Getting Back On Track

Expect the unexpected

This is my first post after a bit of a reprieve. I’ve been sitting here for about 15 minutes, trying to think of what to write. I was 2 minutes away from shutting down the laptop and letting another day (or week) drift by, when it finally occurred to me. That’s what I should be writing about. Because that’s something we can all relate to, right? Trying to get back to some sort of normality, some sense of self, after life unexpectedly side-swipes you and drags you miles off course.

Expect the Unexpected

I loathe the expression ‘expect the unexpected’ because it’s so completely useless. While the intrinsic meaning is well-intentioned, it’s clearly not something that any of us can truly master. We can’t anticipate every possible event and circumstance, nor can we predict with any degree of reasonableness how we’ll react when the unexpected happens. Even if you think you know, you’re probably wrong.

As a solopreneur, it’s incredibly challenging to effectively manage time. Juggling sales, networking, marketing, and professional development, all while trying to ensure customers and clients receive the absolute best that you have to give, can be a recipe for a perfect storm. Keeping all of those balls in the air requires constant vigilance.

Then the unexpected happens.

Something you aren’t prepared for, and couldn’t have prepared for, not in any meaningful way, and you just have to cope.

There’s no magic button, no playbook, no step-by-step script to follow.

Reinventing Normal

I’ve always been a bit hyper-focused on time. Ironic, considering how much of it I seem to waste. One of my favorite things to do, in fact, is nothing. Not only do I enjoy doing nothing, but I excel at it. Lounging in a chair, staring up at the sky, watching the clouds float by. Yet I have so many things that I want to do, so many ideas that I want to test, so many new skills that I want to learn, that I always feel like I never have enough time to do it all. Which of course is true. None of us ever have the time we want, or need. So we prioritize, the best that we can, and more so, we muddle through. We establish our routines, constantly balancing too little time with too many tasks, and invariably end up sacrificing what we truly want on the altar of obligation.

When you experience a loss of someone close to you, I think your mind naturally drifts to thoughts of mortality and the countdown of a running clock. When you’re with someone at the moment of their death, thoughts that were previously abstract concepts, philosophizing best saved for a dreamy summer day, suddenly crystallize into something tangible. As if you could touch time itself.

And when that happens, when time becomes something you can viscerally feel, when it becomes that definitive and finite thing, you start to realize that perhaps watching the clouds float by on a bright sunny day isn’t time wasted at all.

Perhaps getting back on track isn’t about finding a way back to the normal you used to know.  Perhaps it’s about embracing a new normal, whatever that turns out to be.

 

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If Time Were Diamonds

Time DiamondsI recently re-discovered an article that I wrote where I contemplated how projects would be managed differently if time were treated as diamonds.  And really, why shouldn’t time be treated like diamonds?  Both are non-renewable resources, limited in supply, and high in demand.

The sparkle and shine of a diamond conveys its immediate value. But what about time?

We spend it, waste it, use it, and lose it so often without as much as a second thought. How often do you stop and think, am I really making the most of this day?  Hour?  Minute?

Seasons for a Reason

I was reflecting not too long ago on how much I enjoy the change of the seasons. Every winter I lament not being fortunate enough to live somewhere that’s perpetually sunny and warm all year long.  California dreaming?

But those moments pass, usually when the winds change and winter melts into spring.  There are four seasons, but I’m only in love with one of them.  Summer.  Of course.  I love summer.  Summer is the perfect season.  But I don’t know that I would appreciate it as much if I could take it for granted.  The changing of seasons reminds me of the finite nature of time.  It somehow gives me that sense of urgency that I sometimes need to keep moving forward.

Calculate Your Time Diamonds

Here’s something to contemplate this weekend.  How old are you now?  How long will you live?  Take a wild guess, or just use the typical life expectancy age for where you live.  So now you have the likely maximum number of years you have left in this world.  And for the sake of this discussion, let’s leave aside whether or not you believe in worlds other than this one, and whatever grand plans you may have for that.

Now, every year has four seasons.  Even if it’s sunny all year where you live, the earth continues to rotate along, changing its relative position to the sun, and therefore, changing seasons. So now pick a season.  Pick your favorite season.

There’s one last item to factor in.  And it’s an important one.  Because do you really want to count all of the years that you have left to live, or just the good ones?  Ok, the good ones and the mediocre ones.  But let’s lob off any years that are spent in pain, fear, confusion, anguish, or any other terrible outcomes from any generally debilitating illness.  Aging isn’t for the weak.

With my family history and general luck profile, I project that I have a better than average chance of developing Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Diabetes, Arthritis, Heart Disease, or some stellar combination of all five.  Do I really want to count however many months or years of deterioration in my overall runway of time left?  No.

So here’s the formula:

[Guesstimated Age at Death]

minus

[Current Age]

minus

[Years You’d Have Been Better Off Dead]

equals

Number of [Favorite Season] seasons left

How does that number look to you?  Looks really low to me.  How many summers do you have left?  20?  30?  40?

Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a 50 or 60.  Still.  Pretty small number.

To make things even worse, we can’t really depend upon that Guesstimated Age at Death number, can we?  The universe likes to pull the rug out from under us when we least expect it.  But that gets too depressing, so let’s stick with our chosen numbers.

Those are your diamonds. One diamond per instance of favorite season that you have left in your bank.

How will you choose to spend your time diamonds?

 

Time Diamonds: The True Value of Time

A few years ago, I wrote a post responding to a question posed by Michael Greer, asking “What is one simple thing that can improve projects and/or project management?”.  In my response, I challenged readers to stop thinking about time as an infinite commodity, and start viewing it as the precious, non-renewable resource that it is. How should we measure time?  In time diamonds.

Value of time

Last week I was travelling on business, and suddenly struck again by the immeasurable value of time.  The business trip was successful, and a great opportunity to meet some talented colleagues, but business travel uses up large quantities of time diamonds.  You are effectively working, or making a time commitment to work-related endeavours, 24/7 for the duration of your trip.  While travelling for business, your non-business life essentially stops.  Or, it continues on without you.  Either way, you forfeit a period of your life – a day, a week, more – for work.  What could be more expensive than that?!

I don’t need to travel for business frequently, which makes me grateful.  Grateful for the occasional opportunity to travel and meet people that I’ve only encountered on the end of an email or phone call, and grateful that I don’t need to spend my time diamonds in bulk.

I’m also infinitely grateful that I typically have the choice, each and every day, how to spend my time diamonds.  Who decides how you can spend your time diamonds?