(It's) About Time

I’ve been thinking a lot about time recently. Time is many things. Time is of the essence. “Time” is a wonderful piece of music and a great match for Charlie Chaplin’s final speech in The Great Dictator. You should take the time to listen to it, if you haven’t yet done so. I listen to it once in a while and most of the time it almost moves me to tears.

I’m constantly thinking that I do not have enough time. To an extent where I sometimes waste time just due to being blocked by that thought. But it is not true. I do have a lot of time, in which I accomplish a lot of things. Nevertheless I’m struggling, mainly because of two reasons:

  • I’d like to accomplish even more.
  • (I think) I’m not always accomplishing something.

Accomplishing more

This post was waiting as a draft in my text editor since early January. Every few days I’d think about it and that I’d really like to finally write it, instead of just doing so or not waste any time by thinking about it. About ten months ago my little home server stopped working. I use it primarily as a media center and as I didn’t have much time to consume any media when it happened, I didn’t fix it. And I haven’t gotten to it ever since, but I’d really like to by now. I just keep telling myself I don’t have the time. While wasting time on almost a daily basis by spending more of it when consuming media without the benefits of my home server/media center. About two months ago I finally got myself a little scanner. I’m not good with paperwork and - obviously - wanted to save time by getting rid of it. Needless to say, I have not yet started to really use it as I didn’t have time to come up with a workflow that is satisfactory to all my requirements.
These three examples are merely the tip of the iceberg. I’d like to record another “special” episode for my old podcast, I’d like to have done new versions of my movie-related posts from last year, I have ideas for new podcasts and websites, etc.

It’s not bad having ideas and plans. To want to accomplish more. Sometimes, though, it can lead you into thinking you are not accomplishing enough. But I am.
I’m having a side job to help pay for my studies. I’m studying, currently writing my bachelor’s thesis. I was elected speaker of my faculty’s student body which is by far and away the most time-consuming part of my life ever since. In an average week I have about three official meetings lasting from anything between one and four hours. Not including preparation and follow-up, both of which usually take about double the amount of time as the actual meetings. Add another six to ten hours per week for private conversations happening randomly when meeting people on campus.
In the last seven days I received 31 emails that were directly for me and required a more or less immediate response, 28 emails that were not directly/only for me but of almost the same importance/urgency and 47 emails to which I mostly had no need to reply to but still have to read them thoroughly. Those numbers are not including any other emails, e.g. private matters or work-related stuff. Only considering sent items in the same category, I’ve sent 61 emails - many of them counting several hundreds of words.
All that is basically just time that’s invested in communication, which, while being a very large part of it, evidently is not all there’s to my job.

So obviously I do accomplish a lot. I’m not complaining about that workload and I enjoy most of it most of the time. But getting used to tasks makes you think that they are indispensable. Email and schedules are easy to get used to. Poor me, always having to write so many emails and not being able to write a blog post instead. It simply is not the case. No one is forcing me but myself. Despite having had quite a lot of opportunities to learn it during the last months I have a hard time accepting that fact.

Not accomplishing something

It’s dangerous to get sucked into thinking you don’t have enough time just because the things you spend your time with are tasks you got used to. It makes you disregard that in fact you already do accomplish something and it serves as an easy excuse for not taking the time to accomplish something new (as opposed to accomplish even more).

It also makes you feel guilty when you’re seemingly not accomplishing something, e.g. watching a TV show or browsing reddit. You always accomplish something. I’m not denying the existence of procrastination, but resting your body and your brain is an accomplishment as well. You won’t get much credit for it. You’ll have to allow yourself to give you credit for it.
Sometimes I watch a whole season in a day. Or five movies. Even when there are dozens of emails waiting for me, even when next week there is an exam. It would take me thrice as long to write an email without taking a break once in a while.
But often I can’t really enjoy the break and deprive it of its purpose by not really allowing myself to have just some relaxing time off, but forcing me to do at least a little bit of work meanwhile. Sorting pictures, cleaning the room… things that don’t require as much attention as writing that one long email. But they still remind me all the time while taking a break that I actually should be done with my break already and get going. This causes stress and makes the break an actual waste of time, despite the maybe still enjoyable TV show.

No shit, Sherlock?

While I’m able to write this down and sound like a preachy snob about it, I still struggle a lot with both reasons I stated in the beginning of this article. Hopefully writing it down will help me realize more often that it’s my own choice whether to accomplish new things or not and that it’s ok to take a real break every now and then. I took one today and finally wrote down most of the thoughts about time that were floating in my mind for the last two months.

As I started the article with music, I also want to end it that way. An idea about time I’ve liked since my teenage years was made into a wonderful punk/rock song in 2000: The Hives Introduce the Metric System in Time.