There are few topics more pertinent to this blog than the passing of time, considering how I’m revisiting and rewriting my childhood poetry based on what I’ve learned in the 20-ish years since I first put pen to paper.
Here’s my childhood poem about time, in which I question the meaning of time and explore how (looking through my 12-year-old eyes) it gives structure to our lives.
When I wrote this poem, my time was mostly structured according to whether I was at school (where bells would ring to announce lesson time, break time, lunch time and home time) or at home (where my mum would coordinate my extra-curricular activities, meal time, bath time and homework). The relatively small amount of time that was my own to spend reading, writing, listening to music, watching TV or ‘playing out’ with friends was limited by a strict curfew, and I had a set bedtime until I was in my mid-teens (much to my chagrin).
Now that I’m a) a grown-up and b) a freelance writer, I decide to how to structure my time – which can be both a blessing and a curse.
Before becoming self-employed, I worked in offices with certain rules about working hours which required me to sign in and out, take my lunch break within a particular timeframe, limit my breaks to no more than five minutes and submit timesheets to prove that I had met my contractual requirements. My diary was dominated by other people’s meetings and deadlines, and I commuted to and from work so I was dependent on the timing of public transport (which almost never ran to schedule). I was always busy and it seemed as though almost every moment of my day was determined by someone or something else.
When I decided to go freelance, I was excited by the prospect of being able to work in a more flexible way; to allocate my time as I saw fit and establish a healthier work-life balance. However the reality of freelance life is that when the only person you have to answer to is yourself, time management (“the process of planning and exercising conscious control of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity“) can be one of the first things to slip.
After a few months of taking a fairly laissez-faire attitude to how to spend my time, I learned that it’s best to structure my day according to the peaks and troughs of my attention span; I’m typically most alert and productive in the morning, so I’ll do my most focused work then and save less challenging tasks (such as admin) until the afternoon. I get up and start work at roughly the same time each day to switch myself into ‘work mode’ and to differentiate working days from weekends (no weekday lie-ins for me!). And although I still take breaks whenever I feel like it (which tends to be when I’m lacking inspiration and need a change of scenery), I’m careful to limit the length of my breaks and return to my desk before I get too distracted.
On the whole, I think I manage my time pretty well and I certainly feel less harried than I did when my time was structured according to other people’s expectations and priorities. When I think back to my time working in offices, I realise that many people (including myself) were often so busy that they were impervious to the fact they were actually wasting time by complaining about how busy they were. Imagine if we added up all the time that we spend complaining about not having enough time; we’d have a nice little stockpile of time to use for something productive!
With all of the above in mind, here’s a new poem I’ve written about time; each line has 12 syllables*, one for each hour on a clock face.
* Double-checked using syllablecounter.net