It’s not exactly a resolution, but this year I’ve determined to shift how I understand time.

A couple of weeks ago, I read this article about time perceptions in the Economist. It describes how, despite having more leisure time in concrete terms, we in the west tend to feel like we have much less time than ever before. I could feel my breathing grow short and panicky the further I read. Despite working for myself and in a creative job, I constantly feel like I don’t have enough time.

So I’ve been asking myself why. Why don’t I have enough time?  What would having enough time feel like?  Is there anyway to implement that? What would I do if I had enough time?
Reading that article in the Economist, despite having provoked anxiety, did help me understand that perhaps I could simply change how I understood time.

1. I know, like most of us know, my work and tasks tend to expand and fill any block of time available.
2. And I know that the time I want most is the creative thinking and writing time in the mornings. I could easily spend 5 or 6 hours on this part of my day.
3. I know that my default is to  get my tedious task-type work out of the way first, so I can focus on the creative stuff.

For me, #2 and #3 are in conflict.  I feel like I should do my tedious task work first- get it out of the way – so I can enjoy my creative thinking work. My new theory?  This is the wrong approach.  Tedious task work should be pushed off to the very end of the day- for me. If I push it to the last hour, I don’t have any reason to get too interested in it, to go too deep.   Time to pay bills or do bookkeeping? Just get it done.  Get it done as quickly as possible, because, for me at least-  if I permit three hours for it, it will take three hours.  Not due to procrastination- but because I get interested in looking into the details. Almost everything is interesting– but only some things are fulfilling- and those are the ones I want to focus on.

So I asked myself: what would my ideal schedule be?  The answer was immediately clear: wake up at 6am, write for 6 hours, and then go to work. Work till 8pm. Take weekends off, except for the writing part, if I feel like it.

So why haven’t I been doing this schedule before?  Because I felt guilty about arriving at work at 1pm. Now suddenly this seems ludicrous.  We work for ourselves.  Why shouldn’t we have the schedule that is most efficient for achieving all our goals?

Around the same time I was thinking about this, I came across this awesome graphic, inspired by the book Daily Rituals by Mason Currey.

Daily Rituals
click through to see the original, and hover over the bars to see detail

So I’ve gone ahead and made a graphic of my old and new schedule. And something surprising happened as I’ve been practicing with this new approach. I added the purple exercise block.

For a little while now, I’ve been wondering why I’m so resistant to adding exercise. There are various excuses that I could think of, but none really rang true. I used to exercise too much, so now I have a complex about it. Or: It’s cold, I don’t want to go outside, gyms are dirty, class schedules don’t work for me… All I really wanted to add was 30 minutes of yoga, at home, everyday.  My regular work -pattern-making and cutting fabric- tends to be pretty physical- it’s hours of standing, walking around a big table, and marking or cutting – so I don’t care much about adding walking or cardio activities. (video)

Brook's new daily routine

As soon as I transitioned to the new schedule, I started to want to do yoga- it just had to happen after the creative work, not before. It was so simple.  This is an example of exactly what I’ve been trying to achieve:  it’s being in the flow more, it’s relying on intuitive responses to how the mind and body most want to behave.

Another one:  while I want to get up at 6am, I’m not about to use an alarm clock. The first couple days I woke up around 6, completely disoriented because it was completely dark out.

Much to my surprise, it’s doesn’t seem to get light until 7am this time of year.

Related Posts:
Video Blog -in Arabic – short version of this blog post.

Posted by:Brook DeLorme

5 replies on “Shifting Time

  1. Hah, we have basically the same (ideal) schedules! My creative work is my research/writing, and I go for 7:30am. But this is exactly what I’ve settled into over the last few years…do thinking work at my table with coffee all morning, and then go for a run. Then do office/teaching work. I do some research work in the afternoons too, but more like meetings and stuff, and I do writing in the evenings instead of leisure if I have a deadline (or actually even just a fun new project). I was just thinking about this yesterday, how much more you can get done when you go with your natural rhythm. It seems there’s a lot of cultural pressure to be a morning exerciser (plus it’s practical to only take one shower a day), but that is just not me, and I’m happier embracing this! I like to get right to work on projects and feel stressed if I’m literally running around instead :)

    1. Oh my god, this is so perfect :) So nice to hear we are thinking in sync. I totally get what you mean- it seems like morning exercise is the only practical option- especially if you have a partner or want a social life! But it’s great to know you’ve figured out and acclimated to this just about the same time as me…haha.

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