I recently returned from a four-day vacation to the coast of Maine, and realized that on vacation, it’s easy to slip into a different relationship with Time.
At work, your Time is all tied up with other people’s Time. Time Matters when you’re at work.
On weekends, Time is still important, but you can stand up to it a little more. You declare, “I’m sleeping late tomorrow!” hoping your brain got the memo too, and doesn’t wake you up at the default time of 6 a.m.
So, there’s Work Time.
And Weekend Time.
And Vacation Time.
But what if we took Vacation Time, and built pockets of it into our Life Time?
On vacation, it’s pretty easy to wake up in the morning, make a loose plan for the day, and charge off to do that First Thing on the List. If you’re visiting a beautiful spot, the scenery alone may take up your brain’s entire bandwidth. “Now” and “Next” are all that matter. And food. Food is big on vacation.
You are Vividly Alive.
By the end of a vacation day, you’re pleasantly (and surprisingly) exhausted, because you’ve been fully present for every single moment. It’s exhilarating!
In our regular Life Time, many of us live in the land of “Rehearse” and “Rehash”. It’s not much fun there; under the guise of Productivity, we dash from regrets about the past (Rehash), to anxiousness about the future (Rehearse). It can feel like it takes all of our time to manage our time, leaving very little Time to actually live.
There’s an alternative though. Ponder with me for a moment.
“What was life like before we were taught how to “tell time”?
When we were little kids, if we were lucky, we had the freedom to live in the land of Now and Next. I wonder if there’s a creative way to get that feeling of timelessness back, even a little bit?
I’m retired so I run the risk of feeling rudderless. Before I created a framework for myself, I could easily spend an appointment-free day just drifting from the couch, to the TV, to maybe a walk, but mostly I was up in my head, wondering what the heck I “should” be doing. Over 60 years of answering to parents then teachers then employers can easily leave one looking for direction from people who no longer exist.
My interest in this new way of looking at Time has been stimulated and reinforced by reading Time Warrior, by Steve Chandler. As he says in Chapter 36, “One hour of planning saves three days of confusion.” I couldn’t agree more.
So here’s what I do nowadays. Hopefully it’ll be useful to one or two of you.
On Sunday nights I create a plan for the upcoming week, using a grid like this:
1) Appointments go in first in those bottom 3 rows.
2) In the “Focus of the Week” row, I write (in large print) a single word, like “Weaving.” Then in smaller print I jot down things I want to accomplish this week that are not time-sensitive. Things like “Finish Lesson 4 of Painting Course” or “Publish Overdue Blog Post”! Mind you, I’m thinking about this week only, not long-range complicated planning. That long-range, overview stuff is done once or twice a year, far outside of this discussion.
3) Each morning, I set reminder alerts on my phone for time-sensitive appointments happening that day. That way I don’t need to keep thinking about them in the back of my mind, a place that’s quite cluttered and very unreliable these days! Then I ask myself, “Where do I want my Focus Magnet to be today?” (Hint: there is no wrong answer to that question. Follow your heart.)
4) Finally, I make a commitment to trust my system by looking at Today Only each day. No glancing ahead at “Coming Attractions/Distractions.” Simply experience a Love Affair with Today.
This might seem a bit contrived at first glance, like a restrictive structure superimposed on endless hours of freedom, but ironically the effect has been liberating.
As a result of doing this daily morning practice for some time now, each individual day is elevated to being Quite Fulfilling.
“Now” is an amazing place. That’s where I sketch, and sit outside watching busy people go about their busy lives. Now is where I wrote a book. Now is full of satisfaction. With this system, I never feel like I Should Be Doing Something Else.
“Next” is a pretty cool place too. With a bookmark in the place called “Next,” I never get bored with Now, because I know Next is patiently, happily, waiting for me.
The only downside of all this living in the land of Now and Next is that whenever anyone asks me how my week was, I have no idea. I’m in love with Now; everything else is in my date book.
This way of living is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it sure is mine. It’s what got this blog post written. It’s what is getting the next book written, instead of drifting from Netflix to a nap.
Come to think of it, a little structure can actually feel like a hug.
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