Weekly Blog 5 - Of buckets and rivers

— 5 minute read

Sunday afternoon. Woke up from a nap just in time to hear the pitter patter of new rain. It is time to blog.

Last week was very hectic, with back-to-back work events and meetings, with administrative hurdles to jump over and dance around in between. A writing deadline that gets closer every day, yet no time or energy to do much but worry about it. It was Monday morning, and suddenly it was Friday night at 11pm, and I found myself pounding furiously on my computer trying to stop work from overflowing into my weekend. I succeeded, but only barely.

This is not a complaint about work per se, since there are slow weeks and there are busy weeks - but more about experiencing time in general. If effective time management is about making time buckets and pouring in productivity as fast as I carefully can, I think I managed time fairly well last week.

But somewhere at the back of my head I found myself thinking, I don’t want to manage time. I want to live time. So what if I manage time effectively? Filling up all those time buckets, making smaller buckets to fit into the gaps and filling those up too, minutes, hours, days. Moving those buckets down the conveyor belt, so that I can fill up more buckets. When the day’s work is done, my overstimulated brain continues to fill the buckets up with muddy screen time to escape from the guilt of running away from life admin and cleaning tasks.

What’s the point?

The metaphor of time buckets does not have to be the case, because time can also be a river. Here’s a quote from Leonardo da Vinci that I go back to from time to time:

“The water that you touch in a river is the last of that which has passed, and the first of that which is coming. Thus it is with time present. Life, if well spent, is long.”

The problem is I don’t know exactly how to parse this - how does a well spent life look like? How does it connect to time as a river? Is it a metaphor for a flow state? Did Leonardo ever wonder about how to walk the middle path of being efficient and having slack, and is that how one lives a well spent long life?

Second day, 6:30am. I was half asleep when a thought came to me, on the problem of time as river and time as buckets. A feeling that maybe I’m looking at the wrong direction, and the answer might lie in somewhere else, something that I had already considered before. Then it came to me - something that I used to think about before when trying to figure out the point of art - the importance of focusing on the process, and not the outcome.

Maybe it’s not about whether time is seen as discrete (buckets) or continuous (river), or the volume of productivity that you’re trying to fit into time. Maybe the emptiness that I am feeling on task accomplishment is precisely because that’s all they were, accomplishing tasks, achieving KPIs, making sure that I don’t fuck up anything. Most of the focus was to get to the next thing, to get through the day, pretty much fast-forwarding and pre-orchestrating everything in my head. Swimming as fast as I could to get to the other side of the day, the other side of the week. Disassociating.

I mean thinking about it, it’s also because of the volume of things that I’m trying to fit in. Without much slack in the processes it also means that there’s less room for error and the stress level goes up. And definitely no time for enjoying the process really. The clouds in the blue sky and the shimmering waves in this metaphorical sea that I am swimming in? Seriously lah. Eyes on the goal, keep swimming straight. We are in the business of surviving here.

What to do? Maybe nothing to do - just weather through this period of time, knowing that it’s not going to always be like that, and to remain ever aware about the status of my brain and my heart. Meditation as a strategy will be important, of bringing back the association to the present moment.

I’m not great at prioritisation and cutting things down but it’s something that has to be done too.

Case in point: I’m on leave today but I have already made back-to-back plans from 9am all the way up till 9pm. Meeting three people, bringing two to yoga classes and the third for lunch. A medical appointment. In the morning I woke up to find that the leaking toilet that I thought I had fixed is still leaking, and now I’ve turned off the water source until I can find a solution. I was supposed to clean the laundry area of cat litter before going to yoga, but I’m blogging, trying to finish this post before I have to leave.

Now that I’ve typed that out, with 15 minutes to spare before I have to go out - the full extent of the absurdity is laid out in front of my eyes.

Gotta do better, gotta do less. Gotta go.