The trouble with timed tasks
Time. Every second counts- and we keep on counting. We check our phones, watches and clocks religiously to see how long has passed. Sometimes it goes fast, sometimes it goes slow- but it always keeps moving forward. Infinitely. Indefinitely.
So why are we so obsessed by time? Are we really living in a clock-conscious culture?…
Time grips us in the midst of business, of peacefulness: wherever we are, whatever we are doing, it always has a role to play.
Time: “A driver of effort”
As Daniel Kahneman, author of the international bestselling book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ writes; one of the reasons why we pay such close attention to the seconds that have passed is because the very essence of time evokes our attention. And, our attention to certain tasks is one of the reasons I believe that ‘time’ (as a construct) may have the power to control us (in varying ways).
When our minds are so focussed on one task, we get tunnel vision and won’t stop until we have completed it. Our brains and subsequently our bodies go into ‘work’ mode- and when a time limit is applied, we end up taking one of two routes to consummate the action.
Route 1: The Rush
Route 2: The Pace
Route 1 is what happens when you focus so much on the time limit that you forget about your basic functional needs. To eat. To rest. To exercise. To live. Stuck in a mode of ‘work until the job is done’; this route usually ends up in a complete burnout where the brain becomes a bully. Although the task is complete with plenty of ‘time to spare’, more often than not it takes longer to recover from the burnout than it does to complete the actual task.
Route 2 is what happens when you allow the process to have as much of an impact as the time limit. You appreciate the time limit and knuckle down to complete the task, whilst maintaining a healthy relationship between your brain and your body. A fusion of fuelling, focussing and feeling rested. You complete the task slower than Route 1, but still within the allotted time- and, still able to function. When you follow route 2 and you have a positive work/life balance, it significantly improves your productivity.
With the rise of technology comes a tidal wave of organisational apps, alarms, calendars and mood trackers that allow you to track your activity every waking second- there are even some for sleep, too. And, such as the tide, we begin to go to and fro between apps getting caught up in a sea of systems. Sometimes we are able to float, and sometimes we drown under the pressure to constantly track our lives.
It’s time we step up and start living.
So as the dial ticks over and we approach the next decade, how can we maintain good productivity and healthy well-being without cutting corners?
Heres some of my suggestions we can all consider…
- Make a note (mental, digital or on paper) of what’s most important to you. This can help to refocus attention on personal priorities to evoke practical and positive well-being
- Instead of thinking ‘Could be’ or ‘should be’, why not try out a ‘Just Be’ mentality? This can help as a coping mechanism for anxiety when it comes to busy schedules, time limits and deadlines.
- Look out for time-saving ‘Life Hacks’. Could it mean doing laundry split into colours instead of doing it all at once (and potentially a missing sock dilemma)? Or doing dinner preps for the week on the Sunday Night? There are lots of ways
- Set aside some “Me time” every day. It could be 2 hours, it could be 20 minutes. Ensuring quality time to focus on the self is an important factor when it comes to painting positive emotional and physical well-being. It could be as simple as going for a stroll on your lunch hour, an early morning run, meditation or mindfulness, or reading a few pages of your favourite book.
The dynamics of the durative culture we live in means that we are forever transposing unto the next chapter of our existence. We are constantly learning to live with the clock, instead of against it. Although this will take time for us to adjust to, it’s something that we need to strive for, to not let let our body-clocks fall victim to the second hand, but find a pace of survival that works for us as individuals.