Friday, September 05, 2014

To Savor Time, Be Aware Of It

I've written before about how I use the Pomodoro Technique for my work.  What may be less obvious is how I use the Pomodoro Technique for savoring life as well.  Splitting my life into 20-minute increments is as useful at home as it is at the office.

For example, it's very easy for me to let my attention drift on Fridays evenings and weekends.  After all, it's my time "off".  Yet if I spend the weekend on aimless pleasantness rather than with a purpose, I feel dissipated and vaguely guilty when Sunday evening rolls around.

Spending endless hours on Cracked and TV Tropes is certainly fun, and arguably educational.  But the way that "I'll just take a quick peek while I drink a glass of water" can turn into a multi-hour binge leaves me feeling like a man acted upon rather than a man of action.

In contrast, using 20-minute Pomodoros to punctuate my free time forces me to be intentional about how I'm spending my time, and what I'm buying with it.  Every 20 minutes, I force myself to think about how I would like to have spent my time (which, by the way, is different from thinking about how I would like to spend my time).

In his essay, "The Mercy of Sickness Before Death," writer and critic D.G. Myers writes about the mercy he finds in having terminal cancer and knowing that he will soon be dead:
"If you are ignorant of the suffering that awaits you when you are first diag­nosed, you are equally ignorant of the changes that cancer will work in your thinking and emotional life, some of which may even be improve­ments in old habits of thought and feeling.

You may, for instance, become more conscious of time. What once might have seemed like wastes of time—a solitaire game, a television show you would never have admitted to watching, the idle poking around for useless information—may become unex­pected sources of joy, the low-key celebrations of being alive. The difference is that when you are conscious of choosing how to spend your time, and when you discover that you enjoy your choices, they take on a meaning they could never have had before.

You no longer waste or mark time. You fill it, because now you can see the brim from where you are lying."
I want to fill my time.  And I'd rather not wait until I'm diagnosed with a terminal illness.  Using tools to make me more conscious of the passage of time and how I'm spending it helps me savor that expenditure.

P.S. Hat tip to Russ Roberts and EconTalk for bringing Myers and his essay to my attention.

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