`If you knew Time as well as I do,’ said the Hatter, `you wouldn’t talk about wasting IT. – Lewis Carrol’s Alice In Wonderland
If you were given an extra chunk of time each day what would you do with it? That was a question I asked myself on the first day of this year. There is so much we seem to have to/want to do that the most common lament is that we don’t have enough time. Not having the time is the #1 reason given for not gardening. Possessing a black thumb is the next most popular excuse. The problem of a lack of time begs close examination. Are we truly overwhelmed or is that merely a perception? Has being ‘too busy’ become the hallmark of being important/valuable? Is it just an easy excuse for not doing something?
So, with that gift of extra time, how would you use it? Would you spread the current to-do list to give yourself a better chance to handle it? Would you add new chores into that time? Or, would you designate something fun like dancing to your favorite music or playing with the children and/or pet, make a garden or, as in my case, reading more?
As I pondered this matter of extra time to reduce the reading material towering by my desk, how we actually use our normal hours needs serious consideration. In the course of any given day, how could one carve out, at the very least, an hour to do as one pleased and still accomplish the other necessary tasks without pressure? There is good news and bad news. Depending on how you look at it. To give up some habits or adjust oneself to a different approach can be inspiring to some and very challenging to others.
To put it plainly, I can expertly waste a huge amount of time every single day. While I might address the most urgent and/or important matters, I could and have spent a good many hours on the unimportant and non-urgent.
“Checking the news” is one such time guzzler. I come away with more unhelpful trivia than actual news I can use. And yet, I’m a repeat offender..
In the name of research, I log in several hours reading up on a variety of subjects. While all that material is no doubt good, solid data, more often than not, it has very little to do with the topic on hand. Though, I must say, at the time of doing this kind of reading, that fact escapes me altogether. Everything seems relevant and interesting.
Taking a break by watching a bit of mindless television can wreck havoc with my day or evening. Time truly is elastic because that break just stretches and stretches.
Saying ‘yes’ to too many demands on my time has invariably led to sideswiping my own responsibilities. And then I’m scrambling with deadlines and worried I’m not giving my best efforts.
While I am not one addicted to social media or even my phone, I find not prioritizing my emails can lead me to while away precious hours with completely silly communications. Haven’t I got anything else to do?!
Just as I know very well that gossiping and negative thinking are a drain on my energy and time, mindless activities like those mentioned above do the same. I cannot recall ever feeling good about myself after spending any length of time on any of them. (Okay, doing research is not all bad.) While it may have felt fun for a moment, the aftertaste is anything but. It is exactly like overindulging on desserts. So yummy and comforting but so energy sapping, unhealthy and, guilt inducing.
And I know that multitasking does not work. While I might think I am getting so much done, once I step back and review, the reality is disappointingly different. In my experience, multitasking is always followed up with damage control and/or redoing. Worse, it leaves me so dissatisfied with myself that I get grumpy and unpleasant to be with.
Eliminating, okay minimizing, time wasting activities is fine but what do I do about procrastination? At this point I could write a book on the subject but then, I have other stuff to do first.
So, here is how I’ve developed a way to create a chunk of time for myself. These ‘rules’ work well for me in as well as out of the garden
Take time to organize first, do the research. Not general research but specific to the task. Say you’re thinking about creating a Belgian espalier of fruit trees. Read up on this ancient, space-saving method of growing trees, source the nurseries that will provide the young trees, consider the cost and amount of work, understand the maintenance required. Talk to experts. Visit gardens that have such a feature and find out as much as possible from the gardeners themselves. Set up a schedule to address all the steps. Then, get cracking.
The winter months are ideal for this sort of planning. When I plan well and things are set up right, I’m not likely to put off doing them.
Instead of talking about it, just do it. Avoid all the unsolicited comments and advice that come forth when you do talk. That is a drain on your time and often leads to procrastination. The time spent on talking is better used in preparing and executing
Say ‘no’ politely but firmly – forget about FOMO (fear of missing out). Agreeing to do whatever/whenever something is asked of you gives one a false sense of importance. Instead, offer to think about it. Consider what you must give up to do what is asked. Question your real motive. Say ‘yes’ only if it is truly the right thing to do.
Budget your time. By allowing x amount of hours/days for each of my projects and commitments, I’m able to cover different tasks and meet deadlines.
By staying on top of regular maintenance chores like weeding, deadheading etc., I am hardly ever surrendering too many hours toiling in the garden. A half hour every other day patrolling for weeds is usually adequate. Another half hour to tidy up and check for problems/pests. I take action right away if there are signs of pests. Nip it in the bud so to speak. However, as I love being in the garden, I’m happy to putter around tweaking and tending much longer.
In the garden, practicing environmentally sound, ecologically correct, organic methods are perfect examples where doing the right thing is actually easier. Growing mostly native plants, using compost, mulch and living ground-covers, reducing lawn area are huge time, energy and money savers. Really. You get to sleep with a clear conscience to boot.
As a result of operating in this manner and seriously curtailing those time wasting habits I mentioned earlier, I find myself with absolutely no excuse not to do what I want to. There is always time to create, work, gather with loved ones, share, play, read, learn, pursue passions, sleep, exercise, day dream, learn something new … If something is important or meaningful enough, the time for it is unfailingly available. One activity at a time.
You have the time, take it.
P.S Please don’t be offended if you hear me say ‘NO’. You’ll understand!
The images below demonstrate what we can miss seeing if we don’t take the time to be present:
(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar