Personal development advice: Is time finite or infinite?

Hourglass_Lisboa_Tomb Jamcelsus at lb.wikipedia

According to personal development writer Gemma Rose the great leveller is not just a container to fill up, but a present to enjoy.

It’s quite ironic that I’m finding the time to write about the concept of time when I really have very little time to do it in. That is the beauty of time: it can stretch to accommodate you or tighten to spite you; the hours can race by yet the minutes can drag on. My favourite feeling of time is during the first few days of a holiday. Time seems to expand beyond measure, allowing me to savour every moment. Alas! After two days, time seems to quicken and the days melt into one. Soon enough, I’m home, wondering if I had ever been away.

I want to believe that I have more time than I actually have: that I can comfortably work 40 hours a week while pursuing my writing career on the side; as well as be a loving partner, sociable friend, caring daughter and sister. It should be possible according to an American time management guru, Laura Vanderkam: if you work 40 hours a week and sleep 8 hours a day, you then have 168 hours left in the week to fit in what she calls “the good stuff”.

Here are a couple of her tips:

First, keep track of how you use your time. By logging time use, you can identify where you are wasting time and cull the activity (e.g. Facebook stalking).

Secondly, reward yourself with fun for saving time on the not-so-fun stuff.

Thirdly, organise a launching pad: a place in your home where you can easily take your bags/coats/items for the day and run out the door.

Vanderkam purposely focuses on 168 free hours of the week, and not a number of free hours per day. This allows you to remain flexible with your free time if other things get in the way, like working late one evening.

I remain sceptical of this advice, partly due to the biggest culprit in the picture: the 40-hour working week. Actually, the working week becomes much more than 40 hours once you factor in commuting, skipping lunch break, and staying late. Irrespective of whether the job is enjoyable or not, it’s probably also draining; so by the time you come home, you probably want to veg out in front of the telly. And don’t get me started on the time spent on the chores, childcare and family discord that inevitably arises out of the working week. A while back, I read an interview with a reputable German divorce lawyer, who, as a result of her work, was convinced that the 40-hour working week was partly responsible for the breakup of marriages.