Why taking your time counts

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We worry. If you listen to the conversations of those around you, we are a permanently anxious lot. We are worried we are not doing enough, that we don’t have enough time, or that we are not using our time wisely. We feel that time is not on our side, as if Mick Jagger were a heretic. He did croon his famous prophecy decades ago, before our days were punctuated with the constant buzzing and chirping of technology. What would he know?

Because we feel that time is slipping through our fingers, we’ve adopted a default mode of rushedness. We rush to work in the morning, jolting out of bed and running out the door. We are quick to temper with the crowds at the train station, and upset when our barista forgets our order. We eat lunch at our desks – there is not time for the common folly of lunchtime – and then rush home again. And for what? Who knows. Don’t stop to think. There is no time.

We’ve taken on a lot, and most of it is voluntary. We don’t need to take on extra freelance work, but we do anyway. Better to stay out of trouble, we think. We take up sports and hobbies and extra jobs to pay for things that we don’t need. More often than not to travel. We have to travel. So much so, that it’s a given that we suffer in the now in order to fulfil our nomadic dreams. Or our current Instagram goals.

We do night-time courses, or e-courses, a blessing and a curse for auto-didacts. I’ve done my fair share of courses to further my copywriting career, let me tell you.

Almost everyone I know is busy…Except for myself. Well, I guess I am busy. Like many a self-employed person, I feel that I am not worthy of the air that I breathe if I am not at my desk by certain hour of the day. But not soooo busy. Not crazy busy! Not so, so busy that I didn’t have time to respond to your text message. Not so, so busy that I don’t have time for myself. Not so, so busy that I’ve put on 20kgs because I had to prioritise sitting in front of a desk all day.

Although, I am occupied: I spend enough hours per day in front of my computer screen to earn a living wage. I have social commitments I attend to. But I also spend a lot of time making sure that I’m not so, so busy that I forget to take care of me. I spend a lot of time deliberating over detail, or just getting in the right frame of mind to tackle a particular tone-of-voice. I guess you could say I’m busy, but I’m not rushed.

When we are rushed – rushed to the point of forgetting birthdays, rushed to the point of becoming an intolerable flake, or rushed to the point of jeopardising your wellbeing – we lose our ability to be present, to notice things, and, to use the 21st Century catch-cry of smug health experts, to be truly mindful.

When we are rushed, we create pressure for ourselves. Pressure can do wonders for productivity, but for informed, objective and rational decision making? It creates a smoggy shield through which we must try to penetrate. When we go about life in a flurried state, we miss the final details. We react, instead of taking deliberate, calculated action. When we are rushed, we miss out on the joy of the journey, choosing instead to focus on ‘knocking it over’. We just want to get shit done.

I, like you, are largely harassed by many obligations. A chaotic inbox, the need to keep up-to-date with all that is au courant, last-minute client phone calls, a body that needs daily maintenance in the form of exercise, sustenance and rest. Perhaps, if we all stopped being so rushed, and went about our day at a leisurely pace, the rapture would finally occur. It’s the only conclusion that I can form, such is the death grip people keep on their schedules.

I feel that a meeting midway between my state of relaxed productivity and the rest of society’s frantic activity might be ideal. Perhaps I could rush more – I could certainly earn more money that way. But at the same time, I’d rather not sacrifice time and quality in favour of lining my coat pockets. If I’m going to spend the rest of my 60-70-odd years on this planet, I’d rather I leave this earth knowing I took time to notice the way the light hits the lane ways of Windsor at 3pm, or how nice it is to savour each bite of a meal at a table, or if a friend were upset and in need of an attentive ear. Like the great heretic of our times, Mick Jagger, I do believe that time is on your side. We spend a lot of time bashing time. This is unnecessary. After all, what did time ever do to you?