Saturday, January 28, 2012


A lot has been written about time management - checking emails only three times a day, switching the phone off for an hour, learning to delegate. These are often necessary skills to keep the office desk in order. But there is also something to be said for a whole new approach to time.

Writing today in The Guardian, Roman Krznaric of The School of Life points out that Medieval clocks merely divided the day into hours. Then by the 18th century clocks had minute hands, and a century later second hands. Just over one hundred years ago the wristwatch was introduced, and today we’re all ‘handcuffed’ to time. The speeding up of life that followed the industrial revolution - to say nothing of the nano-seconds of the electronic communication era - mean that life today is famously fast-paced. Haven’t I been blogging about Twitter and recommending that we all join the lightning-fast conversations that are going on around us in 140-character bursts?

But there is a flip side to this conversation. While there’s plenty of quantity out there, we should be aiming for quality. And the best way to improve the quality of what you have to say is to stop for a moment, centre yourself in the present, and let the world around you sink in. You have probably experienced the clarity that comes from taking a walk when a thorny problem stumps you, or too many tasks become overwhelming. If you haven’t - try it. Twenty minutes across the park or around the block - without the phone or Blackberry - works wonders. 

And how about going a day without a watch strapped to our wrist? Krznaric calls this going on a “chronological diet”. Actually, it is pretty difficult to avoid clocks. They’re built into our phones and computer screens for a start. But try taking a walk or reading a book or cooking a meal without a watch or clock nearby. Savour the activity for itself, without any sense of time other than that indicated by the passing sunshine of the afternoon. Surprisingly, you may get more accomplished, your thoughts might just be a little clearer.

As the Zen Master said: “Don’t just do something - sit there.”

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