31 March 2011

Perceptions of time part 1

I have recognized that I and many of my fellow Norte Americanos are obsessed with the idea of wasting time. Particularly in the US, I think we think about this. Me personally, I have started noticing how many things I view as potentially wasting my time. One that feels huge to me is when you have to load software or some random extra computer things. This feels like a huge interruption to what I'm trying to get done. Sometimes what I'm trying to "get done" isn't particularly important, but ask me to upload something on the way to viewing your kid's funny video and you've lost me.

Other things I put aside and don't do instantly because it will "take too long." Now I don't have a magic number for what too long is and I'm often surprised those things can be done more quickly than I realize. A good example of this is when I set the microwave to warm something for 2 minutes. Often  I stand and stare absently out the window for this 2 minutes. While there is nothing wrong with a quiet moment or two of speculation or meditation, occasionally when I'm there with the two minutes ticking on the micro - I'll do a few things around the kitchen. Recently, I washed my two travel mugs by hand and put them away. They lived on the counter for days because I "didn't have time" to clean them. Or maybe I just didn't feel like it, but that's a different blog.

My own perfectionist nature and my own sense of time and it being "wasted" or "stolen" is a challenge I've only recently recognized in my life. I've toyed iwth the idea of timing things. I'm not sure whether to take one day and time every single thing I do (which seems like it would be a pain and waste a lot of time in that one day) or do I take a few weeks and time every kind of event that occurs in a day. This may be something I revisit on and off this year. I feel like if I did this I could prove to myself that a lot of things don't take that long and some of the procrastination isn't really helping.

I read a business organizational book a couple years ago and it recommended when trying to get a desk or email under control, do everything that will only take 2 minutes or less on the spot, right then. Other things that need more attention need to go on an action, call, or project list for an appropriate time. I've tried to do this, but I often start say, responding to an email, and then discover I need to dig into some old emails or find a contact list from a conference, and the envisioned 2 minutes turns into 10 or 15. Or at least that's how it feels. If I timed it, I wonder, would that be true? Or possible is it worse than I imagine? Did it take 30 minutes? So was I wasting my time? Was it important enough to get that much time? (That's probably another blog and another self help book.)

If you were going to time events in your life, which ones would you be most interested to know how much time they took? I think my ipod has a timer, so I thought about using this and documenting a day or  a series of days. Though I sort of imagine "wasting" a lot of time that day putzing around trying to get the timer thing to work. huh.


  1. The biggest reason I haven't timed the things I do is related to what you mentioned... I don't want to take the time to do that. Taking notes slows me down.

    I have a thing with time being "stolen" and I think Golden has a thing with time being "wasted." I used to be happy that I lived in an ambitious and time-obsessed culture. Now I think Americans are coerced into doing too many things because that is what good, responsible people do.

  2. We are pressured to be good producers of productivity. I question whether that always has anything to show for it. I feel my time is wasted if I get hung up in a computer or software issue. Stolen if I dork around and just read things or get caught in following some thread. I'm trying to learn to do nothing for a few minutes each day and let silence (God) speak.