The Ever Elusive Time Part I

Time is this amorphous entity. On one end of the spectrum there never seems to be enough time and on the other end of the spectrum, it does not pass fast enough.

Everything I have ever read on time management addresses the idea that when we are planning, setting up schedules, we do not set aside enough time for the project. We easily underestimate how long something will take us to accomplish. I have heard of doubling and even tripling the time you think it is going to take you!

Of course, as soon as a project takes us longer then the time allotted, we are then off that carefully arranged schedule, the rest of the day is off. It is easy to see how this can contribute to people feeling overwhelmed and not in control of their lives.

Part of this struggle of setting up time frames for projects is that we desperately do not want something to take too long. We are determined that it can be accomplished with the ideal amount of time. We are reluctant to sacrifice more of our valuable time to this or that project.

My husband and I set out to paint the blocks along the basement wall and we both thought that working together it would be a few hours, eight hours later we were almost done! It appeared so straightforward and simple, but it still somehow was quite time-consuming.

It is obvious that there are a plethora of reasons how time can get away from us, more than just the ones I’ve listed. The elusiveness of disappearing time bothers people more than when time feels like it is dragging by.

My solution to the struggles with time is simple: a timer. Start timing how long repeating tasks take you. It will give you a concrete measurement for how you are spending your time.

Something as simple, yet pleasing, as making the bed can take as little as two minutes, with elaborate pillows. When doing your dishes, whether by hand or by loading the dishwasher, as long as you do not have a huge pile, can take less than 15 minutes.

Laundry, which takes time with the sporadic attention it requires, is not as time consuming as it seems if you look at just the specific time needed for your effort. The majority of the time with laundry is taken by the machines. How long do you actually spend sorting, filling the machines, folding, and putting away the laundry? If you knew that it takes no longer than 30 minutes altogether of your time, would you be less reluctant to start a load? Granted you need to be around to move the laundry, but if you don’t want to take time away from your children or away from your favorite TV show, the time required is minor and can no longer be a reason to put it off.

Get a real sense of time, how long things take you, and from that knowledge, you can make educated choices about how you want to use your valuable time. Without an actual timer, you too easily judge things by how it feels time-wise, but not based on factual data.

What about filing? If you dislike filing papers, would you rather spend 30 minutes doing it once a month or half a day sorting and organizing them so you can then file them? It is your choice, but think about the time and how you feel about the task. If you knew that it was only 30 minutes once a month, it lessens the weight of it, making it a minimal effort and takes it off your mind. On the other hand, maybe you would prefer taking half a day less frequently. Of course, it also matters whether or not you find yourself searching through piles to find a paper you need, which if you filed monthly would be simple to locate.

This is one side of the time puzzle. Next week I will discuss the other side of things.

In the meantime, are you going to use your timer to find out precisely how long things take you?

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