29 March 2010
stealing a march
It seems that March has stolen a march on me. Here we are in the last few days and I haven't got round to recording progress on the plot, discoveries and outings for ages. I shouldn't be surprised really because I have found time quite slippery since I stopped working. I thought I would get much more done, but it turns out that everyday errands, take me much more time than when I fitted them in around the working day. Journeys to work, ostensibly crowded with people, actually provided the time to observe or think about what I needed to do during the day; the journey home provided a space to relax. Even without rushing, I used to be able to make breakfast, prepare a packed lunch, put on the bread and get the washing on the line before I went to work. Now it can take me two hours.
This bending of time perplexed me so much that I began to record what I did in 15 minute blocks - nothing like a good bit of evidence gathering before making policy changes. I found first that too much time was spent "tidying". Things I would have ignored (because I could not see them when I was out of the house) bothered me, so, for example, there was a lot of moving piles of laundry around the house instead of piling it all up in the airing cupboard out of sight and emptying it only when there was no room to stuff any more in. There was also a certain amount of organising my time around the radio - oh, I'll just wait until the end of this programme - instead of getting on. Listen Again has sorted that out. I also registered with the telephone preference service to put a stop to the endless marketing calls I was getting from people who were just doing their job, but driving me nuts.
After these fairly simply changes, I had to face up too to a complete lapse of managerial competence. The mental list of things I did want to do was too long and in parallel with that, I underestimated the amount of time that stuff would take. It's not as if I didn't know this already after years working, I just somehow imagined that because I had more time, time would actually last longer. I had either forgotten how to prioritise or, perhaps more to the point, had no priorities because I thought I didn't want or need them any more. This was meant to be a time when I could spend more time doing what I wanted, but instead was turning into a time when I didn't know what I wanted. So I have reinstated a written to do list adopting the rules, especially rule 2, in this Oliver Burkeman article. I am an avid reader of Mr B. His short articles must have saved me years of reading works on self improvement. Heaven help me, I have even started writing shopping lists and adopting a haphazard kind of meal planning. (And thanks to Felix for such inspiring and entertaining posts on her own imaginative meal planning and productivity)
None of this means that I have become a super efficient automaton. However, without replacing the structure of employment by a rigid timetable, I now feel a little more in control of time. I was interested in listening to Sarah Maitland tonight to hear her talk about living a patterned, rather than a disciplined (for her, spiritual) life. I doubt it's what she had in mind, but cutting ruthlessly, snipping bits, a bit of ease here and there, going against the grain now and then, getting time to fit you where you can. There might be something in it.