Saturday, May 14, 2011

Small Stuff - 1440 Little Things Each & Every Day

What do you think? I bet you have an opinion. Some say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”. Others say, “Everything is small stuff.” Well, I agree and I disagree – all depending on how I look at the definition of small stuff. Today, I’d like to talk about ‘time’ – you know, the small stuff that prevents one thing after another from becoming everything all at once.

Let’s first consider the math and then we’ll move on to more pleasant considerations (unless of course you're a math aficionado and then this is a bonus situation of desert first).

In every 24 hours, there are 1440 minutes. That sounds like a lot, but for me, those daily increments can go by very quickly or very slowly. For example, I can hold my breath for well over two minutes, but each minute passes by pretty slowly! Without my accustomed steady supply of oxygen, two minutes seems like an eternity! And how about when I’m sleeping? Eight hours (480 minutes) seem to pass by in less time than it took me to hold my breath without passing out. This phenomenon of time distortion has always fascinated me – and sometimes scared me. In my short life, all 26,928,000 minutes of it – give or take, I have been both efficient in my use of time and wasteful.

In spite of my seemingly endless supply of minutes, I really ought to consider the reality that my minutes have a finite limit – I only have so many minutes allotted to me before my mortal life concludes. The thought might seem a little morbid, but if I’m to get done what I want to get done in life, then I need a plan that fits my parameters – or at least considers those parameters. So... since I don’t have any inside information about the exact number of minutes I have allotted to me, I seem to have only one of two choices. I either live each minute without regard or notice of its passage, or I pay attention and try to maximise the efficiency of each one of those minutes.

Even though any given minute may be my last one in mortality, should I be fearful? I think not. I think that I should embrace and employ and enjoy each minute that I get. Do I always do that? Sadly, no, but I believe that awareness is the first step to creating good habits. My future is going to happen no matter what I do, so I might as well try to push it in a desired direction.

Here is a personal example... About a decade ago, I began writing my book, “Three Seconds On, Three Seconds Off” – my book about growing up on the lighthouse. I was working full time and after work I built up my home-based photography business – as well as fulfilled all my obligations with my growing family. I had no time to write – or so I thought. Then something great happened. I got a Palm Pilot and a compact, folding keyboard. I began pulling the system out on my breaks at work and typing while I ate and rested. In the four years I did that, I wrote over 80,000 words – mostly about 4, 5 or 6 minutes at a time. Occasionally, on my 30 minute lunch breaks, I’d get in over twenty minutes of writing, but not always. What did I learn? I learned an important lesson about using time. I learned that if I did a little bit of writing when I could, that my writing would add up to a lot – eventually. So, what did I do? I took that Palm Pilot & keyboard everywhere. If I had to wait to see the doctor, I wrote. If I had to wait in the car, I wrote. I didn’t read unimportant stuff just to pass the time. I did spend time pondering and thinking – because I found those things important to a balanced life, but I looked for small windows of opportunity and appropriately seized them. I learned that some minutes needed to be sacrificed in order to help other people and that I should not scar my important relationships with the tip of my pen (so to speak). I learned that some minutes, however, were ‘fair game’ and those minutes were mine to gainfully employ as my obedient servants in the pursuit of my creative writing.

Today, I use my small laptop – a Samsung N210 Netbook, to get my words in order. It’s not quite as portable as was my Palm Pilot, but I can input a whole lot more words in a document than I could in the old days – and it has spell check! Today, my battery lasts longer and my data is easier to move around. I just plug in a flash drive to back up my precious files and I can easily transfer data to my archive. I enjoy the onboard thesaurus and the much bigger screen. I can even upload posts to my blog from this nice little computer. All in all, I still try to write whenever I have a few free minutes. And when my computer is not handy, and I have a creative surge, I use a paper, a Post-it note or even a dry erase board (old fashioned I know, but they work in a pinch).

How about you? What do you do to maximize your precious minutes?

I invite you to visit Stephen for lots more time management inspiration.You can even join up and send me a friend request. Have fun!!

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