Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In 30 Minutes and 10 Minutes and a Lifetime

The local newspaper urged me the other day to "Take a Minute and Reconsider Your Time." The article advertised a new book titled, "168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think” (Portfolio, $25.95), by Laura Vanderkam. I skimmed it, I'll admit. It was an article of advertisement, but I gathered two interesting nuggets of information that make me want to find the book. (I doubt I'll pay $25.95 for it, since I tend to take more than a minute to consider my pocketbook. I'll wait for the paperback.)

Ms. Vanderkam suggests list making. I come from a family of list makers. We like to plan. I plan, and lose the list, go about my day, find the list later, and am secretly pleased that I remembered to do two things on the list. My sister plans, scratches off, and plans again. My mother makes lists in the morning for her daily schedule. My daughter has kept lists since she was a child, a few of them reading something like this:

1. Wake up
2. Brush teeth
3. Put pants on cat
4. Eat breakfast

You get the idea. We like to keep track, or at least feel like we have some control over our lives. Lists help us feel more comfortable in a confuddling world.

One of Ms. Vanderkam's list suggestions was this -- write a list of things you can accomplish in thirty minutes, and another list of things you can accomplish in ten minutes. I scratched out a two-column list in my morning journal pages of all the things I thought I could do in thirty minutes and ten minutes on that day. The tasks totaled six and a half hours. Compartmentalized like that, it seemed do-able. Sure.

Like an explorer with a detailed map, I set off on my first 30 minute task of the day: pack and ship books. Yes, it takes thirty minutes. Packing and shipping books means a trip to the studio, a fumbling for packing material, grumbling, printing out of receipts, and then a trip to the post office, and more grumbling. I managed that and two other items on my list, and then the phone rang.

A friend was dying. That wasn't on my list at all. My compartmentalized day blurred:

1. Listencryhugholdhandkissonforeheadlistenmore

The next day, I tried Ms. Vanderkam's other list-making strategy; to make a list of 100 Dreams. Do I have time to even dream the dreams? I couldn't stop wondering if I wasting time making the list when I could be out doing one of the items on the list. It was more difficult than I thought. Ms. V's list of 100 Dreams included "Do a wine tour in Argentina” and “Maintain a stash of Trader Joe’s dark-chocolate-covered caramels.”

It's hard to really care about a stash of caramels. I want to get better at listening. That's on my list of dreams. I'd like to sing more, direct a play, learn to make croissant dough, knit something other than a tangle.

I started my list of 100 Dreams in the back of a notebook I keep for the notes on other people's lives. I drank a coffee, ate some melon, twirled my hair, and came up with 38 dreams. Then the day called out to me. I took a minute to reconsider my time, and I'm not sure if I have more time than I think, or less. What I do know is this -- we all have very little control, and the family cat does not like to wear pants.

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