"Play Now Or Pay Later" is the essential message of my book Serious Play. As a bonafide workaholic I wrote the piece as therapy. I guess I felt guilty or at least unbalanced after having concentrated for so long on the topic of work. You know the story, always on fast forward and unable to find the play button.
I don't need to point out the benefits of attending to your leisure. However, it might be worth noting that taking your leisure more seriously will pay off in your professional life as well. Carl McDaniels stated it well when he observed that it is through play that we first discover our talents. Dick Bolles gave this concept a poetic lift when he wrote in the introduction to my book: "Leisure, then, is a mirror where our inner nature stands most revealed." The work-leisure connection is a vein worth exploring by both career counselors and career changers.
I will share with you some material from AUTHORING YOUR DAYS In Journals And Personal Portfolios.. The excerpted material includes background information and journal exercises for enhancing your awareness of time and how you use it. This material is from Chapter 2--Guided Reflections For Living And Learning.
I am always interested in getting feedback about my ideas. Please E-mail me your reaction at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber's book The Art of Time details how people today get more done, but with less satisfaction. He and others note how we confuse quantity of things done with quality of experience enjoyed. Servan-Schreiber writes, "We now tend to simply do nothing thoroughly, we just try to do more of it."
Not only is the day slammed into fast-forward, entire weeks and months seem to be speeding out of control. Look across a lifetime, you'll find that people today live through more episodes than earlier generations. We change jobs, partners, locations, families, houses. Because our experiences have become so fragmented, many people possess a heightened sense of time being compressed, as well as a generic feeling of overload. Our day is scheduled into tiny blocks on a calendar. Time--cut up into small fractional parts--which zip by at computer driven speeds. We want to unwind, even rewind to the past, as we desperately search for the "pause" or "play" buttons.
Eventually, we arrive at the point where we lose the ability to concentrate, and we shift our focus to the completion of tasks or the "doing of life." As a result, we are unable to enjoy slow, reflective, personal moments. We make decisions in a flash, reacting rather than pondering and planning. Perhaps, the quickened life allows a chance to escape the reality of things we cannot change.
Many experts believe that until we become more conscious of the pace at which we live, we will never be able to slow down and control our pace. The first step in awareness begins with the realization that clocks, and their mechanical approach to organizing time, are a relatively recent experience in the human story. The first clocks appeared in the 13th century medieval towers and only had one hand. These clock towers were simply used as signaling devices, primarily calling people to work and special events. With only an hour hand or the position of the sun, people regulated their affairs by more organic cycles such as the sun, moon, seasons, or their own personal events.
The widespread use of clocks coincided with the emergence of industrial society and its need for precision timing. Suddenly, officials of the new order challenged the leisurely pace which began with the Greek's adoration of leisure and play and extended to the idyllic and festival filled life of the Medieval peasant and townspeople. Plato and Aristotle saw work as a means and play as the end. They felt you could learn more about a person in an hour of play than an entire lifetime of work. The Greek word schole became our word school, and it represents the enlightenment one achieves through play or leisure.
The Middle Ages was a time of subsistence farming. When you earned enough you simply stopped working, went off on a hunt, headed for the tavern, or sat idle before a hearth or pasture.
But the new class of factory owners had a different agenda. The early industrialists and manufacturers tried to keep machines busy twenty four hours a day, they equated time with money. A whole new work force had to be created and disciplined to clock time. The notion of a fixed amount of time for work and alternate time for non-work or free time emerged.
It is interesting to note that the concept of "free time" did not exist prior to industrial clock time. The early clock with a single hour hand was no longer enough. All hours were not equal in this kind of society; some were more important, others sacred. On a busy day full of commerce or work, time flew by, but time slowed down when tending to animals in idyllic pastures.
Our reliance on clocks or mechanical time has deceived us into thinking that an entire day can be divided up into 1440 equally spaced intervals, called minutes. To free ourselves from this myth, we must remind ourselves that the notion of "free time" and the concept of a regimented work week followed by a weekend are both modern inventions--and not necessarily improvements! In fact, today everyone has a watch, but no one has the time!
Once you realize that a clock is simply a signaling device, and that each person experiences time uniquely, then you are on your way to understanding the human or subjective nature of time. To help you get back in touch with non-mechanical, non-clock time, remove your watch. Then try the following exercises which will help you renew your fellowship with human time. Perhaps in the end, you'll come to see that clocks are only signaling devices; and we are the timekeepers.
Perhaps, you can learn how to slow down the pace, stop trying to make every minute count and rid yourself of worrying about "wasting time." Time can neither be created nor destroyed; therefore, it really cannot be wasted. Time can only be experienced. And by carefully choosing the experiences, you change your perception of time itself.
Everything seems to take place in time, but what is this ephemeral thing we call "time"? Is all time the same? Certainly time at work feels different from time spent on vacation. Are we victims of a mechanical or industrial time? Can workaholics change their lifestyles by changing their perception of time?
Exercise #19: Examining Attitudes And Values Towards Time
Just as we grow up with attitudes towards work, we also inherit attitudes about leisure time. These attitudes have much to do with our daily pace, our relationship with time, and our perception of time itself. This exercise will help you become more conscious of the forces which have shaped your attitudes about time, and your current way of using time.
The way we use time often expresses our innermost values. Once we decide
that the use or abuse of free time is important, we then tend to use our
leisure moments more consciously or in a more fulfilling way. While we may
not increase the amount of free time, we can improve the quality of our free
moments by choosing to spend them in ways that more closely align with our
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