Over the weekend, my family, including my 88-year-old father, went to see Race, about four-time Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens. While the acting is uneven and the plot lacking in any real suspense, it was still powerful to see a dramatized version of Owen’s courage, hard work, and great gifts at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Owens knew that in order to win, he had to begin each race with his head down, in order to take advantage of body mechanics and maximal focus. Keeping one’s head down, at the beginning of any journey, seems like good advice. Set up your “blocks,” go internal, and be ready for the gun. You will “run” fully erect, be able to check your competition, and take in the crowd. At the start, however, you focus on the ground and your own ability to propel forward. Usain Bolt (see above), a current Olympic champion from Jamaica, will coach you through a 100 meter race. His words are metaphorical prodding for one of your own dreams. Even though Bolt starts slow, he tells us, by the last ten meters, he knows he will be the winner. So will you.
I love the Pomodoro Technique, a time management strategy designed to improve mental performance. Here is how it works. Before you begin a work project, set an intention. Set a timer for twenty-five minutes. Begin. Keep a piece of paper ready for any to dos that may distract. Stay focused on your intention. After the buzzer rings, take a break for five minutes. Dance. Jump around. Snack. Repeat the Pomodoro work-break cycle three more times. At the end of the fourth cycle, take a twenty to thirty minute break.
The Pomodoro Technique staves off procrastination, inspiring anyone who tries it to just get started and just get finished. The Technique trains the body and mind to yield to distraction. I include the link to this method because you may wish to go deeper into the practice.
If a colleague says “I’ll meet you at the end of the day,” you might think he or she means at the typical end of a work day. If your partner says the same thing, perhaps she or he means right before bedtime. More often than not, however, “at the end of the day” has become a figurative statement that inhabits no real time or space. It is used, instead, to lend authority or emphasis to a particular belief or perspective. You will hear analysts and critics say “at the end of the day, so and so is the better candidate.” While some think their words become dressed up by the phrase, I think it is a tedious conversation filler, about as useful as “you know,” “er-uh,” or “interesting.” It says nothing.
Because of its overuse, “at the end of the day” is a phrase that has become an annoying cliche. Others have noticed too, calling the phrase, “rubbish,a “tired cliche,” and an “irritating verbal crutch.” Now you will hear this phrase “at the end of the day” too. It is meant to lend greater credibility to the speaker. Instead, it only puffs hot air.
Larks & Owls
Surely you have heard about these two birds. You are one or the other, depending upon what time of day you are most awake.
Many of us find ourselves sleeping (or restless) alongside a bird of a different feather. While people tell researchers they prefer sleeping beside another person each night—dyadic sleep –they also relate the troubles of being with someone who has a wildly different internal clock. One stays up late to watch television or futz around on a screen. The other gets up at 4 AM to drink coffee or meditate. Couples stop spending waking hours together. They begin to drift apart.
Gentle reader, stop blaming your internal clocks for a lack of connection. How we relate to time can become a dangerous alibi for a lack of effort. Children. Work. Community. Family. All may get in the way of intimacy. Owls, if you once loved that lark, you can find a way to reconnect during the day. Larks, stay up a little later to watch a movie, until you fall asleep.
An assignment for the week ahead:
Start small. Connect with your co-sleeper, when you are both awake. e.g. a brief conversation, physical touch, sweet text, brushing teeth.
I love counting down to zero, as the New Year’s Eve ball drops from the sky. This ritual always summons a new energy to address entrenched challenges. Counting down to possibility should be enough as I transition into 2016. But instead of playing with all that is possible, I often become tethered to resolve. This first week of January has me (and others) in the frenetic and boastful proving ground of New Year’s resolutions.
Lasting change occurs when we marry resolve to the actualities of our everyday lives. That’s why I am going to wait a month before I make my New Year’s resolutions. I will have the energy of the New Year to imagine that change is possible. I will observe who I am. Then, I will commit. The shiny New Year’s ball just dropped. I am going to play with it for a while.
For the week ahead:
Each day, write down one thing you did with your New Year energy.
At midnight, I will lose access to my email account. I graduated. I have a new institutional affiliation. My subsequent fretting about this loss, I suppose, comes from very basic fears related to this transition. How will people find me? Who do I need to update? But instead of responding to these concerns, I have decided to close my eyes and let go.
Well, not really. You see, I have amassed 9,000 emails in my inbox. O my digital hoarding ways. Time management gurus say only handle a piece of paper once, which certainly must apply to an email as well. I have turned my inbox into a big pile of possibly, but hardly ever, useful information. So, in the final hours of my account, I am deleting it all and I am surrendering. Suddenly, I feel the urge to tidy other parts of my life.
An assignment for the week ahead:
What can you delete from your life?
If you are a “slow test-taker,” exam week can be hell. As someone who was once flummoxed by standardized tests but excelled at expository writing (at my own pace), I have sympathy. College and university campuses allow a “slow test-taker” diagnosis but it means a student must take the exam at the disability resources or services office. So, many students choose not to seek this diagnosis. They figure it is time to buck up. I don’t think students should have to acquire this diagnosis to meet their potential. They just need a little more time to finish. As a professor, I tell my students to slow down and turn in the exam when they are truly done.
In a three-hour exam period, no “slow test-taker” has ever exceeded the time limit by more than an hour. And, I am always prepared to stay longer. Setting your own pace should not be treated as a disability. Instead, I encourage all of my colleagues to let students cross the finish line on their own terms. I realize such generosity of time is not always possible. But when it is, do it.
Your assignment for the week ahead:
How can you alleviate the anxiety of time for someone else?