Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Time in a Glass

Time. Friend or enemy? I go back and forth. And lately, with so many different obligations pulling at me, I've been trying to manage it better.

Some of that involves compartmentalization. That's really just a combination of scheduling time for specific tasks and then mindfully concentrating on them during that time. Simple doesn't always mean easy though, not for my monkey mind. But I'm getting better.

I've taken a hard look at my priorities, and rearranged some things. Meals are simpler. Television is practically gone. Later evenings and earlier mornings add hours to the day. I've limited time sucks like running errands, household chores, email and social networking.

Balance is paramount, though. Without it, focus turns to exhaustion and creativity dwindles. Julia Cameron's insistence that we must keep our creative wells filled comes to mind. Expending energy of any kind requires fuel. Running requires calories. Creating and thinking require images, ideas, nature and things that tease and spark the imagination. So I'm scheduling more time to read (something I had virtually given up over the last year unless it was research related). The time I spend in the gardens is meditative if I'm not worrying about something else I should be doing. Cooking mindfully is almost better than eating. And daily walks, golf, time with K and with friends -- all important.

Then there are the tools. I posted over at Mayhem and Magic a while back about how I use calendars, schedules, and other organizing techniques. But the management of time, rather than tasks, is a little different.

That's where the hourglass above comes in. I got one for my Nashville girlfriend for Christmas, and while I was at it, got one for myself. Just because it looked cool. I don't indulge in knickknacks very often, so why not? Turned out this was a very useful purchase, though.

Turning over the hourglass (which does indeed take an hour to empty) is like crawling into a time box. All I have to do for that hour is what is right in front of me. That's usually writing or editing. An hour is short enough that I don't get itchy and I don't feel guilty, and long enough I can lose myself in what I'm doing. After an hour I get up and do something else, then come back and work some more. Four or five flips of that glass allows for an awful lot of productivity. Also, there is something more right-brained about sands falling through glass than a clock ticking. Something almost comforting.

Over at The Writing Bug there's a post about The Pomodoro Technique. Essentially it's using a timer for 25 minute increments to concentrate on the task at hand. I already do something similar, using the timer on my I-Phone. I set it for twenty minutes, and then accomplish as much as I can in that twenty minutes on a particular project. I typically use it for things like household chores, weeding and yard clean up, Facebooking, reading and commenting on blogs, trimming plants, emailing or doing cooking prep. The trick is that once the timer goes off I have to stop. I got done what I got done. That's it. Time to move on.

Do you have any time managements tips and tricks to share?


  1. No tricks to share. I'm trying to be better at a schedule. I love the hourglass and the idea of using one for certain task. I'll have to look around and see if I can find one locally.

    Thoughts in Progress

  2. This hourglass came from Crate and Barrel. ; - ) I'm trying to convince myself I don't need to start a collection.

  3. You are so right, Cricket. There are days when the slower (quieter) awareness of time is much more appealing than a ticking timer. Must be that right brain thing :-) I am definitely going to add an hourglass to my time-management tools. (Though I predict I'll spend way too much time just watching the sand trickle down.)

  4. That hourglass is gorgeous! I tend to set a timer too (a boring digital one), but for 15 minutes. That's usually enough to get me going, and I'm alright carrying on once I've started! If what I'm doing is really difficult, or tedious, I set the timer for 15 minutes three times, and then have a break. Things get done eventually. Thanks for your tips!

  5. Jenny and Jenni -- thanks for stopping by! The sand going through the glass can be mesmerizing -- for a while. Then it gets pretty boring. ; - ) And I'm the same way: Once I get started it's easy to keep going.

  6. Hi Cricket (Dave Norman - face book)
    I always thought getting to a certain age, time slows down. Not true. It would seem each year older we get, we develop new interests, or find we want to spend more attention in the old ones. Our reading and movie watching tastes (in my case) expand. Where, in reading I would probably only stick to one or two genre's, that has now increased. Sigh. Recently, upgraded my mobile (cell) phone to a Blackberry. Fifty per cent of the reasoning being the very helpful task management apps, programmable calender and even the shopping list app. All of which have helped me schedule my daily activites. To a certain extent, but none the less for that, an important one. Which kind of backfired. It presented me with it's own achilles heel - I enjoy `playing` with the BB so much, it has encroached into my reading, and music listening delegated time. Sleep time is already, and has been for months, like yours, wittled down to the necessary minimum. So, maybe the answer would be, apart from going to live on a desert island, to purchase a sand timer such as yours, and a notepad and pencil to replace the BB.

  7. ahem...this may be your best post ever...just sayin'.

  8. Don't know why I didn't think of the timer for blogging. Thanks for this. Now the trick is to pay attention to it!!

  9. David, I used to think my life would become simpler as I got older and pared down my choices. Not so at all. I definitely like your notepad and pencil idea.

    Anon -- thankee.

    Ann, sometimes I just set it again when it goes off, if I'm not really in a place where I can stop what I'm doing. But at least I'm aware of the time that has passed.

  10. Hi Cricket -- wandered over here from Jenny's post on The Writing Bug. I've found setting the timer on the stove (which is downstairs) works beautifully when I'm in my working space upstairs. There's no ticking sound to annoy me, but I can hear the timer just fine when it goes off.

  11. Plus, you have to get up and go downstairs to turn off the timer -- so you get extra exercise on top of efficiency. Way to go Patricia.