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I have this friend…
poppies
And this friend set up a series of tasks to be done in a specific amount of time. We all do this, right? That’s probably how you spent your day. Morning alarm clocks ring and the battle begins with a slap of the Snooze button. Racing to meet due dates, deadlines, and school schedules, we “block out” time, “tackle” to-do lists and “rush” through traffic. Sounds like a football game. We complain there’s never enough of it, chasing minutes rather than savoring moments as if the only measure of time is what can be accomplished between sunrise and sundown. Time has never changed… you have.
Remember when you were young and summer break was so exciting? Sleeping in, sleepovers and sleep-away camps sound divine in early June, but come September the summer had lasted long enough. You got bored. The natural rhythm of seasonal time brings us full circle; from the restless excitement of the final school bell to the excited entrance into the next grade—taller, tanner and ready for the next adventure. Why don’t we feel that anymore? Because we’ve got this time thing all wrong.
The measure of time is a natural cycle of days, nights and seasons in continuum. We are fooling ourselves that it can be managed, bottled, blocked or wasted; it can only be perceived as having value or as the enemy, but in its essence it just is. And it’s all we have.
All this said, I do find that my life is more fluid and enjoyable when I set up time to focus on any given task—time blocking is one word for it. When I allow myself to be fully engaged in a single activity— property searches, phone calls, exercise, writing and even paying bills— I feel and perform better when I give up the notion that I’m in control of time. Living with sensory integration disorder, I’ve learned that the race with time is one I’ll never win; dust and laundry prove my point. It’s easier for me to choose how to engage with it and to give myself the gift of focus. In a multi-tasking paradigm, I never get things done. In engagement it flows and flies, making the most mundane… joyful.
So my friend… Overwhelmed and over-scheduled, stretched to the bursting point. Setting aside weekends and evenings to catch up wasn’t working and the desire for life/work balance had become more stressful rather than reducing it. There was no room to move forward with so much on the plate. “I’ve planted some poppy seeds in an egg crate, set them in the sun, and when the seeds have sprouted and the plants are robust, I’ll have completed what is weighing me down”.
What a wonderful thing, I thought; to give oneself the time it takes nature to make manifest what is possible and mirror a span in time. Last time I checked in the reply was, “cultivating poppies”, an image I adore as I move through my own sense of task and time. Today there was a rainstorm, our sunny skies turned grey and the sweaters came out again. Soon we’ll be wishing it weren’t so hot. Both are needed to cultivate your poppies.

rsz_book_stack_2The dawn cracks, pouring indigo, gold and steaks of pink through my windows. I steal one more moment in the glorious dream as time floats and wafts and mingles with the smell of coffee. Suddenly the realization slaps me like a wet towel— GET UP!-and somewhat reluctantly I prepare to face, if not carpe, the diem. I’ve heard of those who rise in the darkness, bounding into their oatmeal and the day with a bright-eyed zest and a can-do attitude, and wondered… What’s with those guys?
The thing that brings us to our feet may vary but I’d bet the alarm clock isn’t the primary motivator. For some it’s routine obligation and the dubious joy which accompanies, for others it’s the spiritual practice of twisting yourself into a contemplative pretzel and for those crazy enough to do so, it’s the bristling thought of a five mile run on a freezing cold morning. Most of us find ourselves in a conflicted combination, making the bed and the best of it; we wake up, surrender our warm comforts and/or our sense of dread and heave those dogs onto the floor to hit the ground, if not the jogging trail, running.
The answer to your personal wake-up call may be private, but it is essential that you ask yourself the question.
The calendar turning the page on another year and we turn our collective thoughts to hope and new beginnings. “This year will be better” we tell ourselves as we create business plans and swear off the carbs, but what we’re really saying is “This is a good moment for me to DO better.” Doing better is most commonly connected to a personal vision of success, our proximity to it, and the perpetually moving goalpost. As a real estate agent working from home, the bells, alarms and time clocks that segment our days are set on silent scream. I set my own hours, create my own task list and my break room is often the laundry room, moving clothes from washer to dryer while negotiating the day via Bluetooth. No one will chastise me for being late or fire me for not showing up, but I don’t make money beating rugs the way I do beating the bushes. I muster some discipline, create order, time block and do that consistently for 325 days.
2013 starts today. Rather than welcome it with the lose-ten-pounds-double-my-sales-goals-and-be-nicer-to my-cat kind of resolutions, I look to the here and now before looking forward. How well do I really use my time? Not in some kind of crackpot, gotta get organized, type-A manifestation because I already do that, but if our lives are a string of moments, how many are pearls? I’m thinking I can do better, trim the fat, and slip in the right-brain stuff as I go along, rather than blocking out ‘creative time’ on my calendar. First let’s identify the fat. Pencils ready?
1. Write down all the things you’d like to do in 2013. (Go wild and without censor!)
2. Write down all the things you wanted to but didn’t do in 2012. (Go deeper.)
3. Breathe and wait until you get over feeling guilty for the length of #2.
4. Now… write down all of the things you did do that kept you from doing those things that you wanted to do in 2012.
5. Resolve to give up those things (or people). Think of it as freeing yourself up.
6. Do only what you want to this year, and I don’t mean playing Angry Birds— but do the things you know you want to do…right?
In other words STOP MESSING AROUND. (I tried to get this message to Congress but obviously they didn’t get it.)
Look at #1. Does it say “Dance with the Bolshoi Ballet?” (Why not?)
Now look at #2. Does it say take a dance class?
Hmmm. Is there anything on item number 4 that you’d gladly replace with Take a dance class… rearrange sock drawer, maybe?
If you go back to the top three items under each of the numbers, you’ll see what you want now and what you wanted when the year began. How close do they match? And then go to number 4 again and peruse the list of things you do to get what you want. I mean, that’s the list you’d make if you were going to make a list of things to do to get what you want, right? That’s what I thought.
The perception that there are doers in this world and do-nothings is just plain wrong. The do-nothings are doing something; maybe not what they should be but they are— playing computer solitaire for example, or playing the busy, busy, busy card. “I really want to work on my dreams, but who’s got the time?” because that card leaves you with lots of dreams and a very organized sock drawer. Time is not something you can manage like split ends, you’ve gotta give into it like a body surfer. How many times have you told yourself you’d do (or not do) something only to find you’re making the same to-do or not-to-do resolution for days, months, and years? This is where life slips away; in the space between the lines of lists made with good intention. Somewhere between the 2 a.m. worries and the 6 o’clock buzzer, your true motivation lies sleeping. The only way you’ll find it is to look for it. It’s probably hiding under what’s comfortable.
I’ve tried to resolve my way into world peace and my skinny jeans without much luck, and I couldn’t be any nicer to my cat, so this year I’ll keep it simple. Do more of what I really want to do and less of what I’m doing to avoid doing what I really want to do. Happy New Year.