There are so many people out there telling us how to best control, invest, and spend our money, but one rarely hears about how to control, invest and spend our 24 hours each day; how to actually live on 24 hours a day. The supply of time is a miracle when you think about it. Every day when you wake up you get another full 24 hours of life. No one can take it from you or steal it. And no one receives either more or less then you receive. It doesn’t matter to time if you are rich, poor, intelligent, dumb, sick or well – you always get your 24 hours each and every day. There is no one to say you don’t deserve it, what you can or can’t spend on it in the future, and it is impossible to get into debt. You can only waste the passing moment. You can’t waste tomorrow or the next hour, it is kept there in place for you. How many of us “live” 24 hours a day; I don’t mean simply to exist or muddle through. The essence of time is an age old conundrum that preoccupies way too much of our, yes, time. For most of us time is not only real, but we have made it the master of everything we do.
Everyone believes they can win their headlong race against time by maintaining an excessively hectic pace throughout the day. As soon as you wakeup in the morning, usually the same questions come to mind: “What do I absolutely have to accomplish today? How do I get it all done? How am I going to fit practicing, going to the gym, restocking my resume files and taking a voice lesson into my already too long and exhausting day? I just don’t seem to have the time or energy to do it all.”
To figure out how to best manage time, let’s start by looking at some general information about time.
There are many kinds of time. There is clock time, biological time, circadian time, seasonal time, months of the year time, eastern, central, mountain standard and west coast time, and of course, there is always the past, present and future.
“Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand.”
~ Putt’s Law
Einstein said that time and space are the same thing. Ben Franklin coined the dictum more than 200 years ago, suggesting we reduce and equate time to money; the passing of minutes and hours with shillings and pounds. In today’s world, technology has done more to alter our view of time because now everything happens everywhere at once. Being connected to the computer does erase time barriers because for example, one can update their web site and it can be witnessed at the exact same moment no matter where you are in the world. We have instant messaging, TV on our phones, instant photos, one-hour photo, express checkout, home delivery and same-day delivery. This insidious and relentless quest for continually increasing the speed of time is becoming a threat to our ability to feel any sense of permanence in anything. Because much of what we still are about, centers on our Paleolithic fundamental human drives, eating, procreating, and the fight or flight response, we still have the need to know where we fit into the order of things. This not only helps us determine who we are, but does give us a place in time, a feeling of permanence. If our concept of time is changing and it is, what do we need to know to help us fit into this new model with some degree of comfort?
“Events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order the continuous thread of revelation.”
~ Eudora Welty
I would like to explore with you several differing ideas about time and our relationship with it.
Let’s start by talking about our inner time lines. What does that mean? Well, we are wired internally to deal with past, present and future in a particular way. There is no right or wrong to any of this, it just is. It is a system that allows us to code our past, present and future. It is how we store information and memories, make decisions and how we relate to the world. It’s something we do all the time every day, just not consciously. I would like to bring it to consciousness so you can start using it as a tool to help you not only understand perhaps how and why you act and react as you do, but also so you have more control over your actions.
There are two models of inner time lines that we are going to be dealing with. One is called Inside Time and the other is called Outside Time. There are many subtle differentiations to each of these, so as we explore them, don’t think you have to fit into one or the other exactly. It’s like saying that there is only one soprano fach. Instead there are many – soubrette, lyric- coloratura, lyric, spinto, young dramatic soprano and dramatic soprano. You get it, I’m sure.
To find which inner time line is the most prominent for you, I want you to think about something you do every day, several times. Let’s use brushing your teeth. Think about brushing your teeth a month ago, now two weeks ago, now this morning, right now, tonight, two weeks from now. Now think about each of these events simultaneously. You will notice that if you connect the events, they create an imaginary directional line. One runs right through you with the past behind you, the present right where you are standing, and the future is out in front of you. This is Inside Time. The other is a line a few feet out in front of you with the past to your left, your present right out in front of you and the future to your right. This is Outside Time. Like I said before there are many configurations of this and one is not better than the other. They are simply how we deal with past, present and future events in our lives.
“Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems — but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems incredible.”
~ Salman Rushdie
What is the importance of knowing this?
- Inside Time
- Allows you to be more associated with “now”. It’s great when performing, networking, taking a lesson, being with friends and family, etc.
- You can literally put the past behind you and move on. However, it can also be hard for you to access resources in the past because you can’t find them.
- You are more associated with, and feel the emotion of your memories when you can access them because you are in the moment reliving them as if they were happening right now.
- Often you can have a hard time accessing the future since you can’t see it clearly because the present is most times in the way.
- You tend to live in a less ordered way and typically do not know how to create a plan of action, set goals or keep deadlines.
- Appointments are often not punctual and therefore others my feel you are less dependable.
- You work best with lists because you are not a linier thinker.
Inside Timers don’t lack skills or have the energy to get the job done, but because they can’t usually access their past easily and the future is often blocked by the present, it is easier when someone else has the vision or creates a plan for them to carry out. They just don’t connect with the linier concept.
- Outside Time
- You experience time in a manner that tends to be “dissociated” from your feelings because it is distanced from you; you see it out in front of you.
- You can literally see the past – present – future which makes planning anything easy like creating a sequence of tasks, creating and carrying out goals.
- It’s easy for you to keep track of what needs to be done next.
- You expect to make and keep appointments precisely and get frustrated when others don’t.
- It’s easy for you to establish and keep deadlines and expect others to do the same.
- You understand in a business sense that time is money.
- You are very aware of time passing.
Outside Timers are not cold fish. They do have feelings, but because they are outside of time they seem dissociated from them; less emotionally attached. They are linier thinkers. They may seem more serious, but can and do have fun.
“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”
~ Harvey MacKay
I hope in identifying your primary inner time line, you have learned something new about yourself. The wonderful thing about inner time lines is that you can learn to use both of them. Either one can be accessed to use as a tool for the appropriate event. The best way to start working with these two inner time lines is to create an imaginary line on the floor, of if you would rather, put something down on the floor to represent your current inner time line. Make it as long as you feel it needs to be in order to represent it accurately.
- If you are an Inside Timer – stand on your line facing what would be the future and allow yourself to experience it by being in the moment. Take the time to look at, feel, and hear how it works for you now. Then, take a huge step to the right. As you turn and face your time line which will be a short distance out in front of you, you will notice how you seem to be disassociated from your emotions as you examine the events in your past, present and future. It will seem a little weird and disconcerting at first, but you will be able to understand how others with this type of inner time line can created a plan of action for example, because they can experience past, present and future all at once and it is out in front of them where they can see how one relates to the next. It also might help you distance yourself from any bad feelings you had about an event because they are now over there on the line and not running through you. How does it feel? When you have experienced enough, step back onto your time line letting it once again run through you.
- Likewise, if you are an Outside Timer – stand facing your line. Listen to and look at your past, present and future. You might notice how past events are influencing your choices now and those that will occur in your future. Take however many steps you need to actually stand on the present moment spot of your inner time line facing your future. As you stand there, you might notice that it feels bizarre and confusing. You might notice that you can’t access the past and may have a hard time glimpsing the future. You will notice however, that your ability to be in the moment is very powerful and strong. Allow yourself to think about singing, or networking while being in the present moment. How does it feel? When you have experienced enough, step back off of your time line and look at it out in front of you.As you experienced, Time Lines are not arbitrary. Your inner Time Line is a system that can be used consciously as a tool or simply on an unconscious path. They are how you sort and respond to your experiences in life. They help you feel associated or disassociated. If you choose to use your Inner Time Lines as tools, you will need to practice moving from one to the other often if you want to become proficient and comfortable with both of them. Whatever you do, don’t wait until you are in a situation that calls for one or the other and then try it. It will just confuse and frustrate you. You can now decide “on purpose”, consciously where you want to be in your relationship to time depending on your chosen specific outcome. You can either be literally in the moment with all its emotional impact in a more detailed way, or distanced yourself from it using past experiences to help plan for the future or getting an overview of the situation. It’s a great tool!
“Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.”
~ Will Rogers
Often feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by our extreme workloads can be a matter of simply finding some Time Management tools that work. Here are some that might be of help to you.
- Set aside 10 -15 minutes every morning to get internally centered and to plan for the upcoming day. Sit quietly with your eyes closed, take some really deep breaths and let your listening go out to include every sound in the room and beyond without naming anything you hear. Just rest there for a few minutes. Then when you come back to the room, you will have a much clearer mind to focus on what action you need to take during your upcoming day. Keep a pad of paper and pencil handy in case you had some important thoughts during your quiet time.
- Create a “to do” list for each day of the week adding and subtracting from it as you find new items that need your attention or as you accomplish each task
- When working with your “to do” list, do the hardest and least desirable task first each day. Getting it off your plate will lift your spirits and help you feel as if you have truly accomplished something of value.
- Can you get up earlier to accomplish some of your “to do” list?
- Don’t fall into the trap of over commitment. Check your “to do” list at the end of each day to see how your schedule is working. Maybe you have put too much or too little on your plate.
- Follow your schedule, but remember it is not written in stone. Things can and often do change, so be flexible.
- Could you arrange with your boss to come in earlier and leave earlier, or come in later and leave later to give you the extra hour to practice or to take a voice lesson or coaching?
- Is it possible to arrange a longer lunch hour and find someplace in the area to practice – a church, spare room, hotel conference room, etc.?
- Handle mail only once. Open it, read it, and then put it in the appropriate place for future action. (Folder for bills to be paid, applications to be filled out, catalogues with pages turned down to things you need or want, or throw it out, etc.) You might want to pay your bills online. It’s a great way to keep track of what you have paid and when it was paid. You can also arrange the date and amount you want to pay in advance and it is taken care of. You can also create something like your rent, etc to be paid automatically on a specific date so you don’t have to even think about it.
- Give yourself a block of time to do phone calls.
- Screen your calls by leaving your answering machine on. Turn the phone ringer off when practicing or concentrating on your business. This is the way to maintain your focus on your task at hand. When the task is done, listen to the messages, and if necessary answer the important business ones or put them on your “to do” list for tomorrow. This will further your feeling of control.
- If you need to leave messages, make sure they are short and to the point with all the information the person you are calling will need to return your call, including when would be the best time to reach you when they return your call.
- It is always best to make important business calls Tuesday through Thursday. Monday and Friday are usually too busy and you might not get through to them and if you do you won’t have their full attention.
- Always ask if this is a good time to talk to them. This is a greatly appreciated courtesy. You want their full attention, so if it is not a good time, ask when you should call back.
- To leave your frustrations and stresses of work behind, find a specific spot on your way home from work to dump them. Visualize them all rolled into a bag and feel it, see it, and listen to it hit the ground. Believe me when I say it will be there for you in the morning when you return to work.
- Lastly, don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh often.
“The man who doesn’t relax and hoot a few hoots voluntarily, now and then, is in great danger of hooting hoots and standing on his head for the edification of the pathologist and trained nurse, a little later on.”
~ Elbert Hubbard
Another great way to keep up your energy and relieve stress during the day is to take a mini mental vacation.
According to psychobiologist Ernest L. Rossi, our bodies need a 15-20 break about every 1 ½ to 2 hours from the stresses of working. If we are to give our optimal performance on the job and while working on our singing careers, we need these periodic times to relax. You will find they are not a waste of time, but will help disperse stress, lower inhibiting hormone levels, clear our distractions and extending our energy reserves. It improves attention and concentration.
It’s not a matter of dozing or being lazy for those 15- 20 minutes. That actually dulls ones mental edge. Active relaxation is the key. It relieves stress better and keeps the mind primed for action.
So how does one go on a mini vacation? It’s really quite easy and very enjoyable, to say the least. Here’s what you do.
Close your eyes and take several very deep breaths in through you nose and out through your mouth. (Don’t care what other think of you. When they notice the difference it makes in your attitude, focus and productivity, they will be doing it too.) As you resume breathing naturally, conjure up your dream vacation. Don’t just look at it. Engage all of your senses; see I, hear it, feel it, smell it, taste it.
Feel yourself walking on a deserted beach and hear and feel the warm sand between your toes. Hear the sound of the waves as they come to shore. Smell and taste the salty water. How many birds can you hear? How many different flowers can you smell? Add as many other sensual touch, hear, see, taste and smell items as you can. Rest there and enjoy it. If thoughts come in other than the vacation, just let them come and go like little puffy white clouds in the sky and return to enjoying your vacation.
For me it is walking in the mountains. Feeling the alternating warmth of the sun and the coolness of the shade touch my face and hands. I love the smell and sound of the pine trees. I like to watch the aspen leaves shimmer in the sunshine. I can feel the softness and smell the rich earth as I walk on the forest floor. I can hear the birds and bugs in the distance and it is peaceful and calm.
Use all your sensation during your imagined trip. Get as detailed as you can. Play with them and feel the peace and calm that comes over you.
You get out of it the same way you came in, by taking some really deep breaths through your nose and letting them out through your mouth. Tell yourself you are now going to open your eyes and as you do you will bring this peace, calm and rejuvenation that you just experienced back with you.
“You can’t change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future”
To get there even faster and make these mini vacations even stronger, give yourself a phrase to start the ball rolling toward that fantastic mini vacation. Something like, “I’m now going to slip into my beautiful vacation spot where no one can reach me.” Use the same phrase each time and then focus your attention on your breathing. Start to feel yourself let go. As your hormonal levels start to subside and the feeling of stress and anxiety start to taper off, you are ready to relax and enjoy your mental mini vacation. This is a trip well worth taking. You will have all the energy and focus you need when you return from you mini vacation for the whole day and evening.
As you get really good at this, try simply using your phrase as you close your eyes for just a minute as you pause between activities. It gives you a clean slate leaving the past project and your thoughts of it behind as it allows you to move with confidence and complete focus on to the next project.
“It is always the man who has tasted life who demands more of it. Most people just sleep themselves stupid.”
~ Arnold Bennett
Managing time is easier when you have some tools and skills to work with that create some order out of the chaos. Yes, more is being expected of each of us as we move into the future. Learning how to process and handle your very own measure of time is the key component if you want to maintain you focus, and purpose throughout the day. It’s one of the ways to stay sane as the world turns faster and faster around us. Because you are doing this work, and you expand it to include your singing career, when you perform you will be giving every audience member an opportunity to experience this slowing of time because you can not experience classical music unless you are able to come to rest. It’s a gift our world needs, especially now and one well worth giving.
So, as always in the end, it’s all up to you. It’s your life going by. If you don’t control it someone or something else will. Reclaim your time, get your energy and zest for life back and regain your clear focus.
“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”