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How Did it Get So Late So Soon?
Or- Do not be a slave to time
The above song excerpt is from “Do not be a slave to time” by the Windborne Singers. Check them out!
There is a story of a small, curious boy who lived in a medieval town. Each day at noon, soldiers fired a ‘salute-shot’ (shot without a cannonball) to notify the peasants working in the fields to begin the mid-day break.
The curious boy wondered how the soldiers knew when it was exactly noon.
He went to the soldier who fired the cannon and asked him.
“I fire when the Corporal tells me,” The soldier said.
The boy asked the Corporal who pulled a pocket watch from his vest and showed it to him.
“But how do you know it’s accurate?” asked the boy.
“I set it each morning by the clock tower.”
And so, the boy went to the town’s watchmaker who was responsible for maintaining the clock in the tower, and asked how he knew the clock was accurate.
“I know it's accurate,” the watchmaker said, “because I set it each day at noon to the cannon.”
This story illustrates that while the passage of time is an inevitability, the measuring of it is a construct of our own making and meaning.
For our hunter-gatherer forebearers, the rising and setting of the sun were sufficient cues to start and end the day. But, once the Agricultural Revolution began it became necessary to maximize crop production by planting and harvesting at optimum times and to observe rituals dedicated to the gods who ensured the bounty.
Later, the Greeks, borrowing the Sumerian’s base-60 number system, divided the circle into 360 degrees and subdivided those degrees into 60 minutes (From the Latin minutus meaning ‘little part’) and the minutes into 60 seconds (From the Latin secunda pars minuta, the second diminished part) This system of minutes and seconds was transferred to the Egyptian-derived 24-hour day cycle, and it stuck.
But it was well past the days of the little boy and the town clock tower that people from disparate locations needed to agree on the time. With the Industrial Revolution came a need for workers to start shifts promptly to maximize production, and rail lines between towns required schedules to increase efficiency.
Today, most of us wear a smartwatch, carry a smartphone, a laptop, or an iPad, all set to the accuracy of the 9,192,631,770 cycles-per-second of the atomic clock, and we have productivity experts telling us to schedule our day in five-minute increments to maximize our time.
I am a fan of productivity and punctuality, but not a fan of cramming our days so full that we don’t have time to live.
I use a technique that Dr. Jason Selk and Tom Bartow recommend in their book, Organize Today Tomorrow. Each evening, make a list of the three most important things to accomplish the following day and, of those three, select the one ‘must accomplish’.
Prioritizing your top three requirements and selecting one that must be accomplished helps focus the time you do have to manage your priorities successfully without becoming a slave to the clock.
If it’s not on the list why are you spending time on it?
If it is on the list why aren’t you?
“It is comforting to think of life as a labyrinth with one clear path to the center. If we just keep going, we become the best version of ourselves, we find truth, we find our treasure. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the case.”
Think back over the past year and select the top five best times you’ve had. What ingredients did they all have in common?
Journal prompt: How can I do more of the things that make me feel that way?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this journal prompt.
“The world is bursting with wonder, and yet it’s the rare productivity guru who seems to have considered the possibility that the ultimate point of all our frenetic doing might be to experience more of that wonder.”
― Oliver Burkeman
Thanks for reading Think. Read. Write. Repeat. See you next Thursday!
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