It always amazes me when I think about what we all do with the same 24 hours. There are SOOOO many ways to fill our time and everyone chooses a different selection.
The online content alone – articles, video, social media – could fill up your day if you let it. You could be informed or entertained every second with all the information out there.
But life doesn’t exist only onscreen. The more important aspects of life are those day-to-day elements that make up your real life, such as your family and friends. Then there’s your work (which hopefully you enjoy), your personal maintenance (such as making healthy eating choices and taking care of your body) and your lifestyle maintenance (such as paying bills, cleaning your house, taking your car in for an oil change).
One of my favorite stories is the one where the teacher fills up a jar with golf balls, pebbles, sand and chocolate milk. There are different versions of this story, but here’s one I like:
It’s a beautiful concept and a reminder to focus on your priorities.
Accounting of time
Sometimes a certain theme gets in my head and it seems to make regular appearances at different moments. These past few weeks, it’s been about the accounting of time.
It all started with the High Holidays, which fell in September this year. It’s a time when you reflect on the past year and think about what you should change for the next year. The second day of Rosh Hashanah fell on Sept. 11, a day where we are reminded how precious life is and how quickly one day can change everything. That evening, we went to the Tempe Healing Field 9/11 Memorial, which displays an American flag for every person who died that day.
As we walked among the rows of flags, I thought about how many lives were changed on 9/11 – not only those whose lives ended, but for all their loved ones who were affected. How are we using the precious time we are allotted? What contributions can we make to the world while we’re here and how will we be remembered?
Thank you for being late
As I mentioned in a previous post, I often go the library and check out books or audiobooks that catch my attention as I wander through the aisles. Most recently it was Thomas Friedman’s “Thank you for Being Late.” At first it caught my eye because I feel like I’m always rushing around trying to not be late for something. The full name of the book is “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations” so I was curious to learn the optimistic way to look at being late.
Basically, what Mr. Friedman was saying was that he is glad when somebody is late for a meeting because that gives him an unplanned opportunity to think. We are often so busy trying to get things done, that it’s rare to just have a moment to sit and think.
I’m only on the second CD of the 16-CD set, so there’s a lot more information to come, but I’m really enjoying it so far. One of the things he mentioned was that technology is advancing faster than the human brain can adapt.
I remember one of the first companies I worked at out of college had a fax machine and the idea that you could put a piece of paper in a machine in one city and have that information come out of a fax machine in a different city seemed amazing. Now technology allows for us to have real-time video phone calls as we sit outside, invite people to share documents on our computer, save our files and photos in “the cloud,” etc.
Instead of Microsoft Word on one computer – which seemed miraculous compared to the typewriter I used in high school – I now use Google Drive so I can share documents with others and access them from different devices, including my phone. That’s completely changed the way I work. And what would we do without GPS or Internet searches now? Go back to Thomas Guides or searching for information on microfiche at the library? How primitive. What was once new and thrilling is now outdated and undesirable.
The invention of air conditioning
For the past few months, I’ve been teaching a monthly current events discussion at a local senior center. I feel like I learn so much from those who attend.
For instance, Betty, one of the regular attendees, who just turned 100 last week, told me that when she was a young girl growing up in Phoenix, they used to sleep outside during the summer nights because they didn’t have air conditioning. During monsoon season, they would gather their blankets and run inside if it started raining. Nancy, who also grew up in Phoenix, recalled that when people started moving from the East Coast and complained about the weather, Phoenicians scoffed at that complaint, because the hot weather was just part of living in the desert and they’d just have to get used to it.
But instead of getting used to it, they installed air conditioning.
I’m very appreciative to the person who invented air conditioning. (Thank you, Willis Carrier, even if you invented it to control humidity in the printing plant where you worked and not for human comfort. Us Phoenicians still appreciate it.)
One of the regulars, Al, 92, told me that he feels like he was born at the wrong time because he sees how much knowledge young kids have access to these days and he wishes he could have had all that knowledge at his fingertips.
My kids don’t even realize how amazing it is to have all that information so easily accessible to them because that’s all they know – instant access to so many things.
And yet, sometimes I miss those simpler times without all this technology in our everyday lives. Have our lives improved with all this technology? Is it better that we come home from work and continue working? Is having this access 24-7 always a good thing? Are we any wiser now that we have access to so much knowledge?
Contents of the jar
Have I come to any conclusions over these past few weeks about how to spend my time?
At this stage in my life, our schedule is pretty dependent on the kids’ schedules – school, days off school, after-school activities, family-friendly events, birthday party chauffeur, etc. Our faith is pretty dominant in our jar, too – observing Shabbat on Friday nights, celebrating holidays, etc. Other family members are also a top priority and we try to see them as often as we can.
Good health is important – we eat pretty healthy but I could really do better about exercising. Sometimes if I have a choice between getting work done or exercise, I do work, which may not always be the best choice. My flexible work schedule allows me to prioritize my children’s schedules, but sometimes it’s a challenge to stop working to get other things done, like exercise or going through that pile of papers on my desk. I feel fortunate to be doing work that I find meaningful and grateful that I have the flexibility so I feel obligated to always be doing more.
Those are the things that take up most of my time, in addition to doing laundry, washing dishes and trying to keep the house presentable. (Notice I said “trying to.”) I don’t get together with friends as often as I’d like. We don’t attend as many community events or lectures or performances as we used to – unless they are kid-friendly and not too expensive. I’m amazed at the amount of activities that are out there and how so many people find the time to do them!
The one thing that I do make time for in this busy schedule is writing – both blogging and songwriting. For blogging, I simply sit down and write, usually after the kids go to bed, and for songwriting I often sing the melodies and work out the lyrics in the car during my commute and pick up the guitar to work on the music in short bursts of time (usually interrupted although my songs are under 3 minutes long). I’ve been attending a monthly songwriting workshop for about 1 1/2 years or so that I also make a priority to attend, although I have missed a few.
In the analogy of the jar above, I guess blogging and writing songs are my pebbles, I try to fit those in as often as I can. I want to say that exercise is a pebble, but it’s more like sand these days. The house cleaning is definitely the sand, although I do feel like I sweep quite a bit.
How do you count online time?
I’m not sure how to categorize the time I spend online. I’m on the computer for many hours every day for work – answering emails, doing research, posting on social media. I also get the majority of my news online and often from social media sites.
When you think about how the Internet has changed our world, it’s pretty incredible. Instead of reading the newspaper at home by myself and then calling a friend to chat like days of yesteryear, I’ll peruse Facebook and Twitter for the news of the day, send a friend a birthday wish, like another friend’s vacation photos. I know many details of acquaintances’ lives even though I haven’t personally talked to them in 20 years. I know more about their lives then I know about the people I work with and see regularly that don’t post on Facebook. It’s all pretty strange when you really think about it.
Is there a conclusion?
I can’t say for sure that there’s a conclusion because things are always changing. When somebody, G-d forbid, has a health issue, priorities quickly change and everything that once was a priority becomes less important. Somehow you find time to take care of those things.
What we can do, however, is be aware of how we spend our time and try not to waste it. And also remember the important lesson the professor says in the video at the top of this post: “No matter how busy your life may seem, there’s always room for chocolate.”