Foolin’ Around with Time

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)

Hopefully, you paid close attention to the title of this post. I don’t want anyone jumping to the wishful conclusion that I’m fooling around. Well, I guess I am, but it’s not with someone. I’m fooling around with time which surely makes fooling around permissible albeit boring!

But let me share with you what made me start fooling around with time in the first place. When I look around me, I seem to see lots of folks who have time on their hands. Sometimes I even hear them saying to one another, “Oh, I’m just killing time.”

Thankfully, I’m not one of those folks. Instead of time on my hands, I seem to have time on my mind. I think about time a lot of the time. And I never have time to kill. I’m not even sure that I know how to kill time.

Both expressions–time on my hands and killing time–strike me as rather lame, but not lame enough to keep me from looking up their origins in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

“Time on your hands” goes back to 1668 with Flavell’s Saint Indeed Ep. Ded. sig. A7:  “Leave trifling studies to such as have time lying on their hands, and know not how to imploy it.”

Of course, I am intrigued by the reference to “trifling studies,” but I don’t have time right now to look it up.

“Killing time” dates to 1751, when it appeared in Richardson’s Clarissa (ed. 3) VIII. Concl. 266:  “The more active and lively amusements and Kill-times.”

In the next century, Coleridge used it in a way that intrigues me. In his Lect. Shakespeare (1856) 3, he writes: “Where the reading of novels prevails as a habit…it is not so much to be called pass-time as kill-time.” As an English professor, I am stunned that a poet would speak so unkindly of novels!

Sometimes folks killing time or with time on their hands look at me and ask, “How do you find time to do all the things that you do? You must have all the time in the world.”

I want to come back with, “Find time? How could I do that? You have 24 hours in your day, just as I do.”

But, instead, I count to ten, smile, and bide my time.

Even so, those questions set me to thinking, “How do I find time to do all that I do when I’m not foolin’ around with time?”

The answer is not as straightforward as it might seem. In reality, it’s not about finding time. It’s about managing time. It’s about realizing that when work is to be done–when goals are to be accomplished–time is not on my side. I have to worry not only about how much time I have to do the needful but also about how much time I will set aside to do the needful.

When it comes to managing time for goals and projects–both long- and short-term–I am downright SMART. I know how to get things accomplished on time or ahead of time.

S–Specific.

M–Measurable.

A–Achievable.

R–Relative.

T–Time-based.

In my head, I know that SMART can be applied successfully to daily time management, too.

But I don’t always practice what’s in my head. As a result, time and time again, I discover that I am not the best time manager, even of my own time. Nonetheless, I always develop some kind of plan for my time every day. Usually, I do that planning the night before, while lying in bed, right after I finish taking time to work on my blog post.

The way that I develop those plans has everything to do with how productive my time will be the next day.

Over time, I’ve picked up on patterns–what works and what doesn’t work.

Let me start with the latter. What doesn’t work for me is when I make sketchy notes of what I hope to accomplish for the day. I approach the plan so cavalierly that in no time, I’m done.

Here’s a perfect example of my sketchy planning for one day, a week or two ago. Let me share without any further loss of time.

Morning Goals

* Meditate

* Bike

* Student Engagement Hours at Laurel Ridge CC

By the end of such a day, I might well have accomplished those goals and more, but I know that they did not require the entire day. I’m left somewhat satisfied, but not entirely. I have the sinking feeling that time slipped through my fingers into soft, billowy expanses of nothingness.

We all need downtime like that from time to time. In fact, some of my best ideas appear in moments when seemingly I am doing nothing.

But, as a rule, I am no fonder of nothingness than I am of stillness. I like my days to be chock-full of activities so that at day’s end I can look back knowing that I had a whale of a productive time.

Here’s an example of what works best for me when I’m planning a typical day. For the time being, one example should suffice because time’s a-wastin’.

Morning Goals

5:00-5:30am | Meditate

5:30-6:30am | Bike 20 miles

6:30-7:30am | Shower, dress, and have breakfast

7:50am | Leave for Laurel Ridge CC. Stop for coffee and pastry at Flour and Water. Take the leisurely and scenic Valley Pike route to the college.

9:30am-12:30pm | Student Engagement Hours at Laurel Ridge CC

Hopefully, you get my point. When I anchor my goals to time allotted to each task, I have a specific plan for how I will spend my time.

The beauty of this approach–aside from being more productive–is that I escape to a once-upon-a-time world simply by setting aside time to motor to the college via Valley Pike–past cornfields and the meandering Shenandoah River–rather than whirring to the college mindlessly at 70 miles an hour on the interstate.

No doubt even Benjamin Franklin would have been proud of me on my days when I use time management effectively. Franklin, of course, was ahead of his time in so many ways. Aside from realizing that time is money, his way of scheduling his own days became the prototype of the American day planner.

Sadly, I am not ahead of my time, and, most assuredly, I am not a legend in my own time. But I am fully confident that my way of planning a fully productive day–of making time for the goals that I want to accomplish–will withstand the test of time.

Painfully, too, I know that time and tide wait for no man, least of all for me. For now, then, the time has come for me to stop foolin’ around with time, yours and mine.

4 thoughts on “Foolin’ Around with Time

  1. This idleness that you mention…is this real? People actually have time to murder? Who ARE these people?

    But how do you adapt? What happens when something arises that prevents an item on your agenda from being done? Do you ignore and overlook or do you reschedule? I know you don’t give up; I read your post on grit. ;-)

    Like

  2. Oh, yes! Pay close attention to those around you. You will see many with time on their hands and with time to kill!

    Being adaptable is critical to solid time management and to general well-being. As a rule, I try to allow blocks of time each day for the unexpected or for play time. Then, if something unexpected arises, I can find a way to fit it in. Some things in my daily schedule are nonnegotiable: meditation time, biking time, and blogging time. I find that if I do not do those things on schedule every day, they slide by the wayside for that day, and I don’t find time to fit them in, or maybe I have lost the drive for the time-being.

    Thanks for your question! (And thanks for reading my post about grit! Be sure to share it with others who might enjoy it. Facebook? Twitter?)

    Like

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