I’ve long been fascinated with time. I keep time well. I can do math in time. I like to be prompt, too. I’m very good at estimating how long it takes to get a task done, mostly because I tend to be liberal in my estimates. Then everyone is happy when I get something done early. I’m also a morning person, and to me, that means I have a pretty stable clock in my head.
For as long as I can remember, whenever I have seen some article about time, I find myself reading it because time drives everything. Someone once told me that we have time so that everything won’t happen all at once. No one really knows how time works. We just know that it seems to only go forward, and never backward. We imagine that there are infinite timelines, and every decision we make changes the timeline. But no one I know has ever gone to an alternate timeline and come back to tell us about it.
I’m one of those people who can say, “I’ll wake up at 5 tomorrow”, and wake up right around 5. Sometimes I wake right on the minute. Sometimes, I wake up too early, and I tell myself to sleep for another hour. I usually wake in an hour, so I know I can track time, even in my sleep. But sometimes what passes for sleep, is really just me, writing articles in my head, while my wife sleeps blissfully unaware of the gears turning in my head.
I like to be on time. I used to attend a group therapy meeting where one lady was late, every time, without fail. One day the facilitator finally confronted her with it. After some gentle interrogation, she began to cry. She had realized that she just wanted the attention, the little hit of adrenaline that comes with, “Oh, look at me! I’m late! Again!” She also learned that her being late displaced her from reality just enough, so that she could only make slow progress in her personal growth.
I have always liked to be on time. No matter where I’m going, I like to be there early, even for the dentist. I like to get a good seat at the movies, though now, we can pick and choose our seat well in advance. But before we had computer reservation systems for movies, I liked to get there early to stake out my spot. I like to visit the restroom before the movie starts to ensure that there is no interruption of my viewing experience.
But there is something else I like about being on time. Being prompt is a way of showing respect for the time of others. We only get so much time on this earthly plane, and I honor the time of others by showing up a little early. Even if the “other” is not a doctor or dentist. I sleep better at night knowing that I was on time.
I like to get to work early. I like to get settled. Make a potty stop. Put my snacks or lunch in the refrigerator as my computers boot up. Yeah, I have two computers for work. I use both of them. Anyway, they take time to boot, so I get there early to boot them. I like to get acclimated to my surroundings so that I’m ready to roll when the time comes to start work.
At work, I have to keep my time down to the minute. So I figured out the math for keeping time, too. I do my math in my head because I’m too lazy to write it down, and using a spreadsheet is a pain. Instead of figuring out the time difference between now and the last time entry by subtracting the last entry from the current time, I turn the problem into one of addition. I use the top of the hour as a reference point and start from there.
Let’s say I want to know the difference in time between 8:20 and 9:35. Well, I know that there is at least one hour, then I add 15 minutes since 35–20=15. How about 9:49 to 10:11? I see 11 before the top of the hour, and 11 after for 22 minutes. By splitting the time difference at the top of the hour, I doff the effort of doing subtraction with hours containing 60 minutes and just add what is on both sides of the top of the hour. If there is an hour or more of time to calculate, then I do the same thing, but add hours as needed for the right net of time.
I like to estimate time for a task, too. I used to do that a lot as a project manager and job foreman while working construction. I just use liberal estimates based on past experience and usually, I’m pretty close. But the main thing here is to use liberal estimates for everyone else. That way, I’ve set expectations for a happy surprise when I get it done, whatever that is, early.
I use my own estimates of time in my daily routine, too. I estimate the time required to write my gratitude list and morning page to determine the best time to wake up and still have time to write an article for my blog here. Writing is my morning coffee. This is what I do to wake up. I use writing to “empty” my mind so that I’m available to listen to everyone that I encounter for the rest of the day. I write to stay sane.
All this time keeping works great until I find myself in a staff meeting. Then time dilates. I want to say something, but I’m not fast enough to interject before they move on to the next topic. I have a question, but it’s too late because again, they’re onto the next topic. So I keep a mental list and write an email later. Or I ask questions at the end. And when I’m done with the meeting, I reset my clock by looking at the clock at the bottom my screen when I return to my desk.
It’s all about time. We can never really save it. We can only spend it. So we might as well spend it doing something we love to do.