Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Time Crimes of an Interplanetary Visitor

I am beginning to understand that I inhabit my own imaginary time planet.  (I am tempted to call it La(te)-La(te) Land.)  In my sphere, time operates according to my own slightly warped set of rules.  Maybe some of you dwell in similar environs.  And maybe you experience some of the same problems that I do as a result.

Granted, time is a human construct anyway.  But when we attempt to interface with others, it is perhaps best if we can bring our systems into some degree of agreement.  

To that end, I am thinking it might help to give some attention to my deviations from more commonly held time conventions.  I have identified the following ten things I habitually do, which contribute to making time mismanagement my default position.

My Top Ten Time Crimes

1.  Occupying myself with activities up until the last moment before I should leave for a scheduled meeting or event.  

2.  Overscheduling, with back-to-back and even overlapping commitments.

3.  Underestimating travel time between appointments.  Even under normal circumstances, I have no real sense of how long it really takes to get between point A and point B.

4.  Underestimating preparation time--showering, dressing, finding what I need to take with me.

5.  Compulsively squeezing in one last chore, one last phone call, when I should be making my way out the door.  Surely wiping off the counter, feeding the dog, and making a couple of website changes can't take all that long.

6.  Leaving no time for the inevitable interruptions, detours and disasters.  But these days, even "my stimulus dollars" are at work endowing just such occurences.  

7.  Getting lost in time, while playing online video games, reading, writing, talking on the phone, etc.  All of a sudden, way too much time has passed without my noticing, and I'm late.  Again.

8.  Dealing with the calendars I keep in "surprise" mode.  Not checking ahead, and having only the vaguest sense of the week's and the day's events, which on a good day, kicks in just in the nick of time; and on the bad days, never rises to the level of consciousness, with friends left at coffee shops, employers left puzzling, meetings held without my input.  This makes for some embarrassing subsequent conversations.  "Oh, no!  Was yesterday Tuesday?" 

9.  Not planning down time.  This contributes to my exhausted self suddenly going on strike in protest against inhumane working conditions.  My self-discipline grinds to a halt.  I become a refuse-nik.  

10.  Dawdling when I should be making travel reservations.  Something about the gravity of nonrefundable payments, nontransferrable tickets, and hefty change fees makes me hesitate, until I am sure that the dates I am selecting are optimal.  This is an expensive habit, since the costs associated with travel booked too close to departure time continue to increase as I weigh the decision.

The list above is by way of diagnosis, symptoms of my advanced degree of time-itis.  Treatment will require further investigation.  Or maybe, if I wish to avoid (gasp!) mixing metaphors, and to demonstrate my cultural sensitivity, I should speak in terms of my orientation as "timing differently," rather than representing myself as time-disabled.  And seeking common ground, rather than a cure.

In the meantime, I advise others who are forced to occupy adjacent universes to employ defensive measures.  For example, if you wish to get somewhere on time, it may be unwise to rely on me for a ride.  I will meet you there, wherever there is--as soon as I figure out if and when I'm supposed to be there, and then wend my way through the layers of time distortion that will retard my arrival.  Just don't hold your breath.

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