Category Archives: time

Hours fall off the clock

I may need to reinforce some limits around my writing time, allowing myself just an hour each day. At least while I am still working full time in clinical research. I can lose literally hours off the clock when I am researching or writing on a topic that interests me, and I get to play with words, ideas and stories.

This week I am at a regional work meeting in Belgium and I am called upon social with my colleagues. I enjoy the opportunity to meet 1:1 or in small groups and have face-to-face conversations with those I usually interact with via phone or email. However all of the initial small-talk required when meeting so many new people drains my energy.

It occurs to me that maybe my soul is asking for a more minimalist approach to work networking and people-time, and this is another reason I am bringing this current phase of work to a close by September.

melting clocks

One of my favorite Salvador Dali pieces – photo credit link

I feel at my best when I am doing “deep work” which involves thinking, reading, writing and synthesizing research. I still intend to make time for teaching, offering workshops and facilitating small group meetings. But my best ideas and most productive periods seem to emerge after periods of luxurious solitude and reflection.

This summer I am planning for 4-6 weeks off starting in August/September, if I can make it work between work “ventures.” Let’s see if I can honor that and keep the personal and family budget discipline it will require to make this break happen without undue stress.

I know if I declare this intention in writing, there is a higher likelihood I can make it happen. I am not as good at having accountability to others (it can sometimes cause me to rebel), but I tend to be better at honoring my word to myself.

What makes you lose hours off the clock? Do you have a creative practice or hobby that, when you start working on it, causes you to lose all track of time? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

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Constraint

In this big, wide world with so many channels, choices and chatter, it can be hard to find our focus and stick to one main goal. I really struggle with this intention. I like to take on a lot of new things, but then sometimes I find that they “pile up” and start to crowd my life, in a way.

I generally try to put a constraint around things like the blog, for example. I give myself a limited amount of time each morning 30-45 minutes, to write the content. Sometimes if I am looking for photos to add, it can take up to an hour. But I try to make sure there is a limit. I could literally spend hours writing if I allowed it (and maybe someday I will), but I have a “regular” job. At least today that’s what allows me to pay my bills and not strangle my creativity by trying to make it pay.

As I near my 200th post (this Saturday!) I am considering whether to impose another constraint, to help me focus on larger projects that have been scratching at my consciousness. Since October 1st I have been posting daily here. Sunday is a haiku and it is short and sweet, though I cannot always resist 2 or 3 verses. And Saturday has become a blog share day, to pass along some love to other blogs I have discovered and enjoyed. So in a way, I already imposed some constraints that helped me find writing rhythm in my week.

I truly enjoy this daily ritual, writing whatever I happen to be thinking about each morning. So I hesitate to pull it back. It has given me structure and focus, and even when I have had to travel for work, I planned ahead and made sure to plan short posts sometimes scheduled for while I would actually be on an airplane.

There is a little thrill when we hit the “publish” button (do you get that too?) and our work goes out into the world. Even though I try not to get caught up with how many “likes” or “views” any particular piece has, I sometimes do consider it. Truly it fascinates me, which topics resonate with people, not always predictable and often a surprise for me.

Now that I have had some time to develop a regular writing practice, though, I strive for a bit more focus on some longer and “meatier” pieces, perhaps to submit to publications. I told my husband: I have a book in me (or three) and I would like to consider whether that is my ultimate goal. I sense a transition in my own creativity, and may need to constrain one area of my writing, so I can generate greater focus on another part. So again I toy with a frequency that will work for me.

When I imagine cutting back to once a week, as many bloggers do, I get this “muzzled” feeling which I do not like. I then consider 3 or 4 times a week as a reasonable limit. It allows for me to get my blog “fix” and generate some short(ish) pieces as warm-up writing and to keep myself loose. But it also allows for those other mornings when I can assign the time to a few project ideas that are longer and more involved, that require some editing and polishing.

Are there areas in your life where you recognize constraint helps you focus? Do you struggle as much as I do when you first consider cutting something out to make room for other things? I would love to hear about your experiences with this in the comments.

Open 25 hours

There is a store I encountered as I walked Saturday in Buenos Aires, a pharmacy that is open all the time. Usually we see an “open 24 hours” sign. But what is the meaning of 25 hours?

It got my attention attention right away. I only have 24 hours in a day, how can they give us 25?

open25hs.jpg

Chain of drugstores in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I started contemplating time, and that fact that we only have 24 hours in a day. What if we could manufacture another hour, and we had an extra hour? Those of us who cope with twice annual time changes, may experience this once a year, when we gain that extra hour in the fall. But we trade that hour in the Spring, when we lose it, and mess up our circadian rhythms… They don’t do that shit here. Enlightened, perhaps. Not sure, I am biased on that one.

So why 25 hours? I think the underlying message is: we strive to go beyond. We strive to give you more than your “share” of what you expect. Or at least that is how I choose to interpret it.

I love this beautiful ambition of the Argentinian people, a quintessential American trait, to dare to try for more. They want to go beyond, and they push the boundaries of what is possible right now, they want to achieve more than your expectations. There is a sense of ambition, creativity and magic that I feel when I visit South America. I also feel this in Mexico, but it is distinctly different, I realize. Perhaps because Mexico sits in the shadow of the United States, and many people aspire to go to “el norte” there is a different sense of expectation of one’s lot in life.

cafe and croissant

Cafe con leche y medialuna – brunch on Saturday.

Y’all know that I have an ongoing romance with Mexico. She is part of me, that nation. But I feel similar love for the people of Argentina as well. Sure, they can be a little snobby about their wine, their steak and their coffee. They are not wrong! They are delicious!

A colleague/physician and his wife took me out for dinner on Friday. I’m embarrassed to admit I am never this generous with my personal time on “date night” with work-related guests. That’s a part of the Latino culture, generous hospitality, and I am deeply grateful to have been “embedded” here since I started traveling for work ~9 years ago. We had a marvelous time, and despite my introvert self sometimes balking at these sorts of invitations, I am so glad I accepted.

Maybe it was a “hail mary” pass to me, since I have already confessed to that colleague that I plan to leave the team in 3-6 months. Or maybe it was a joy to invite me into his “family,” since we have known each other for over 10 years. He and his wife had their first grandchild almost a year ago, and they recently reunited after a 6-year separation. He has always treated me as a daughter figure. Even though he has made decisions that resulted in bad consequences for our team at times, I know he meant no harm.

olympics obelisk

Isn’t it funny how many cities have their phallic symbols? This obelisk was taken near the symbol of the Youth Olympic Games which will take place here in October 2018.

His team is sometimes afraid to say no to him, or to tell the whole truth of a situation. They may fear the consequence of standing up for themselves, or maybe since he is a physician, there is extra deference. I get it. This takes courage! A lot of courage, especially when it is your boss who doesn’t get it. I practice this myself also.

We may try to manufacture an extra hour to get something done, but the optimism is not enough. It is at best a valiant attempt to meet the challenge, do our best under the circumstances. At worst, it is a cover for what is lacking in our skills, intentions or capacity. Then the best thing to do is surrender to the truth of the situation, and find a way out.

It is not easy, to stop meeting those demands, striving for more. But we must wake up to the reality that human beings have limits, and that striving must be balanced with rest. Yang (active) energy requires yin (restful) energy to regenerate.

There are only 24 hours in a day. A third of them I will sleep, and the rest I will spend on what is important to me, including time to recharge and reflect. 25 hours is a nice fantasy, but we have enough hours every day to do what is necessary. If we stay present to our life, we have exactly what we need.