“There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling, I had to believe whatever clocks said - and calendars.” - Billy Pilgrim, Slaughterhouse Five.
How many of us are slaves to time? How many of us feel like our clocks, calendars, and schedules run our lives, and not the other way around? Hold your hands high, please. In our modern world of 140 characters, emails on your phone, Whatsapp, Viber, Skype, etc. (does the Yo! app count?), it’s hard not to be over connected. It’s even harder not to be joined at the hip with your Google calendar or class schedule.
With our fast-paced lifestyles, its easy to forget little things like eating and sleeping. Even more, it becomes easy to forget the fundamentally important things in life: Why we are here, why we do what we do. The “why?”, as Simon Sinek famously proclaimed in his TED Talk. When we look at our calendars linearly, or look at the ticking hands of a clock, our lives are broken down into a whirlwind of fast-paced segments over which we have no control. Type this! Email that! Meet with her! Drive there! ...I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
What we should do, however, is view our lives not in ticking segments of a clock, but rather as a long and fulfilling journey, with an end-game in sight.
“Think with the end in mind,” Steven Covey preaches in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. What actions, taken today, tomorrow, a month, a year from now, will put us in a position to achieve our ultimate end goals? When we start to think like that - think with the end in mind - our slave-like relationships with our calendars start to make more sense. Even better, we start to live our lives with more intention, since our daily actions aren’t a whirlwind over which we have no control, but are premeditated tasks of our design.
Become unstuck in time, as Billy Pilgrim did in Kurt Vonnegut’s seminal book, Slaughterhouse Five. Don’t look at your calendar as a day-to-day occurrence of tasks; look at it as a roadmap of your life. What you do today should get you to where you want to be tomorrow. So it goes.
I’ve begun to adopt a strategy of looking at my calendar in week-long blocks and monthly goals. This way, I’m able to plan my weeks according to my workload and the things I want to accomplish, but at the same time I have the flexibility to move my schedule around as things come up (as they often do). Approaching it this way gives myself immediate calm in my day-to-day, because I know what’s ahead, I know what I need to get done, and most important, I know why I’m ultimately doing it.
And the trickle down effect is amazing. When you start to approach your work this way, it begins to change the way you approach life. You feel like you’re in the driver’s seat, and daily tasks become incrementally important rather than increasingly menial.
Embodying the concept of “becoming unstuck in time” means viewing your life holistically. It means staying present to the moment, but it also means being self-aware of where your future's headed. It means removing yourself from the daily minutia in an attempt to enjoy yourself, both where you are and where you’re going - wherever that may be.
Hey, they may be aliens, but Vonnegut’s Tralfamodorians put it best:
"There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love…are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.”