“I’m in a hurry to get things done. Oh, I rush and rush until
life’s no fun. All I gotta do is live and die, but I’m in
a hurry and don’t know why.” ~ Alabama
“Gov-mint do take a bite, don’t she.” ~Payroll Employee in
I’m halfway through Lent, and I can honestly say I’ve been
a good boy. I haven’t stared at a single Facebook or Instagram post,
though my so-called friends keep tempting me with text threads that say,
“You’ve been tagged in a post.” Quit tempting me! And
you know who you are! Can’t you see I’m trying to better myself?
However, the question arose: what do I do with all the extra time I’ve
gained from not perusing social media? And is it really extra time? I
mean, in the mathematical sense, there are only 24 hours in a day, seven
days in a week, so I’m not technically gaining an additional hour
in my day nor an extra day in my week. (If I do find an extra day, I’ll
name it Beauday and stick it between Saturday and Sunday.)
So this got me thinking about the use of my time. I recently read in the
White Coat Investor to consider time in terms of gross and net time. Gross
time is the 24 hours. Net time is the free time that is leftover after
doing everything I have to do, including obligations and things I don’t
enjoy. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed seeing everyone’s
filtered life on Facebook, but it truly was dead time, wasted hours that
I will never get back. Then I started thinking about all the time we waste
during a day in traffic, pick-up lines, doctor’s offices (I know,
I know), oil changes, plane terminals, and so forth. The list goes on
and on. Not to mention piddling around the house when we get home. I come
from a long line of piddlers. My Granddaddy O’Quinn could piddle
around in his garage for hours, and my oldest son got a whopping dose
of it. I’m a fan of some piddling, like sitting on a back porch
and watching a sunset. Moments like that are important.
But in order to maximize this dead time, I’ve consciously examined
these unproductive moments and instituted a few practical steps.
Figure out dead time. You don’t need a planner or some kind of app. I’ve tried them
and spend all my productive time updating the planner or figuring out
the app. Do you wake up early like I do and stare at the clock? Get up
and go do something instead. I’m a huge advocate of good sleep,
so I’m not suggesting to cut back on beauty rest. However, you can
shift your routine. I’m not productive at night and know it, so
I’ve shifted some of my obligations—writing this blog, journals
and emails—to the morning. And I usually still have time to drink
a cup of coffee and read a chapter in a book before everyone else arises.
Be intentional. Look for ways to squeeze the good out of a wasted hour. Make a list of
things you want to do in those time slots you’ve identified in step
one, and have them handy in your phone. My wife and I discussed this at
length when I told her about quitting social media, and she gave me a
list of podcasts that I’ve been listening to which include:
Malcolm Gladwell Revisionist History
• Bitter Southerner (my favorite)
• How I Built This
• Stuff You Missed in History Class
• Ask Me Another
There is a podcast for every subject.
Carry headphones. Other people don’t want to listen to my podcasts, and it’s
hard to listen to your phone in the grocery store or jiffy-lube. So have
your headphones handy.
Get a book. Headphones can die, and sometimes you might be more in a reading mood
than a listening mood. Download something on Kindle, or if you’re
like me and need to feel those coarse pages on your fingertips, grab a
paperback or even an interesting magazine. I’m a sucker for Popular
Science. I’ve also been carrying around The Longest Silence by Thomas
McGuane. Great for the armchair angler like me.
Go for a walk. You can listen to a podcast at the same time or catch up with someone during
a phone call. A little cardio is always a good thing.
I don’t want to end on a maudlin note or get all oversentimental,
but time is our most valuable resource. You don’t quite know how
much you’re gonna have nor do you get it back. All that time I wasted
in the past, staring at my phone, is gone forever. So instead of wasting
time, my recommendation is to find something enjoyable and productive
during those slack periods in life to become a more interesting person.
I usually start my blogs with a little vignette, but today I’ll end
with one. Before I started medical school, I worked as an assistant tennis
pro in St. Louis. The job was great, but it wasn’t much of a livelihood.
Anyway, every Sunday morning this retired ophthalmologist would show up
and want to hit for an hour. He had a bad back and bad knees which limited
his ability to get around, so I had to return everything within his wheelhouse
without him thinking I was patronizing. The Sunday after I was accepted
to medical school we hit, and during the breaks, I asked him incessantly
for advice on medical school: what were his favorite subjects, if anatomy
lab was gross, the difference in specialties, medicine vs. surgery, etc.
He eventually stopped me, tapped my chest with his tennis racquet and said,
“What are your hobbies? What do you like to do?” he asked.
“Don’t be that doctor who can only talk about medicine. That’s
boring. Do other things that are interesting to make yourself into a well-rounded
person. Now quit hitting the ball back to me and make me run for it.”
Yes, sir. And thank you.