Like sand through the hourglass …
Lately, I’ve been thinking about time. No, not in the loft space-time-continuum, or deity-time-versus-human-time, or even time-left-until-death. No, I’ve just been thinking about how I use (and waste) time in my day to day life.
A lot of how I use time is shaped by my work. Yes, as a nurse, I only go to work three times a week, for twelve hour shifts. And really, it suits me fine. Most days I’m extremely glad to have escaped the five day work week. But I’ve noticed that on the days that I work, I tend not to do anything else. No laundry, no cleaning, no cooking beyond preparing my lunch if I’m working the next day, and certainly no dancing.
Basically,I do what’s most important for that day, and leave the rest for another time. This view of life can also be chalked up to my work. As a pediatric ICU nurse, it’s necessary to prioritize. There are so many things to do be done in a day. Perform assessments. Give medications. Titrate continuous drip medications. Draw labs. Round with the physicians. Take my patient(s) for off-unit procedures. Notify physicians of worrisome trends and lab results. Change dressings and tubings. Ensure the safety, comfort and cleanliness of my patients and surroundings. Teach my patients and their families about their illnesses and how we are treating them. Make appropriate recommendations and referrals for social work, chaplain services, child life services, organ donation, family conferences, pet therapy, etc. Ad infinitum. There are so many things to be done in twelve hours, that we need to prioritize just to get through the first few minutes of the day. We make sure the patient’s Airway is clear, that they are Breathing, and that the blood is Circulating. The ABC’s. And if all that is good, then we can get on with all the other things.
The rest of my time is shaped by … just me. Living on my own, with no husband or children to require hours of my time. I can use it as I like. To maintain my health. To maintain my house. To entertain. To travel. To dance. To find ways to continue growing mentally and spiritually. And yet, with all this excess of time, I still never seem to have enough. And after thinking on it a while, it comes to this: I value my time so much that I’ve refused to piddle it away on mundane tasks a little at a time, when I can save them up to do all at once. Another way to look at it is that I procrastinate doing things until doing them is less irritating than ignoring them.
So it is that when I make my lunches, I tend to make three days’ worth, instead of one at a time. Or that instead of washing the tuperwares containing said lunches everyday, I put the old ones in the fridge, and wash several days’ worth all at once. I collect my mail two or three times a week, and have a general sit-down once a week to plow through all the junk that needs to be shredded. And I try to cram lots of things into my days off: laundry, errands, visits to family and friends, physician appointments, exercise, reading (books and blogposts) and dancing.
However, I know that such use of time is getting less and less effective. As my life gets progressively disordered between days off, I feel less vibrant and more stressed. So, I’ve been making an effort to deal with things as they happen, prioritizing the organization of my life over the consolidation of tasks. Shredding those pesky credit card offers the day I get them, not five days later, when there is a pile of stuff. Dealing with the detritus of a few days (or weeks) of travel the day I return home, instead of on a day off. Trying to do basic maintenance cleaning around the house on a regular basis, instead of all at once prior to having people over. And doing a 20 minute yoga stretching routine before going to work, instead of trying to block off a whole hour sometime else. Taking more time to assess where I’m at and what I need, instead of frittering my time away with things that, or people who, are not a priority.
I think I’ve been doing pretty well lately. My life seems more balanced. Even-keeled. I feel more prepared to deal with the unexpected. And yet .. I had a moment of clarity the other day. After a long walk through the summer heat, I grabbed a new carton of limeade out of the fridge. I tore open the seal, poured myself a tall glass, and thirstily drank my first sip. Replaced the carton in the fridge, and was just about to leave the kitchen with glass in hand. At the last moment, I saw the seal, on the counter, where I’d discarded it. My body automatically continued walking out of the room, until I forced myself back, picked up the seal, and placed it in the trash can, a few steps away. Hmmmm … I’ve still got a ways to go.
How effective are you at managing your time? What types of things occupy you the most? How do you minimize distractions? How do you prioritize the many needs and wants in your life?