Friday, 7 November 2008

Well, back on the Internet again. Reunited and it feels so good.
So let's talk about time.

See, I've studied time. I mean REALLY studied time, I did a dissertation on it, read up on the subject of managing it for a solid 3 or 4 months, but I've also been paying attention to it. I'm coming to believe that time is a little like money or, to a lesser extent, tea bags. IT's a resource that you get a finite amount of. You need to manage it, ditribute it properly.
But I've found that the best thing to do is bend it to your will.
You can control time. It's rather easily done, too, depending on how prone you are to getting bored. Not control as in reverse the flow, as such, but I do genuinely believe that you can at least alter your own perception of it, to a limited extent. This might be better with an example.
So I'm at work. I start the day with a list of jobs to do, carried over from yesterday. I like to split them into two types: mindless busywork and difficult, large tasks. Busywork is things like replying to emails, doing 5 minute tasks, tidying my desk and such. Things I don't have to think about, that aren't urgent, but do kinda need doing. The big tasks are ones that I have to sit and think about, that require a lot of concentration and attention.
I'm going somewhere with this. It'll sort of skirt that time point I made, too.
So I've got this list of two kinds of tasks. Now time in the morning is different from time in the afternoon, in that I'm still sort of alert from having just woken up and that the morning is a 3 hour stretch, but the afternoon is 4.5 hours. I know I'm going to do better work in the morning, since I'm still quite fresh, so I get the tricky stuff done then, if I can. Plus, when people start having problems, they usually don't tell us as much until the afternoon. Perhaps it's to do with staggered starts to working days across departments, or to do with international folks waking up. I don't know.
But yeah, hard stuff in the morning. Then comes 10:30 and buying lunch, then 12 and eating it. Nice, pleasant tasks with immediate personal gain. Then the afternoon comes. Now 13:00 to 15:00 is far enough away from quitting time that it seems quite a distance. It's demoralising. So getting the mindless stuff done then is a good idea because I don't think so much about it and the act of just doing work takes my mind off the time. 15:00 to 16:30 is alright, and 16:30 to 17:30 doesn't count because it's the last hour and that never counts.
So the point...
If you're engrossed in a difficult task but not making much progress, you're becoming frustrated and you're tired, time slows down. Time, in a sense, feeds off of negativity. If you're feeling down, time can slow to a crawl, if you're not able to sleep and getting frustrated at that, I swear that time runs backwards. But if you're content, entertained and occupied, time whips past.
I reckon the way to control time is through milestones and tasks. If you have a list of nice things to be working on during times of the day you've identified as not being productive, they'll suddenly become productive as you're using that period of being unable to think much to do something useful anyway. And one productive hour of hard work is a lot better than an afternoon of staring at a problem and racking your brains for a solution that won't come. Milestones are important, too. I don't think that humans are equipped to cope with days as a whole. We have to split our time up to be able to manage it. At the highest level, you have years. Then months, weeks, days, AM/PM, morning/noon/evening/night, hours... we split it up so very much. We say a quarter to 12, half an hour to lunch, whatever. It's those little milestones that keep us going. Try it. When you next go to work or lectures or whatever, think of how much time you have until lunch, then compare it to how much time there's left in the entire working day. If you think of the time until lunch, half the day just doesn't count because you're not there yet and it's not important.
I reckon it's one of those little safety mechanisms in the human brain. Helps give us a little perspective, y'know?
Or keeps us from getting a true sense of perspective and realising exactly how long life actually is. Or short. Maybe that'd drive us all nuts or something.
But yeah, time slows down if you've a long day ahead of you with nothing to look forward to or if you're sad, scared, bored... yet it speeds up when you've things to keep you busy and content, or when you're just in a good mood.
It's like that Einstein quote. The one about being on a hot stove for a minute feeling like an hour and being with a pretty girl for an hour feeling like a minute. The relativity thing.

Eh, I dunno. Maybe writing a blog last thing on a Friday night isn't the best idea. It's not great for writing down my thoughts, but it's much better for having a really open, inquisitive sort of mind. It's like finding out how to harness my muse, but then finding out that once she's here, I can't string two words together. I feel there must be a happy medium somewhere.

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