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Making time (or swapping it)
Time has become, I think, the scarcest thing.
Maybe it is a post lockdown thing - I certainly know a lot of people who feel a little nostalgic for the early times of lockdown, when cancelled commitments were a novelty and blank time appeared for them to do cosy, home based things like bake sourdough bread or take up knitting.
But now we are back to full throttle - catching COVID is as much an inconvenient added stress on our schedules as a feared illness. We are making up for lost time.
Now the conversation I have most with people is about the difficulty of making time for things. Productivity courses suddenly abound. The rush and hustle is back.
But the truth is - there is not enough time to do everything. It is as simple as that. If you say yes to something you say no to something else. It is accepting this straightforward reality that will free us from the hamster wheel feeling that we are running out of time.
The trick is I think to actively make decisions about time and priorities. To choose what we want to do rather than falling into the traps of having our time managed either by other people or by those seductive, addictive apps in our pockets.
I know nobody who is rolling around with loads of spare time. It just doesn’t work like that. If we wait for a time when we are less busy we will be waiting forever.
My own time is always crammed - the list of possible ‘things to do, places to go’ is endless. I have lived that life of never feeling that I could relax. To get the gaps and slowness that I now want in my life I needed to cancel some of the busy and to actively prioritise the kind of rhythm I want in my days.
The busy I most often cancel is the electronic kind. Left to my own devices I am an Internet addict of the worst kind. Whether it is Instagram scrolling or the more socially acceptable ‘random googling’, it becomes a kind of default activity. Unfortunately it is a default activity that takes up a lot of actual time.
A year or so ago I realised that I was no longer reading as much as I wanted to. Reading has always been a big part of my life, and in the periods when I have fallen out of the habit my life has been diminished. So I looked at what I was doing with my time, and what I was enjoying and realised that there was an hour or so a night when I watched television. I do not enjoy watching tv nearly as much as I enjoy reading. So three or four evenings a week I now read rather than watch. I romp through books, I am much happier. (This is not a judgement thing about television by the way - it is about choosing what you enjoy most and scheduling it in)
In the same way when I wanted to sign up for this course on filmmaking with Sarah Mason, but knew that I would have to commit time if I wanted to make the most of it, I moved from posting five days a week on Instagram to posting two (and put my phone put of reach). Rather alarmingly that freed up enough time to learn a completely new skill.
So maybe it is about swaps and trades, an acceptance that no matter how much time we have it will never be enough to do everything. Maybe it is about catching ourselves and keeping still for a beat so that we can work out what it is that we actually enjoy most in life, so that we can decide how we want to live, how we want to feel.
Maybe it is about putting the things that bring joy, freedom and connection into our diaries first and then seeing what time is left for everything else.