Yes, You Can Create Time
Is it possible to create more time? Yes, it is. Before you laugh and close this page, please read on.
What is time?
Time management must begin with considering what, exactly, is this thing called time. You can’t manage something unless you know what it is. Philosophers have been having a ball with the concept of time for a long, well, time. The Greek philosopher Parmenides believed that reality is timeless and never changes. Heraclitus, another Greek philosopher, believed that reality is a constant state of change.
Advantage Heraclitus. Here’s why. A working definition of time should be one that we can all live with. It can’t some theory that we cannot understand; rather, it should be grounded in a reality that we can easily conceive of. The issue, as a practical matter, is more a function of neurology or psychology than of metaphysics. So here is a common sense working definition: time is what we perceive as a constantly changing reality, where we remember what we perceived in the past, actually perceive what’s happening now, and imagine what will happen in the future based on our memories and perceptions.
To make the working definition even easier consider this: time is what we perceive it to be. That’s it; nothing really complicated. The main point is that we perceivetime with our senses and mind, as a linear progression of events. So, is time perception? Yes, at least for this working definition.
Recently a group of scientists, using a particle accelerator, gave the scientific community a scare. They discovered that a subatomic particle called a neutrinocan actually went faster than the speed of light. If this was correct it would mean that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity encompassed in the formula E=MC² (energy = mass times the speed of light squared) was wrong, and if it’s wrong, all of our formulas describing the physical world for the last 100 years would have to be rewritten. It would have also meant that if the speed of light can be exceeded, then the possibility of going backward in time is possible, really screwing up our knowledge of this thing called time. Fortunately, subsequent experiments showed that the experiment was flawed, and E=MC² still rules the day. The scientific and philosophical debate is fascinating and fun, but it’s not going to help you to manage time.
Let’s stipulate that there are 365 days in a year, 24 hours in a day, and 60 minutes in an hour. That’s it; that’s all we get. Given the hard numbers, can we create more time? To do this you need to make the time longer, especially those minutes and hours. It’s all about perception.
If you’re heating something in the microwave for two minutes, it’s no big deal. The time flies by, and you’re ready to eat or drink what’s in the oven. On the other hand, the last minute of the Super Bowl, for both Giants and Patriots fans seemed to last an eternity. How about listening to a boring speaker for 20 minutes?
Think about these short increments of time and how your perception varies depending on your circumstances. You’re late for an important meeting, and the traffic light turns red. Although it may be red for only a minute, it seems to you like an hour. Perception. When you’re young, the summer seemed to go on forever. When you get older, it seems like you’re planting flowers one day and raking leaves the next. Time seems to go faster the older one gets. But does it really go faster? Remember 365 days a year, 24 hours in a day, and so on? It’s the same amount of time; we just perceive it differently depending on many different circumstances.
Manufacture Time by Changing Your Perception of it
No, you don’t have to buy into a new belief system; you don’t have to change your opinion of anything, including the concept of time; nor do you need to take anything on faith. What you need to do is take actions that will actually give you more time by shifting your perception . Now we’re talking time management. We can’t change the actual amount of time, but we can change how we perceive it. It’s not magic, maybe it is—but it works. You must identify those things that rob you of time—or screw up your perception of it, those things that make time management a never ending chore.
Time-Gnats© and How to Kill Them
Everybody hates gnats. They get in your hair, in your ear, fly up your nose, and the ones that miss you end up in your drink. At least mosquitoes let you know they’re coming. Gnats steal pleasure from you; they take a pleasant summer evening and turn you into a crazy person slapping your own face. Gnats are evil; they must die! Time-gnats must die, too. A time-gnat is a little beast that robs your time, just like regular gnats ruin your party. Let’s talk about time-gnats and learn how to kill them.
What is a time-gnat? A time-gnat is a sudden recollection of a chore that you need to do but have been putting off. It may be a phone call, a letter that needs writing, an e-mail that requires an answer, or any of those little things that we must do in life every day. Time-gnats don’t fly up your nose or into your ear—they enter your head directly. Often they are something unpleasant, something you put off because it’s disagreeable. But they can also be simple, mundane tasks that are easily deferred. Time gnats can make time management impossible.
Time-gnats slow you down by causing you to be vaguely aware of them, while time speeds by, thereby giving you the perception that you are running out of time, that you don’t have enough of it. Time gnats don’t find their way into your appointment book or to-do list because they don’t seem to be that important. That is the problem. That is what turns “something to do” into a time-gnat. So, instead of scheduling a time to handle the chore, you allow the gnat to stay in your head, buzzing around and screwing with your mind. A bunch of time-gnats in your head slows you down, actually steals time from you, and you can’t even identify the little bastards, but they are there, in your head.
Collectively, the gnats give you a sluggish feeling, causing you to say, “I know there’s something I’m supposed to do, but I can’t remember what.” A wonderful dramatic example of a time-gnat is in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Remember how every time George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) walked upstairs in his house, the banister post would come off in his hand? Jimmy Stewart’s facial expression told you that a time-gnat just flew into his head. His face said, “I have to fix this one of these days.”
Okay. Here’s a biodegradable, environmentally sound, humane, and guaranteed way to kill time-gnats: write them down. Done, voila, dead as a doornail. You kill a time-gnat by writing it down. Here is the procedure: take an index card and write this across the top: Dead Gnat File. Index card are good because it’s easily placed in an appointment book or wallet. If you’re totally digital, make an electronic file for the same purpose. Many prefer to scribble things down on paper, especially Baby-Boomers. Now that you’ve killed off those time gnats flying around in your head, time management becomes a simpler task.
Recognize that many time-gnats are not very important, and that’s one of the reasons you allow them to buzz around in your head instead of killing them by writing them down. Read your Dead Gnat File at least once a week and—this is important—transfer any dead gnat that becomes important from your Dead Gnat File to your to-do list, and schedule it for handling. As you transfer the gnat to your to-do list, cross it off the Dead Gnat File.This, you will find, is fun. Also cross out any dead gnats that are no longer of any importance. If it becomes important in the future, that means it has come alive, and you have to kill it again by writing it down again.
Kill time-gnats immediately. When one enters your head, write it down. Enjoy the vast amount of time you just created—just by altering your perception.
Copyright © 2013 by Russell F. Moran
This article is excerpted from The APT Principle: The Business Plan That You Carry in Your Head by Russell F. Moran
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