This time of pandemic was always going to be educational but this week, I’ve been surprised by what I learned.
I have come to understand that I have a very unhealthy relationship with time – mine and other people’s. In the same way that the smoking ban revealed just what other nasty odours lurked beneath the fug, the instant removal of most of my by-the-clock activity has uncovered some surprises.
What me-time I had were parcels of scavenged scraps: meditating on my commute, listening to an audiobook while cooking the supper, or relaxing on a leisurely saunter around the supermarket. Without them, I’ve got very little and certainly nothing deliberate.
Life without me-time is miserable. Shouldn’t be a surprise, but somehow I had managed to convince myself that I didn’t really need to prioritise time for me. When those stealthily hoarded slices of time are taken away, I’m left grumpy, resentful and unable to concentrate.
I’m a solitary soul. Just the eating dial goes from starvation to gluttony, I suppose the sociability scale must be similar. On the one end, you’re pining for people and on the other you’re desperate for them to push off and leave you alone. This lock-down life means that I’m hardly ever on my own for even a moment or two between falling out of bed at 6 and crawling back into it almost 18 hours later causing a most unexpected suffocating sensation.
I don’t put my needs first. Under the old order (Before Covid-19), I could get just about enough time on my own alone to get by with the skillful exploitation of other people’s schedules. For example, delivering a child to football training earns me 25 minutes of sitting on my own in the car. Clearing up the supper dishes while listening to something good was a win for me and everyone else who thought I was doing them a favour.
Productivity is over-rated. I love a crossed-off to-do list, it’s pen-and-ink proof that my time is not wasted – a measure of my value. Except it isn’t really. A few months ago, frustrated that my Sunday nights were being spoiled by a wasted weekend felling, I took a different approach and started listing the things I had done, everyday. It felt great including time-consuming and essential items such as cooked meals, cleared up mess, took lengthy phone call from relative, read a book, unblock the washing machine filter. Since lock-down when I went list-free, my lack of progress, of measurable achievement, is frustrating. The issue here isn’t the lack of lists (to-do or have-done) it’s that I was kidding myself by not putting the right things on them in the first place.
How am I going to tackle time and get on top of the ticking clock that’s measuring the minutes of my dissatisfaction? Good question. (Which is what I say when I don’t know the answer.)
I promise to:
- Take the time I need to be alone (at least an hour a day)
- Tell family members they might need to come back later as I’m busy
- Stop routinely working more hours than I need – working from home is no longer a privilege that needs to be earn by increased effort
- Write 500 words every day (not paid or professional words)
- Make only one list – of things I care about – and tend to it every day
- Remind myself daily that the children will be better served by me as role model than facilitator
Will it work? Good question – time will tell.