It's About Time
Time has always been a game for me.
As the youngest of eight kids, I always wanted to keep up and measure up to my older siblings. I was constantly told I was too young or too small for a lot of activities, which only made me want to prove them wrong. In hindsight, I guess I have my family to thank for my competitive spirit and attitude toward time.
“Be Home by the Noon Whistle!”
I grew up in the small, picturesque town of Jordan, MN. The kind of town where you know pretty much everyone you meet. Jordan is known for beautiful Lagoon Park, its signature waterfall and the nearby Mini Met baseball park, one of the finest in the country. My charming hometown is situated in the Minnesota River valley and is surrounded by beautiful bluffs and woods where my Grandpa Pete would take us hiking and blackberry picking. No matter if I was at the playground, a friend's house or riding my bike in this town of 1,800 people, I could always hear the church bells chime every 15 minutes and at noon a whistle would blow, which was a universal signal to every kid that they needed to run home for lunch. There was never a need to wear a watch; Jordan’s clock kept us safe and home on time.
“I’ll Time You!”
Every Saturday night, our family would watch TV together and our parents would often treat us to ice cream cones. Luckily, we lived close to a small convenience store/gas station called, Wey’s Webb that had a wide assortment of ice cream. To get there, you had to cross a gravel road, hop across the railroad tracks, run through a small field, cross over the creek by way of two wooden boards, and finally run up a set of stairs. It took less than two minutes. I know because my siblings always asked me to run the errand. When they didn’t get a reaction from me, all they had to do is say the magic words, “I’ll time you” and I would jump at the challenge. I fell for that line every time. In fact, I still do!
Depending on your relationship with time, it can be a burden that can make you feel nervous, helpless or stressed out. Time can also be a goal and a motivator. Consider athletes who are bound by time and how their success relies on how they measure against the clock. A fascinating article in The New York Times, looks at a study in which cyclists were challenged to increase their personal best time by racing against a computer in several different scenarios. The goal was to evaluate the brain’s influence over athletic performance. The article states, "Until recently, exercise physiologists have mostly focused on the muscles, hearts and lungs of athletes, asking whether fatigue comes because the body has reached its limit. But athletes themselves have long insisted that mental factors are paramount. Roger Bannister, the first runner to break the four-minute mile, once said: “It is the brain, not the heart or lungs that is the critical organ." Dr. Jo Corbett, a senior lecturer in applied exercise physiology at the University of Portsmouth in England concluded, “In a race, the brain seems to allow athletes to tap more deeply into energy stores than would ordinarily be permitted. “Competition is able to motivate you to dip further.”
I would love to do that ice cream run again but unfortunately, Wey’s Webb isn’t there anymore. However, I continue to challenge myself by creating games to race against the clock and increase my productivity. The goal isn’t necessarily to run around to “stay busy,” but to make conscious choices to use time more efficiently. I still try to make it a game to see how quickly I can accomplish simple, everyday tasks. Try these methods to increase your productivity.
Do three minute tasks throughout the day
In the time that it takes for your coffee to brew or wait for the microwave to heat something up, you can easily complete these tasks:
Clean the countertops
Sort the mail
Write a thank you note
Clean out your work bag or purse
Write or check your To Do list
Tidy up the bathroom
Do a load of laundry
Make the bed
Return a phone call
Sweep the kitchen
Empty the dishwasher (this one is truly a race against the clock!)
Exercise! Do a three minute set of squats, calf raises, tricep dips or planks.
We make time, we spend time, we lose track of time and we can be pressed for time. It can either be the right time or the wrong time and we often run out of time. We can make good time, have time on our hands and if we’re lucky, we can have spare time.
Everyone has their own relationship with time. There is no right or wrong approach to how you spend your time. My preference is to be as productive as I can be during the day, so I can “spend time” relaxing at night. We only get so much time on this earth, why not make it every minute count?