Timing is a glass half full/half empty circumstance. It’s easy, lazy, to default to saying that timing is not my thing. I’ve been told timing is not my thing, by more than a couple folks. Early in my post-college career I was fortunate to have a client chastise me for my perpetual tardiness. It wasn’t fun at the time, but it eventually had a positive effect on my behavior, so I’m thankful.
There have been a lot of instances, more than I can count, where my poor timing—by luck, lapses in awareness, or in the absence of simple acts of planning—has obliterated potentially significant moments. Those moments still burn.
Using the glass half-full framework, I’ve had moments of extraordinarily brilliant life-saving timing. I imagine most people have a relatively balanced scorecard of timing “wins” and “losses” (going black-and-white here for simplicity).
When it comes to managing time, behavior usually overshadows circumstance. Again, planning and budgeting time provide an illusion of control.
Chronological time is only the half of it, Sarge
I’m a simpleton, so I’ll keep the monologue about my philosophy of time simple, as it relates to responsibilities of citizenhood. I like how some ancient Greeks articulated a split notion of time.
Learning the Greek differentiation between chronos and kairos have helped, someone seemingly, hopelessly at times, time-challenged like me, to put time in a more natural perspective. When a schedule has some breathing room, respecting if not obeying the distinction bares benefits. Chronos is chronological time, the ticking of seconds. Kairos, to paraphrase, is doing a thing at the right time to do that thing. Having an awareness for the latter has made a difference. The former as meta-timing, played against life events, and plans or lack thereof has skewered me more than I’d like to admit.
Since our species has agreed to involuntarily conform to the chronos model, tardiness to a commitment with another can be deeply disrespectful. I get that. I hate being late. It’s awful. The internal guilt churns within, never quite to reach butterdom. The role of social graces and communication, and the calculus for tardiness-to-annoyance factor is a tangent I’ll spare. In short, I’m not offended by lateness given a touch of communication, but again I’ve been around when bombs have gone off that I’ve lit, as well as that others have lit.
Kairos offers a model for self respect when it comes to timing. When a latent internal need presents itself as ready, it’s only with chronological space and self respect that we can nourish that need by listening to the voice within to let the thing find its form.
There’s a right time for doing x, y, and z. When x thing is ready to materialize, it will. As a messenger, the job becomes to shelter the message from time-based threats.
All of this leads to that effervescent thing known as the Now. The Big N. The subject matter of Eckhart Tolle.
Being effective in the Now
As it’s often said, one can’t change the past or control the future. All we have is the present. Regardless of what a schedule drills one to do and when it must be done, at some point, being in the present obscures appointments and durations. One’s appointment with the present is perpetual. No Outlook invitation necessary. No alerts, bings, dings, or church bells. Dive right in, the water’s delightful.
The present can be scary. There’s nothing to hold on to. No training wheels. Just the gravity of naked action. Something has to happen. Or it doesn’t.
Expectations can be met. Or missed. Or rendered immediately irrelevant. Being open to the moment is opportunistic in the most positive sense. The messenger within is alert to organic flows of stimuli and information. I think art comes from this place. A kind of art that we all practice, whether mediated or not. Creative output. Writing. Drawing. Photography. Conversation. Negotiation. Comedy. Counseling. Music. Performance. The list goes on and on.
I’m humbled by time, and the futility of trying to manage it. I work in a business, like most, that has deadlines. Deadlines are essential. When they are. (They’re often artificial.) Deadlines necessitate that inconvenience known as time management. (lynda.com Time Management Fundamentals course here I come, going to finally finish that one). So, as much as I feel pressured to wrangle time, I am equally liberated to let go of time, and leave air around times (opportunities for self-respecting discovery) like the early am hours—as well as purely random sporadic bursts of inspiration, at random times like 10:16am, or 2:37pm, or 8:42pm—to let latent ideas find their form.
We’d like you to go back
to the place where you left off.
I know deadlines are
a horrible sort of nuisance…
but we would need to
move on this immediately.
Right. Well, let me think about it.
We’re usually not solicitous,
“High Art,” Lisa Cholodenko, 1998
Anybody respect a deadline any more?
“The Paper,” David Koepp, Stephen Koepp, 1994
Sorry, there’s no great payoff for the advertised implied suite of “inconveniences” except that there are potentially a million inconveniences that will eat time, and perhaps more importantly, energy. Until there’s none left, and little to show for. If allowed, inconveniences can dilute spirit, enthusiasm, and drive. Time has many relations and competitors. Health, lackthereof… Money, lackthereof. Natural disasters. Other stuff. Outside the inconveniences, time is relatively malleable to desires and conventions.
Many time-related inconveniences are fabricated (the aforementioned deadlines, and their cousins, schedules and timelines). What’s usually more productive is to observe and respect continuity, and the forward-moving fluidity of time, to move forward with a grace and intention, to experience stellar (as in stars and stuff) peace. My goal is to be a creative messenger, I’m not sure how to do that if I don’t embrace continuity and stay opportunistically receptive and open—effective in the Now. That’s my humble job.