Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Time, Sprints and Marathons

Ironically, this post is late because I was teaching a class on time management. I broke my 2013 streak of perfect postings - yesterday was the first Monday I haven't posted since some time in 2012 - but the combination of class preparation and a writing conference on Saturday stretched my time boundaries to the breaking point. I apologize to those of you loyal enough to show up on a regular basis, and promise to try to resume my normal Monday postings next week.

The concept of time having boundaries is one I learned from Julie Morgenstern, one of my favorite author/organizers to reference when I teach these classes. Morgenstern compares time to a closet. Both have boundaries and neither can be stretched to accomodate more than its capacity, though we certainly try on a regular basis.

My other favorite author/organizer is Marcia Ramsland. Ramsland talks about two ways to manage time: vertically and horizontally. What she refers to as vertical time management is managing the day from beginning to end - the "sprint." Horizontal time management, on the other hand, is long-term planning - week-to-week and month-to-month - the "marathon."

I was talking to my time management class yesterday about Ramsland's concepts when they made  sense to me in a whole new way. If I'd been a cartoon character, a light bulb would have gone on above my head.

As a mother and a counselor, I'm familiar with the philosophy that children grasp concepts when they're ready. I learned this in graduate school, and understood it while preparing lessons for my elementary school kids, but I didn't have my "aha!" moment until I was a mother, trying to potty train a preschooler or break a kindergartner of her thumb-sucking habit. When my daughter was ready, these things happened in a heartbeat. Until then, I could try every trick, bribe or plea in the book, but I'd have just as much success losing 20 pounds in a week.

Yesterday was one of those times when I was ready to absorb old information in a new way. As I strive to find both balance and routine in a life without full-time employment, I find that when I have sprint days they're often followed by crash days. Oh, sure, I knew this was the case after big events - holidays, vacations, other major schedule disruptions - and I felt it to a certain extent when I was working, too. But now that I have more control over how I allocate my time, I'm noticing it much more.

When I have a super productive day, I can't help but think that if I could do that every day, I could conquer the world - or at least my little corner of it. Then, when the next day looks completely different, I'm disappointed. I wonder if I'm lazy or unmotivated or tired - or perhaps all of those things - and figure I just have to try harder.

But yesterday, sharing Ramlsand's concepts with my class, it hit me. No one can sprint through every single day. If we want our sprint days to be successful, we have to balance them with training in the form of rest and rejuvenation. And we can't do that if we're sprinting all the time.

I'm too old to sprint and I'm too out of shape for marathons, but with enough motivation, I can walk the marathon route and still finish the race with some degree of pride. So I will sprint when I can and rest when I need to, remember that my goal is a balanced life, not a perpetual sprint.

Guess you're never too old to learn.

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