When I think about time I occasionally get a sinking feeling. Time is always passing. There is never enough. Once it is gone it is gone. The passing of every second, hour and day feels like a permanently declining savings account. A deposit simply cannot be made to correct this situation. These negative ideas about time have not been particularly helpful in any aspect of my life, especially the creative ones.
Here then, are several ways I now use time instead of the other way around. It turns out, like most everything else in life, the answer resides in your thinking.
Awareness trumps Time.
Sunday for me just seems to have more time in it, although I am quite sure it consists of 24 hours just like all the other days. Somewhere along the line I decided that on this day I would go slower. I love Sundays. My run is always long and slow. Conversational pace. I actually see more. I notice the cows. I pay attention to the leaf pattern beneath my feet. I simply breathe in more. Making breakfast takes longer as does eating it. I actually will read or at least look at the New York Times on this day. Everything feels slower and it feels fantastic.
The point being that when we consciously decide (and that is the operative word here) to pay attention to how things feel, taste, smell, sound and look, time seems to take a backseat. It slows down.
Making Art is a perfect example. Being present, being as aware as possible generates our best work. A day that has more moments of awareness within it just simply feels more fulfilling.
Using the Scarcity of Time to Motivate
This sounds counter intuitive to art making, but I use a stopwatch when I make art.
I use the slight fear I have of time constantly slipping away to improve not just my efficiency but also the boldness of my daily artistic effort.
What has helped me focus is the prior decision that I am going to work uninterrupted for 3 hours non-stop. Once I hit my stopwatch I just go for it. I occasionally look at my watch to see how I am doing…if the work seems stalled in front of me and I see I have been doing little for 23 minutes I push myself to take bolder moves. I want to change my work. I want it to happen and now is the time. The stopwatch is reminding me of this fact. As the end approaches, with only minutes remaining, I can push harder as the finish line is in sight. What can I do in the remaining minutes that will really make my day? What can I do right now that matters? Try this sometimes, it really works.
Having both less and more time is good.
Richness is created in our Art by the expression of differences. This is also true, of course, in our lives. We feel alive when we pass in and out of experiences that are different from one another. It feels good to work hard for 3 hours and then sit back for a slow lunch with a friend…much better than an unfocused 3 hour art making session that runs over into a hurried lunch eaten while trying to resolve what was not previously accomplished.
Choosing consciously when to go into brief periods of time awareness juxtaposed with allowing ourselves to slow down and amble more slowly is not only more efficient but just simply feels better. Time is like a river. Its rapids are where dramatic change occurs. It is intense and loud. Danger and Risk are everywhere. The water is shallow and moving very, very quickly. This kind of environment is where big changes can occur. When the river widens and the water slows down it becomes darker and deeper. It is quiet. This section of stillness and calm is when creative rejuvenation occurs. It is when ideas, plans and inspiration trickle in. It is in the slow moving time when there is finally spaciousness for new ideas. These two conditions, rapidity and calmness are complimentary. Both are needed. Experiencing them alternatively and allowing and deciding whole-heartedly to be in each one fully fosters creativity, change, and inspiration and as a result…. happiness.
Does the way you think about time help or hinder you? Please share you thoughts and comments below.
In gratitude, Nicholas