late as 8:30pm, and we either start eating the dinner I made, or go out for dinner if there’s no food in the house. By the time we’re done eating, it’s already after 9. If we decide to clean up the kitchen, that takes another half an hour, so call it 9:30. If Lorrie works early, she’s usually in bed by 11 at the latest, so that leaves us roughly an hour and a half to do something we actually want to do. Sometimes we have more time and sometimes less depending on the day and what time we get home, but on most nights if we can fit a movie in, we’re lucky. What’s scary is I’ve heard of much worse situations. People that work 60-hour weeks. People with kids that dont get any sleep. People that have mutiple jobs just to make ends meet.
Twenty-four hours in a day hardly seems like enough time to survive anymore. So what’s the solution? Longer days? I dont think time is the problem so much as the way in which we percieve it and how we set our priorities. We try to lay blame on time itself as though it can be held accountable for our shortcomings. The reality is the passage of time is something out of our control, and there will never be more than twenty-four hours in a day to accomodate our needs. So how do we know what to do with the time we have and how to set our priorities? There’s no universal answer to that question, unfortunately. Setting priorities is something I’ve struggled with for years. Trying to decide what’s most important, or what’s the most valuable use of my time. Do I do the things I want to do, or do I do the things that need to be done? If I do the former, responsibilities get neglected and the house turns into a disaster zone. If I do the latter, the house is clean, but I’m miserable because I feel like a slave. It’s a tough balancing act, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get it right. Should I really play an hour of Rock Band when there’s a pile of dirty laundry in the closet? It’s more like a pile of guilt. A big, festering pile of guilt, calling my name as I’m struggling to get five stars on Panic Attack.
There’s so much pressure to be productive these days, and I think a lot of that comes from our employers; companies that want us to be making the best possible use of every second that we’re on their clock. But we’re meant to do so much more than produce results on a balance sheet so some chief executive can buy his or her yacht. And when I say “do so much more,” that doesn’t actually mean doing that much more. Doing more could mean sitting in a rocking chair and reading your favorite book, or taking a walk through the park. The problem with modeling your life after your employer’s work ethics is that the results dont line up. Companies want you to be productive and efficient because it makes them money. But if you spend your days off applying the same principles, trying to accomplish as much as possible in as little amount of time, you’re not going to be any richer. You’re going to be exhausted, and come Monday morning, you wont feel like you had a weekend at all.
In the end, I don’t think there’s a simple answer to handling time, but in the end, the only thing that’s really out of our control is time itself. So what does that leave? Maybe it’s time to break out that list of priorities and go through it with a fine-tooth comb. How many things on that list are truly important? How many of those things could be moved to next week, or next month, or off the list altogether? What about adding a few things that aren’t part of your normal routine? How about on your next day off, you just don’t look at a clock, and plan to not have a plan. Wake up when you wake up. Eat when you’re hungry. Do what makes you happy. Go to bed when you’re tired. Shelf your busy life, just for a day.
I just realized I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time writing this note, but I don’t care.