The Harsh Realities of Time and Space

Hope I have time to concentrate on these...
Hope I have time to concentrate on these…

A while back I talked about wanting to focus on mastering time. That’s as opposed to (as we call it) managing time. Trying to make our time “stretch” by chopping it into precise and smaller segments isn’t actually giving us more time, any more than chopping a pie into thinner and thinner slices can give us more pie. Author Tony Crabbe puts it this way:

Armed with gadgets, we have never been better equipped to “maximize our time.” Our ever-present phones allow us to fill all our time productively, to communicate in real-time, and to juggle multiple tasks, swatting away incoming demands like some super-charged task-ninja, potent and efficient…however, the real impact isn’t on our time, but on our attention. When we scatter our attention across a thousand micro-activities, we prevent ourselves from engaging deeply or thinking properly.

That’s kind of an ironic thing, too, since there is a documented way of stretching time – or at least your perception of it. In describing the eight phenomena associated with the state of flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi noted “the sense of the duration of time is altered; hours pass by in minutes, and minutes can stretch out to seem like hours.” Get that? It’s not that we have more time (that’s impossible, unless you’re the Doctor or some other relativistic being). It’s that the sense of the duration of time changes. Kind of goes back to the whole “creating your own reality” idea.

Making Flow a Priority

photo courtesy Milena Radzikowska
photo courtesy Milena Radzikowska

Still, while it’s easy enough to talk about these things, it’s much harder to actually do them. I’m in the process of creating the instructor roster for an event next year; I had envisioned creating an application form and going through dozens of instructors, picking only the best. The reality is that I have five rooms and six class sessions, which means thirty classes total – and our guests of honor are already teaching 6 classes between them. That means there’s room for twelve more instructors, teaching two classes each…and suddenly instead of picking through a big pile I’m aware that I’m going to have to say no to some people that I’d really like to see teach. To make matters worse, for one class session I can’t find a way to make both lunch and a normal 90-minute period fit – so I have to shorten it to an hour.

Yes, it occurred to me that I could make a shorter lunch – but then I tried to remember, what is the priority for both experiences? Lunch is meant to be a bonding experience, a time of breaking bread together, where new ideas are shared and stories told. That doesn’t work so well in a time-pressure environment. On the other hand, the difference between a one-hour class and a one-and-a-half hour class is not actually that much, though it does require the instructor to be more concise. I don’t know about your experience with instructors at conventions, but I don’t really see that as a bad thing…

I’m still not very good at it – even while trying to “concentrate” on this blog post I was also making notes about other work and even communicating with other people (to be fair, one was about getting permission to use a picture in this post. But still.). That’s why I have the pomodoro timer on my wrist, tapping me every minute for a 30-hour block. It’s not meant to manage my time – my time is unmanageable, it goes on no matter what.

Instead, it manages my attention, a resource every bit as valuable as time, perhaps moreso. Because everyone has exactly the same amount of time allotted to them – but not everyone has the attention.

How are you going to manage yours?

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