Time and the Art of Tightrope Walking
I first began composing this blog while I was out in the garden weeding. I began to edit it while vacuuming the house. I sat down to write the first draft with my children cuddled next to me on the couch watching an episode of Sesame Street from my own childhood; back when Oscar the Grouch was still allowed to be grumpy and the Cookie Monster’s obsessive compulsive cookie addiction was present without apology. The first line of the first draft began something like this, “I am lying if I tell you I have successful time management strategies. I don’t manage time, I harness myself to its momentum and try not to fall off when it starts galloping and bucking.”
I am a mother to two children under the age of five and a month old baby. There is always something to do. Bills to pay, things to clean, needs to be met, illnesses that pop up and consume hours I thought I would have to work. Plus, procrastination and self-doubt regarding my goals are messy, high-maintenance relatives that often visit right when I think I have secured a moment of peace to be productive in.
I have a deadline looming on the horizon – I need to have the first 40,000 words of my novel and a thesis written by July. Every day that deadline, which once began as a speck on the horizon, gains size as ‘my time’ is consumed by, well, life. The thing that I have come to realize recently is that while I have picked up some rather type A personality strategies along the way — such as writing out my goals and breaking them down into manageable, daily actions which I then turn into a chart that allows me to check off each ‘to do’ and track my progress — these things are really just the imaginary safety net beneath me. They give me a sense of control and confidence but don’t offer any security that I will actually be able to follow through with my grand plans. The truth is I have learned to consider it a success if I accomplish 25% of my daily checklist.
As I worked out in the garden contemplating this topic, I realized that achieving goals and managing my time has become more about an act of balance. I tightrope walk through my days by keeping my eye on the goals I have set for myself. It takes a certain level of faith and determination to set out on that narrow rope. I cast my imaginary safety net as I tack my lists and charts to the refrigerator, as I declare them to anyone that will listen, and then I take the first step. As life roars beneath me, I have to imagine it as something that supports, rather than threatens me. If the kids get sick and the days I expected to work get taken away from me, I adjust my weight. I pause and wait until my balance is regained. Often in those moments of adjustment I am given unexpected insight into a project I am working on. One of the greatest helpmates in managing time has been realizing and accepting that time as it exists in my world is not something to be managed, it is something to co-operate with.
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