I receive at least a dozen or more emails, telephone calls or messages each week that are filled with comments about how busy someone is and I am sometimes guilty of the same kind of remark, although now that I am conscious of saying it, I can avoid the trap. For those who must travel for work, that adds a layer of time consumption, creating more pressure and stress on the schedule, calendar and one’s self. Add up the demands and expectations of a family, a specific job or task, running a household, managing a business, dealing with the oxymoronic customer service, absorbing the news, being entertained, using the social media networks, watching and listening to others, and perhaps most importantly and more often neglected than not, taking care of ones own mind, body and spirit.
I remember when my wife and I set out to winterize our mist away system for the elimination of mosquitoes. Without going into the details of installation one summer, let me say simply that it is an engineering and chemical mystery and marvel that sprays pyrethrin (an organic compound) around a house and garden according to a programmed computer system and a 55 gallon drum of the mixture inside a shed adjacent to the house. It had to be “winterized” and now I laugh at the scene although at the time it was anything but funny. We had to call the “source” three times to accomplish what should have been a simple task. It took over an hour and a half.
I now watch or listen with some degree of amusement as a friend or colleague refers to an electronic calendar to find a slot where a meeting is possible or impossible and I do the same thing although my calendar and schedule have more leeway for the first time in 50 years. When I served as an interim head of a school, I remarked that I was fortunate to be able to work half time. That was 6 to 6! And there were those evenings and weekends that added hours of work, most of it meaningful and productive.
Another thing I am fond of saying although it does not resonate all that well with some others goes like this: A friend or colleague says, “It was a very long day” and I know what they mean but I have the audacity to respond with, “I have news for you. They are all the same length, 24 hours.” The point is that we all have the same amount of time and it’s simply how we use it, how we spend it, how we choose to invest ourselves in the moment or the hour or in the day that has been given to us.
Maybe there is a way of looking at the day or the week not as something to be filled up but rather as this miraculous and precious gift of time which, in fact, could be our last day. If that were to be, how would we spend it? The point is not to create a personal drama but to be sure that we are including some of those things that we value the most and not postpone them until we find the time or have the time. Years ago I started putting slots on my calendar that were for me so that when someone asked if I could meet on a certain day or at a specific time, I could say, sorry, I already have a commitment.
I recommended that practice to others and those who took me up on it reported that indeed, it made a welcome difference in their busy schedules.