There’s a scene in one of my favourite films, Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero, where the oilman from Texas gets so relaxed on a beautiful sandy beach in Scotland that he leaves his watch in a rock pool when crabbing. This is the same guy who, when he arrived only a few days earlier from Houston, was absolutely obsessed with what time it was back in his part of the world. Eventually he is seduced by the local lifestyle and he surrenders to life without a watch without even noticing, into a place where a watch becomes meaningless because time is abundant, endless and kind.
I gave up wearing a watch ages ago. There became a time when a watch was redundant because I can see the time wherever I am – on my computer when working, in the car when driving, on my bedside table during the night and if all else fails, on my loathsome mobile phone. It’s even on my Kindle although I must confess it took me quite a while to work out where it was.
I watched a girl on TV learning how to become a free diver. As part of her training, she had to see how long she could hold her breath underwater. Apparently when you do that, everything in your body slows down so the oxygen lasts much longer. She was asked how long she thought she had managed and replied “two minutes”. In fact, it was just over four.
Without a watch, I really have no idea of time passing; it stretches to fit. I often get so engrossed in what I’m doing that time passes in a flash – whole days sometimes. And yet I can also call to mind all too easily occasions in my life when time went sooo slowly – Church sermons when a child, hockey lessons at school (left back in the pavilion), the waiting room at the dentist. Anywhere I don’t want to be, doing something I don’t want to be doing, time slows down, unbearably so at times. Tick. Tock. Tick. Interminably. There’s acres of space between tick and tock and it’s all I can do not to run screaming from the church, the hockey field, the dentist.
In the sweet life, there lovely times when it goes all too quickly – three score years and ten is too little and too fast, how WEIRD is that? A good book you don’t want to end seems to accelerate towards that end, however much you try to luxuriate in it and eek it out. Something exquisite like a special concert, you count the songs hoping this one won’t be the last and even if it is, you pray the encore will be good and long. We’ll be going home again, all too soon.
It’s just our perception because logically we know every minute has 60 seconds, every hour has 60 minutes and there are twenty-four hours in every day, seven days in a week and so on. Every minute is equal, I’m not telling you anything new here. And that seems like LOADS of time, doesn’t it?
It might be a useful indicator in your own small business to watch how time seems. What are you doing when it goes really quickly and what is that telling you? What makes time slow down and is there a lesson in that? What’s to be gained by getting up earlier in the morning when perhaps you might be fresher, or working longer hours into the evening when you’ve run out of time? Or is it the same difference really?
How do you divide up your day? Eight hours working, eight hours sleeping and eight hours leisure time? Or are you stealing from sleep and leisure to work longer for less?
The reason I ask these questions is because a lot of store is put by working SMARTer, but with only so many hours in a day what this often means is freeing up time by such mechanics as doubling your charge-out rate and halving your number of clients, weeding out the time-wasters and energy drains. Such a move takes a bold small business owner and with, financial times as they are right now, who is brave enough for that?
My own feeling is that time really is speeding up in the way I live my life now, and I have a sense that isn’t a good thing and that I might simply decide to allow it to slow back down again. Avoiding multi-tasking helps; one zen thing at a time, Sweet Jesus. Patience is another, meditation another, listening without speaking another.
I notice a TV programme that I used to love as a younger woman, which has a luxurious length of 2 hours, nowadays I find myself impatient long before the end despite it having the same fine qualities it always did. I’m thinking they could easily lose 30 minutes in a good brisk edit. And this is an indication simply that I am going too fast, not that the programme is going too slowly.
If I could turn back time, how would life be different? How could life be even sweeter?