The concept of time changes over the course of a lifetime and for different circumstances. When I was a child summer vacations felt as though they went on forever and the distance between birthdays was just unfathomable. It felt like I had all the time in the world. When I visited South Africa the time went by all too quickly. Currently some mornings I read and research for several writing projects I am working on and two hours seem to fly. Other days I have to wait for service people and the time drags. Time is very relative.

A year ago I sent my mother flowers for Mother’s Day just as a part of the annual routine. I didn’t know it would be the last time I would send my mother flowers for Mother’s Day. Currently, I am receiving daily emails from the company I ordered flowers from asking if I would like to place an order for my mother this Mother’s Day. Last Mother’s Day feels like an eternity ago. When I sat with my mother last fall as she was dying the time went too quickly. I regretted not spending more time with her over the last few years. Her death was a smack upside the head that we really do only get so much time on this earth and being conscious of this and choosing how we spend time is important.

Currently I am working on being the person I envision being. I find I need to project management my efforts and my time. I also will easily work 80-90 hours per week and not acknowledge my accomplishments. I need to make lists to both organize myself to get everything done and to recognise when things are done.

Never before have I had quite such a grasp of how valuable my time is. Currently every morning, I review my schedule for the day and create a list of things/tasks to get done. And then I start. Never have I felt so compelled to get things done and to not waste time.

I am in a kind of transition time right now. I came to the awareness a while ago that whatever we put time and energy into is what will develop. In part I came to this on my own and what solidified it was researching and writing a biographical essay about Ai Weiwei. Ai Weiwei is probably the most influential modern artist alive at the moment. For years he worked as a day laborer (and incidentally learned to gamble and is a top-tiered blackjack player) and refused commissions that would lead his art away from his vision. He worked tirelessly and remained committed to his ideal.

I have been reading about permaculture and ecology lately. When old growth forests are cleared, if the land is allowed to regenerate on its own a type of scrub will grow in to protect the soil and water table and begin to heal the land. Weeds are beneficial to the land because they bring nutrients to the soil, can penetrate the hard pan, prevent erosion, etc. Don’t underestimate the benefit of weeds. But then as caretakers we have to come in and make choices about the use of the land. If we are wise we will imitate the progression of a natural forest and plant plants and trees that will create a full habitat for animals, insects, birds, humans, and the plants.

During transition times for people, it is a little like the time of scrub growing in. Opportunities pop up that relieve anxiety but may not be in alignment with one’s vision for what one would like their life to be. There is great deal of flailing around and trying to figure out what will work and be beneficial. More than a few weeds will come in and present ideas and more. I guess it is this task in this time period to envision what one’s life should look like in the end and engineer backwards. And then no matter if time seems to move slowly or fast, be productive or flailing, just keep working towards the vision. Try out different things and figure out what will work.

So the quality of time is relative. Time in terms of how it feels in passing is relative. But if one invests time and energy in a vision of what one wants to accomplish this is the only way to make it happen. We only have now and I want to make the best of it.

Time is the Currency of Life

I can remember whole Saturday afternoons from when I was younger that were lost to bad movies. I wish now that I could have those hours back.

Every single person on the planet is mortal. Our days, hours, and minutes are numbered. When you are a child it feels like summers last forever and when you get older you start feeling the pressure of not enough time to get life’s ambitions done. I know for myself finding the time to write and do art is not always easy. These activities that are very important to me easily get pushed down the “to-do” list by a whole assortment of meaningless, mind-numbing, but necessary tasks. Things like doing laundry, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, cooking, etc. On top of that while my writing earns me a helpful side income, I still have my regular job. The number of hours that I can devote to writing or doing art gets swallowed by all of this even though the writing and art are central to my life’s ambitions.

Over the course of the last couple of months I have been taking a hard look at where I spend my time. I have been thinking more and more about how precious my time is and where I want to spend it. I have come to a few conclusions about how to save time to have time available for doing writing and art. I have created these guidelines for myself.

1. Really think about how you are spending time and if it is how you want to be spending time.
If you are doing something you really enjoy and you want to spend time on it, great. I think spending time talking to friends, exercising, etc. are all worthwhile investments of time. I think the greatest way to let someone know you appreciate and care about them is to be willing to give them time. Just make sure what you are doing is a conscious choice. The flip-side is that if you are bored, frankly that is a sign that you are squandering the precious time you have on earth. This has lead me to re-evaluate a few activities. For instance if a book doesn’t grab me, unless I am editing it or critiquing it for someone else, I don’t keep reading it. There is no law that says I have to finish every book that I start. If a movie isn’t any good, leave or stop watching it. I have never been one to watch television but I have made a rule for myself that I only get to watch dvds or stream movies and television shows when I am doing something else. If I am working out or folding laundry, then I can watch television– otherwise no. I have also cut back on the amount of time that I spend on social media like facebook, I have reduced the number of blogs that I read, and I have cut back on time spent aimlessly cruising the Internet. All of these things can eat time. The point is to be conscious of where I am spending time. If you don’t know where your minutes, hours, and days go try logging your activities for a few days. Write down everything you do and specifically how much time you spend doing each thing. You might be surprised.

2. Plan out how you are going to get those mundane activities done in the least amount of time.
For instance, I live out in the middle of nowhere. To go grocery shopping is a 20 minute drive one way. To go to the next bigger town where there are department, clothing, electronics, office supply, etc. stores, it takes 45 minutes to get there. I plan my grocery shopping so I don’t have to keep making additional runs for one or two items because it wastes time. I also go to the library on the way. I only go shopping to the bigger town once a month. Another thing I do is that I make soup in my crock pot on Sundays and I eat it through out the week so that I don’t have to cook every night. I like to cook and I like the creativity of cooking, but it isn’t where I want to spend my time right now. Try to think about how you could organize your errands to do them without doing multiple trips or inefficiently covering a lot of geography. Try to think about how you could get a task, like cooking, done for the whole week. Further it might sound crazy but de-cluttering your life ends up being a huge time saver. It makes cleaning the house easier. If you only have enough dishes for everyone for a meal, then dishes can never stack up into an Herculean task. If you only have enough clothing to get through a week or so, then laundry is not such a huge thing to do either.

3. Quit procrastinating.
I don’t care if the procrastinating is rooted in nervousness about taking on a project or if it is simply avoiding work or whatever, procrastinating wastes time. If I really do have an ambition to get something done, then the proof is just in the doing. Procrastinating is just silliness and a squandering of my time.

4. Quit moaning and causing unnecessary drama.
I remember when I was an undergraduate in college, I would moan about how hard an assignment was and putter around and then finally finish it in a rush at the last moment. Usually what I would turn in for that assignment would be far inferior to what I was capable of. That drama is an incredible waste of emotional energy, talent, and time.

5. Breaks are a good and necessary thing.
Sometimes I get myself into a groove and I am writing and writing and writing and then I am not as efficient and my writing is not as good. This actually ends up wasting time when I try to continue and push forward when I am tired. If I take a break, specify in my own head how long the break will be, and then start up again promptly, I actually end up improving my writing and not wearing myself out. When I am home and have the luxury of writing all day, I plan out my day knowing that I will need breaks. During the work week, I plan out my writing projects for the evening and try to make the plan as realistic as possible. I write, read, research, or do art for 2-3 hours per night after dinner and I allow some down time before bed.

6. Let others help out and do things.
If you have a spouse, children, or a housemate, they can help do things around the house. Just give up on the cats though. You cannot get them to do anything useful. However, a spouse can cook and do chores. Children can make their own lunches, put away toys, etc. Housemates you can work out a system of cooperative cooking and housework with.

If you were handed $2000 and told you had a week to spend it all before any that remained was taken back, you would make specific choices about how to spend that money. We each get only a certain amount of time. Dreams and ambitions are only fantasies unless we invest the time to make them happen. Are you spending your time in a way that reflects your priorities?

Time Machine

Imagine yourself transported back in time two hundred years to the year 1809. In 1809 Robert Fulton patented the steamboat. Napoleon Bonaparte ruled France. The Industrial Revolution was beginning. People were immigrating from the British Isles and Europe to the United States. Gaslight was first used in Pall Mall in London two years prior. Only wealthy people had flushing lavatories. Edgar Allen Poe was born. The steam driven printing press had not yet come into being.

Do you think a person from two hundred years ago could imagine our world?

Last night I was up late reading stories over the internet and a post from a friend in southeastern India came into my inbox. I posted back that it was midnight where I was and asked him what time it was where he was. He answered that it was a hot and humid day and there a breeze coming off the ocean.

How long would it have taken a letter to travel around the world two hundred years ago?

This week I am traveling across country. I will travel approximately 1400 miles in a span of hours.

How long did it take for the first ocean going steamer to cross the Atlantic?

Think of all the medical technologies available to us. Cholera killed thousands in the nineteenth century.

Think of all the information available to me, an educated woman, over the internet. In the early nineteenth century, only a small percentage of the population was considered wealthy or middle class and a woman would have probably been uneducated and worked either as a servant, prostitute, street seller, or in horrific conditions requiring hard labor.

Travel forward in time now. What do you see two hundred years in the future?