If I had a theme song, I’m torn between Loren Allred’s Never Enough in The Greatest Showman, and Alabama’s I’m In A Hurry (and don’t know why). I mean, those and the theme from Indiana Jones, which might just be running quietly on repeat, all the time.
Do you ever feel like you just can’t get a handle on things? Like you’re running behind, or running out of time? Like you can’t get ahead, especially when it comes to time?
I know. Me neither.
I am a chronically late and slow person. Have been forever and always. Ask my mom. It’s one of her favourite things about me, I’m sure. I have a non-linear relationship with time; after all, I was born two weeks early and I like to say I’ve been making up for it ever since.
Humour aside, I’d say that in general, I’m pretty empowered by my relationship to time, apart from when I’m running late, which, as I’ve mentioned, is often. My tendency towards tardiness really kills my vibe, or at least how I react to it does.
What I mean is that I’m fairly relaxed and come-what-may about time (I very much enjoy dawdling about) in the moment. That is, until I’ve pushed too many commitments too far out and now they’re all threat-level midnight. Then I explode into a furious flurry of ineffective and inefficient activity, laced with copious amounts of expletives and self-loathing, riddled with anxiety and frustration, leaving a trail of tears, clutter and a wary Boston Terrier and husband in my wake.
Delightful, I know.
What’s your relationship to Time? Empowered? Disempowered? Are you one who finds that there’s always enough time for what you want? I know for a fact that these unicorns exist, because I know several of them personally. Or, are you always rushing, always worrying that you don’t have enough time for whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish?
A while ago, a friend of mine posed the question, “Are you time oriented or task oriented?” and it stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard the terms, but for the first time ever, I actually thought about it.
I instantly identified myself as task oriented, and suddenly, my relationship to Time made a whole lot more sense.
Being task-oriented means that I tend to focus on what the goal is that I’m trying to achieve. I find it difficult to leave tasks partially finished, but depending on the amount of time I have, and the size of the task at hand, not all my projects can be accomplished in one fell swoop. Since I’m fairly all-or-nothing minded (it’s a default setting for many driven people), this can lead to frustration, anxiety and also procrastination: if I don’t think I can finish it, I might not start at all.
Task oriented looks like this: “Okay, so today, I need to write an article about time, and clear my inbox to zero.” Let it be known that my inbox is currently hovering at about 960 emails that need to be sorted…
Task oriented people can have a hard time taking breaks, turning off, and calling it a day, if the task(s) at hand were not completed. They’re frequently heard stating that they didn’t get enough done. It’s just never enough (time, work done, etc), and they feel unproductive in the face of their expectations.
Task oriented people find themselves frustrated when they’re stuck at their desks, filling time even though they’ve completed their work. This was my experience in school and traditional employment. I found it frustrating and ridiculous that I had to sit there, doing nothing, simply because I’d gotten my work done ahead of schedule and couldn’t leave until the bell rang.
Time oriented, on the other hand, might look like this: “I have an hour free today, so I will spend forty minutes working on this week’s article, and then I’ll use twenty minutes to clear some emails out of my inbox.”
Time oriented people tend to be more likely to set breaks and work hours, and be able to separate themselves from their work or projects, once the time they’ve allotted to them is up. They’re not as fixated on the finish line; slow and steady wins their races. They’re either able to space tasks out, or break them down accurately relative to the time they have available.
One orientation is not better than the other, but it can get a little tricky if you are, say a task-oriented person who doesn’t break tasks down into smaller, more achievable-within-the-available-time-frame chunks. Especially if you live, work and play in a time-oriented landscape, which is likely most of us in the Western world filled with clocks and calendars.
If only there was some way to make more time… But there IS!
While we can’t add minutes and hours to the clock, no matter how much we wish we could, I think that it might be possible to transform our experience of time into one of spaciousness and grace.
If you are task oriented—and suffering for it, which is not uncommon—you have an opportunity to create the experience of more time, by learning to incorporate some habits of time-oriented people.
We can learn to calibrate our orientations to tasks and time without losing the spark of magic (madness?) that drives us. This can transform your relationship with Time, and make your experience of Time seem to grow more spacious.
These three steps are how you calibrate what you want to get done from what you can reasonably actually get done, in reality:
1. Break tasks into micro tasks. First, practice taking time before you begin a project to contemplate the task at hand. Can it be broken down into smaller pieces? The answer is always yes. This turns one mammoth task into many more achievable ones.
Remember, we don’t eat watermelons in one bite, or even two. Go big on dreams and plans, by all means, but when it comes to tasks and actions, think smaller, child, smaller. This is how dreams become reality. I cannot stress this enough.
2. Take breaks. For real. Set breaks and take them. Eat lunch, while sitting down, not in front of your work. Walk away from your work. Use your feet to do this, and get bonus points by using your feet to walk away from your work outside. Turn it all off, at a predetermined time, and move onto something else you want to have in life (fitness, fun, going outside, connecting with humans, playing with glitter or a guitar, or…).
3. Call it a day. Actually Call. It. A. Day. Consider that what you got done was the task, whether or not it’s what you set out to get done, and despite the voice that insists that it wasn’t enough. That voice never has anything new or interesting to say anyway, so when it pipes up, you can thank it, offer it a snack, and then get on with your day. Learn to practice grace, compassion and forgiveness, and employ them frequently with yourself.
Do you wish you had more time, space or peace in your days? How do you wish you felt at the end of a day?