24 March 2011

Using the time we have

Yesterday, I attended another training session at my place of work, this session being about time management, and how to make the best use of our time.  It was what is called a "soft skills' training session.

The trainer was actually quite adequate.  He had a good voice, was organized, and presented well.  He had an affable public persona.  The method he outlined involve setting priorities, making to do lists that had three categories:  Must be done, should be done, and it would be nice if it was done.  One was to make lists for the week, and then make sure the top list got done first, and then the second, and, if there was any time left over, the third list could be attended to. 

Unfortunately, this method, while valid for many, is of no use to me.  I am not the master of my time nor of my priorities.  My children, my wife, and my bosses all set their priorities as mine, and I am to fulfill them, before my own.  In addition, the categories don't seem quite right to me.  After a long day of working on 'must dos" and "should dos", the "It would be nice if..." becomes an absolute necessity, precisely because it is not an absolute necessity.

My time management takes another form, one which evolve around my hobbies, mainly my woodshop.  It consists of two basic steps, which may even be considered one basic step with two sides, like a coin.   The first side/step is to subdivide tasks into their smallest possible units.  In woodworking, for example, building a table is a matter of cutting wood, shaping the wood, smoothing the wood, cutting joints on the wood, fitting the wood and finishing the wood.  These steps can be made even smaller.  cutting the wood involves measuring and marking the wood, sawing the wood, and planing or otherwise smoothing the saw marks.

The second side/step is to learn to recognize the time you have, and not to look for the time you do not.  In the above example. if I were to look at building the table as a whole, I would see that it would take me, say. thirty to forty hours.  That's great, except I don't have thirty to forty hours, nor do I have twenty or even ten .  These long hours simply do no exist as free time in my day.  But I do have free half hours, or free ten minutes, and these can be easily use to further the project along.  If I have five minutes, I can measure an mark the boards I need to cut.  If I have another five or ten minutes later in the day, I can saw the boards.  baby steps to be sure, but progress is progress, even if it is only measured by inches.

Now, in the case of woodworking, there is always a point or two where only a block of hours will suffice to complete a task.  Take gluing, for example.  I have a desk I am working on for younger.  The carcase is ready to be glued up, and has been waiting for a little while.  A glue up of this size is a fairly complex process, and will take a little while.  I need at least an hour or two to do it, because once the glue is poured and spread, the wood has to go together and it has to be done correctly.  However I have not had a few free hours of late.  Does this mean all my working is stopped?  Not at all.  I have several hobbies and even several projects on the go in my woodshop.  Ten minutes need not be wasted simply because I am at a certain point in one project:  I simply work on another.

This is how I make use of my time.  There never seems to be enough time, I know, but the day still has the same number of hours it did in Leonardo da Vinci's time, or in Michelangelo's.  I cannot dedicate myself to my craft as these two men did, but by making use of what time I have, I can still get jobs done.  There is time enough for nearly anything, but there is never so much time that it may be wasted.

1 comment:

Mary333 said...

If I'm being honest I have to admit that I do waste time. I'm working on it though!

Using time wisely is definitely a blessing. The saints speak about having to account for how one used time when we come before the Lord, so this concerns me!

Frodo is really young still which is probably why you have so little extra time for projects. Maybe when he is a bit older you'll have more free time to work on them. Children are time consuming. I read your advice to a new father the other day and you were spot on! It can be a bit of a shock to a new parent when they realize they have no time for themselves at all for a while. Not even to sleep much!