In my previous post, ‘Indolence’s Impact on the Improvement of Time‘, I spoke about the first chapter of the second part of ‘An Essay on the Improve
ment of Time’ by John Foster. We will now consider the first chapter of the second part of Foster’s essay which is entitled, ‘Intervals of Time’.
Previously we discussed some of the clearest and obvious losses of time; idleness, vacancy and needless sleep. Now we need to consider another loss of time which is often overlooked yet which causes a serious problem. That is the neglect of many short intervals of time. In a single day, there will always be many small intervals of time which cannot be stopped and which are very difficult to improve upon. When one considers the day and how much time is used up in these moments transitioning from one job to another, considering what to do next, uncontrollable events (eg. traffic), waiting for others, and the lateness of others or self, would we not be quite astounded? If we added all of that time up in a year I think we would be amazed at just how much it totalled. Granted some of that time is not our fault, but acknowledging the loss is the first step in improving it.
One of the first ways in which we can redeem the time lost by intervals is in having fewer transition points throughout the day. If you fill your time with six different pursuits every day, that means you need to have at least five transition points. Not only is there time lost in switching from one job to another but your brain takes time to switch over so your pace is drastically reduced.Not only that but your time spent in that occupation will actually be more effective if you do it for longer (with the exclusion of the most laborious work where a switch may help). The best way to remedy this is to reduce the amount of jobs taken a day. If you normally would do six each day, aim to do three each day. Splitting those same six over a two day period will enable you to maximise your efficiency. This is especially important for the student or anyone who works from home.
Another way we can redeem the time lost is in planning how we will spend our day. One major problem is that we do not know what we are going to do at the various intervals of the day. Granted, for many of us, large portions of our days are beyond our control and we must spend them doing what others require. For those who are in control of their entire day this will impact you more, but even for those who control but a small portion of their time, there is still time to plan. Now because we do not know how we are going to spend our time when we complete a task, we end up spending a large portion of time just considering what to do next. By the time we find something to do we have either wasted a lot of time already or just plain given up. Instead, if we had intentionally planned our day we would have had all that time doing something instead of fluffing around finding something to do. My recommendations then are to set a period of time aside each week or day in order to plan what you will do. Personally, I plan out my whole week on a Monday, and then each day in the morning I will review it and make small adjustments as necessary. The plan adapts and changes as situations do but you will always know what you should be doing. (see my Week planner)
To any who seek to be serious about improving their time a plan is essential. But with planning, I must put forward a caution. Life happens. What I mean by that is that try as you will you cannot control everything. God is sovereign and he is more powerful than your planning. Traffic, queues, visitors, problems will happen, embrace them and “roll with the punches”. After these things happen, pick up your plan, make adjustments and keep on moving forward. Remember that the plan is a utility tool to help gain improvement, it is not a slavery chain to bind you down. Stick to your plan, but if something vital pops up, set it aside and pursue the most important with all your strength. If you have work set and a dear friend turns up, entertain them and spend time with them. If you are working and should change but feel like you are obtaining great usefulness out of your current subject, continue! If you have the opportunity to love your neighbour, sacrifice your plan and love your neighbour, for the Lord demands mercy and not sacrifice.
But what are we to do when we are stuck in situations that are not conducive with improving time? Things that we cannot control (eg. traffic jams and queues)? There are a couple of things we can do in order to improve our time even in these moments. Firstly, when you are stuck in a situation outside of your control, control your emotions and practise observation. Observe the people around you, I tell you the truth you will learn a vast amount about humanity just by observing how people do life. Observe the parent interacting with their child, the friends chatting, the enemies fighting. Take it all in and consider how you can learn and grow from what you witness. If there are no people, observe the art and scenery around you. Consider the trees, nature, and construction. Nothing at all but yourself? Observe yourself, how are you reacting to the situation you are in? There is never a time that there is nothing to observe around you, you just need to be available to observe.
Secondly, Foster suggests carrying with you a small book of short essays or light histories in your pocket or bad to read in such times. Of course in our day, it is much easier for we have cell phones! I always have an e-book, an audiobook for driving, and my Greek and Hebrew grammar quiz app on my phone so I am prepared for any situation. This means if I have substantial downtime in a quite place I can read my book, if I am going for a long drive I can listen to a book and if I have a small amount of time or am somewhere noisy I can briefly study some Greek and Hebrew grammar. If none of this is possible you can bring to mind something you have considered or learnt recently and make it fresh to yourself again.
Thirdly, I suggest having Scripture on hand at all times. Get a Bible app on your phone, or have pre-printed cards in your pocket or wallet so you can pull them out and read a brief section and meditate on the Word of God. The advantage of having these things on your phone is that you can pull your phone out in 90% of circumstances in our society and people will not be upset with you. On this note, I would seriously suggest deleting your facebook from your cell phone as it will cost you greatly. Games on the cell phone are also dangerous unless you can control them very severely. If you have things like Facebook and games on your phone and do not severely monitor your usage of them instead of redeeming your time you will send it to the slaughter.
The little moments in life are often the most important as they come together to make for large amounts of time, but they are often ignored of missed. We need to pay attention to the littlest of moments in our day so that we can improve upon all of our time in order to bring glory to our Lord and make ourselves useful in his kingdom.