Monday, October 22, 2012

Someone Stole My Time!

Taking back time.

It was here just a moment ago, or rather an hour ago.  I know it was here.  Sometimes, I don’t think I misplaced it like I do my keys or coffee mug.  I’m usually quite careful with it, trying hard to take care not to waste it as I do some paychecks.  That’s why I know it was stolen.  It had to be.

You see, when I woke up this morning it was all here, every minute of every hour as it should be.  The entire day lay before me full of possible accomplishment.  And I had my list of To Dos in my Day Planner just waiting to be checked off and crossed out.  First, however, I had to play Taxi.  It’s not a game I enjoy all the time, but one that has to be played, nonetheless.  The girls have to get to work and the eight-year old to school.  With limited cars, it’s my job to chauffeur everyone back and forth and that takes time.  My time.

Finally when I’m back home and with the house empty, I can get started on my day, which begins with a cigar and coffee on the back porch.  It’s a morning ritual that helps set the tone for the day and, therefore, vital.  It’s not wasted time.  Not really.  I’m usually writing in my journal or working on one of my many projects as I enjoy the morning quietness.  Of course, the squirrels and butterflies provide a time-consuming distraction, at times.  I can’t help but watch as I get lost in the antics of the tiny tree climbers or the graceful fluttering of the butterflies as they float around our garden.  Yet, there goes more time stolen.

From the porch, I head back inside, because by then in Florida it’s already at flesh melting temperatures.  It takes a moment to get settled back in and, of course, I have to check in with Facebook and Twitter to see what’s happened in the two hours I was away from my laptop.  I also need to check the blog for comments and my Smashwords account for downloads.  However, there are always links to follow and threads to read that hook me in, stealing even more of my time.  I send out birthday wishes and share the funny pictures George Takai posts and soon the chance for my word count goal is being reduced because time is simply evaporating.

Then there’s lunch - I have to eat, right? - followed by picking up Dyl from school and the girls from work.  There are small half hour chunks of time between pick-ups, but really, by the time I get started it’s time to quit.  Furthermore, there are texts to answer and phone calls to take and soon 5,000 words dwindle to 2,500.  Add to that those days that errands have to be run or someone forgets something and I have to run it to them and you can see why I want to call the police to report a theft.  Someone stole my entire day and I want it returned.

A few weeks ago when the girls and I sat down to discover where all of our money went, we learned that it wasn’t the major purchases or bills sucking our accounts dry.  It was the many nickel and dime purchases that ate up all the cash - a soda here or there, a bag of chips, a cute notebook or pen.  It doesn’t seem like much at the time, but it can add up quick and soon we’re wondering how to pay the power bill.

The exact same thing happened with our time, as well.  Ten minutes on the computer checking social media, that five minute phone call or simply the three minutes it takes to leave the porch and get settled back at my desk.  It may only take ten seconds to send a text, but 100 texts equals ten minutes.  All of those little minutes can very easily add up to hours lost putting words to paper.  The stolen time equals dreams delayed.

I’ve wasted enough time in my life, time that I stole from myself that I will never be able to get back.  For that reason, it drives me crazy when I find myself losing precious time now.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t feel that every moment of every day has to be structured or even have a purpose.  However, in order to accomplish anything in life you have to budget your time just as you do your salary, and if you’re going to be productive and succeed with your dreams, you will approach it just like that.

When I sit down to do my monthly budget, I list out several categories, such as house, car, food, clothing, booze and entertainment, more booze, oh, and cigars.  I can’t forget the cigars.  There may be more, but I’m sure you don’t care about my budget details.  I don’t usually follow it anyway, but at least, I can say I have one.

When it comes to my time, I try to do the same thing.  I budget out my day to certain projects and even assign certain days to accomplish specific tasks.  For example, though I post my essays to The Mess Monday through Friday, I actually write them on the weekends.  I save the work week for my other major creations.  Then I attempt to block off time per day for the varying projects, such as morning hours for fiction and afternoon for creative nonfiction or articles.  Even then I break those chunks of time down into specific projects, the first hour for one series, the next for research on another.  This keeps everything progressing forward and I don’t become burnt out or stuck on one thing.  This doesn’t mean that allowance isn’t made for some flexibility.  If one project just seems to be flowing, I will continue to scribble forward, getting the most out of my ink as possible.

To make the most of your money, you have to control the nickel and dime spending.  Likewise, in order to make the most of each day, you have to gain control of the second and minute time wasters.  Most of my writing is accomplished away from the computer so I don’t give in and get sucked into the social media black hole.  To be productive I have to set barriers around my time in order to keep those things that I know will steal it from getting their minute hands on it, such as the phone and even the house on some days.  If I’ve allowed my Honey Dos to grow I’ll be distracted to tackle some of the jobs taking me away from my time writing.  To avoid this I just go to a park or coffee house so that my mind can stay focused.  I know you think it would be easier to just stay on top of the chore list, but really, that’s another post and a conversation that would steal time away from this post.

Too many lost days will add up to years and soon years will become decades.  Hasn’t enough time been stolen from you already?  Decide today to add some solid structure to the twenty-four hours we each have and see just how much more you can accomplish.  Isn’t it time you recaptured your time?

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Suggested Reading ~ Decide How You Are Going to Travel              
                                A Matter of Habit

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