Not to be confused with the prison term reference, I visualise my time as a sort of pie. There is only a certain amount, which I can divide into slices and serve accordingly. And I try to choose carefully, because it’s easy to get distracted.
For now, I will focus on the pie which gets refreshed daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. Because those are measurements which I understand and feel more in control about how I serve those slices. I will put aside for now the other big pie which is the mystery of Life and which I don’t know how big it is, and so the decisions on how to divide it need other considerations. I can revisit that big pie separately.
I have to make sure I keep a slice of my time for myself. If I don’t, time can get evaporated and before I know it, I’ve given away all my time and have nothing left. It’s not that time itself is the valuable commodity. It’s the resource I can use as I convert time to the actions needed to achieve my goals. So I start with the big end goals, which require actions to become realities.
I will use my Comrades Marathon goal as an example. I know that in order to finish the Comrades Marathon in June, I need to achieve certain milestones in training, qualification and preparation. So I break these up into time based segments which I need to achieve within certain time frames. And then these too have to be divided into smaller regular segments, monthly and weekly. Once I have my detailed plan, I work out a routine that I can commit to and hold myself accountable to. Here’s where the discipline comes in. If I have a plan to train today and someone suggests meeting up, do I say to myself that it’s only once, and I can make an exception? If I do, there will be the day when I line up for the end goal, and know in my honest heart that there was that time when I missed training because instead I went to meet a friend, and the time when I was too hot, and the time when it was raining, and the time when….
So to avoid this compounded effect of missing my allocated time to achieve my goals, this is what I do – I treat my commitments with the same respect that I would a meeting in my calendar with a professional. That’s where the slice of time comes in. I had set aside that slice of time to perform the actions that led to that goal. If I give it away then I will be robbing myself of that resource and will be putting my goal at risk. Of course I do allow some flexibility here and there, and there is always the exception of having something urgent or an emergency, but that is something that needs to be negotiated consciously, in order to make it work. I remember that the pie is refreshed, and although I have an idea of how to divide my slices, before serving them, I can still adjust according to changing needs.
Other slices must get allocated to work and sleep and chores. Some slices are allocated to people we have relationships with. I believe it’s very important that not every minute is given away, until I am tired and say ‘what about me?’
The other important aspect is to be realistic about the goal and the ability to follow through on the commitment. This year I did not enter Comrades Marathon. I was retrenched around the time of the entries opening, and decided not to commit to something that would add more stress. While training is something that helps deal with stress, and is something I will continue doing, I also knew that I didn’t need the extra stress of being irresponsible about the expense of accommodation and travel plans while unemployed. Also, I do not know what my new routine will be when I get a new job. I don’t know where it will be and how much travel time will be needed, and that makes it impractical to add the stress of planning a routine I may not realistically find achievable. With all the other stress and mixed emotions which I have to deal with, as well as the time I need to spend prioritising job searching, I decided to let this year go by and just focus on being OK and maintaining my wellbeing, instead of having inflexible goals that cause more discomfort.
And on that note, I’ll stop writing about pies now that I’m hungry and it’s time to make myself some lunch…