Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's about time

Ian walked into my office this afternoon and lamented, "I wish there were more hours in the day. There's not enough time for me to do everything I have to do and still be able to do the things I want to do!"

He's ten years old.

While we are busier than I would like to be, I don't think our family has a particularly fast-paced life. True, Ian dances three evenings a week, but that's his only extracurricular activity. He is homeschooled, so - while we do follow a lesson plan - he hasn't been pigeonholed into an academic schedule that is too difficult for him. Consequently, he rarely has homework. I work full time, but two days a week I work from home. Mike is a stay-at-home dad/microfarmer. Lily spends her days learning her ABCs and watching old episodes of Blue's Clues. Overall, I would say that we are much more relaxed than the typical American family.

And yet, at ten years old, Ian is already craving the mythical 25th hour.

I know how he feels. I started my workday today with a massive to-do list. By some miracle, I had it down to six items by lunchtime. I was well on my way to being done by 4pm. But at some point in the afternoon, I lost an hour and a half and wasn't able to shut down my accounting program until 5:30 - a half-hour later than my "official" quitting time. The ninety minutes I was going to spend working on my NaNoWriMo novel outline had trickled away, and I hadn't even noticed there was a hole in the bucket.

Time slips away from us the way calories sneak up on us. One of the (many) times I tried to follow Weight Watchers, I had a group leader who was fond of reminding us to count our "BLTs" - the "bites, licks, and tastes" we indulged in during the day that could easily add up to one of our snack allowances without us realizing it. Maybe I should start keeping a tighter leash on my "PETs" - the phone calls, emails, and text messages that, though individually not significant time-thieves, add up to one of my precious hours.

Or maybe I should change the way I think about time and let my PETs run free. Instead of thinking of time as a series of events with a defined beginning and end to each event, how much more time would I have if I entered each day without a plan as Leo Babauta suggests? Of course, this wouldn't work all the time - there will always be appointments to keep, shifts to work, and deadlines to meet, - but how would minimizing the number of "events" in my day affect the amount of time I have? Or at least my perception about the amount of time I have.

Regardless of our situation in life - whether you are a ten-year-old boy or a 31-year-old working mom who aspires to be a writer, - we are all equal in one thing: time is our most precious commodity. Like a rare jewel, once our time is depleted nothing will create more of it.

Maybe it's about time we stopped wishing for more hours in the day and started doing more with each precious minute we are given.

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