Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What’s up with time?

By Joe Moore

It seems like the older I get, the more I’m aware of the lack of time available to me each day. I remember back when I was a kid my mother used to comment that as the years rolled by, the less time there was to get things done. I thought she was crazy. Back then I had all the time in the world. No crunch, no rush. The days went on forever as I grew up. Well, that’s all changed.

Now my friends and I complain that there are not enough hours in the day. Last time I checked, there were still 24, the same number I had when I was in my teens, going to college, starting my career, working, traveling, and writing. And, incidentally, the same number of hours that Donald Trump, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates get each day.

So what’s going on with time? Why is it that I never seem to feel like I have enough of it? Why do more and more things spill over into the next day? Why is summer over already when it just started? Didn’t we just celebrate Halloween? I can still taste the pumpkin pie from Thanksgiving. There’s something weird going on here. I don’t want to go so far as to say it’s an X-Files issue or a government conspiracy, but I’m losing time.

I know it’s not because I don’t prioritize. I try to figure out what’s the most important task at hand and attack it first. Then when it’s complete, I go to the next item on the list. At least most of the time.

It can’t be from interruptions. OK, so this is a big one for me. I’m easily distracted. I try to avoid being interrupted when I’m working on the highest priority tasks. Really, I do . . . hang on for a second while I check my Amazon numbers and update my FB status.

I’m sure it’s not from stress. I admit I tend to worry about everything, especially things I can’t control. I know it’s really dumb, but what if the North Koreans do have an nuclear bomb? Or something much worse. Hey, I wrote a book about that (THE 731 LEGACY), so worrying can be a good use of time. Right?

At least I can’t be accused of procrastination. Well, I do like to take the downhill road and do the easiest of the most important tasks now, leaving the harder ones for later. But that can’t be the problem.

And God knows I set achievable goals. I try to be realistic in what I want to accomplish. If Dan Brown can sell 40 million books, why can't I? It’s doable.

This time-loss thing can’t be entirely my fault. In fact, I think it would make a great premise for a show like Fringe. Maybe I’ll stop what I’m doing and send them the concept. I’ve got a few minutes to spare.

But I’m convinced there’s something strange going on, and I’ve decided to spend the better part of my day trying to prove it, starting with this blog. And in between my investigation, I’ll work on my new thriller. Should be plenty of time for that.

Anybody else think time is slip-sliding away?

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THE PHOENIX APOSTLES, coming June 8, 2011.
"What do you get when you cross Indiana Jones with THE DA VINCI CODE? THE PHOENIX APOSTLES, a rollicking thrill ride." – Tess Gerritsen

19 comments:

  1. I hear ya Joe. Yesterday I was 18 - suddenly I'm 54 trying to shoe horn everything into the day. Insomnia helps me grab a few more hours, at least 'til I crash & burn - which happens periodically.

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  2. What a relief, JaxPop. At least there's two of us out there. I have the opposite problem than insomnia. Gotta have my mid-afternoon nap. OK, so now I'm down to 23 hours a day. Slip-sliding . . .

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  3. There is a biological basis to this Joe, though I haven't, er, got time to nail it down. But when your'e a kid your brain doesn't have lots of memory so everything is new and experienced in "real time." I remember thinking, around sixth grade or so, how long school felt like. But my three years in law school seemed to zip by pretty fast.

    So that's the basis. There's some sort of brain thing. Also, as writers, we experience what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls the "flow state," which results in "time quickening."

    I mean, yesterday I did over 3k words in a few hours. I remember having my coffee, then I look up and the day is half gone.

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  4. It's simple math, Joe. When you're 10, a year is a tenth of your life. When you're, er, 50, a year is 1/50th of your life. When you're your, er, age, it's, um... smaller.

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  5. I believe this "everybody has 24 hours in the day" thing is a big conspiracy that's been put forth for so long everybody believes it. 8-)

    The days of the week are disproportioniate too. My 8-hour work shifts at the day job are at least 18 hours long. On the other hand, Saturday and Sunday seem to be only two hours long.

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  6. but joe...at least your name is short....what if you had mihaly csikzentmihaly's name...you'd spend a good portion of your shortened day getting that down on paper!!! so count your blessings...

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  7. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi? Jim, do you know how much time it took me to pronounce that? I could have been tweeting something instead. Now, to your last point: Just like you, I love entering the "zone" when I write. That's the best way to let time slip-slide.

    Mark, you're on thin ice. :-)

    BK, you're absolutely right. I wonder if anyone has actually timed the weekend to see if it's as long as, say, Monday and Tuesday combined. Maybe that "Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi" guy could do it.

    Thank you, Kathy. At least you understand.

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  8. To expand our sense of perceived time, it might help to go outside our normal surround. For example, an hour spent walking along the beach would probably seem to go more slowly than an hour spent doing routine tasks at home. (It would also be more enjoyable). Time would "expand" because we'd be opening ourselves to new sights, sounds, and even thoughts (This frame of mind would be more impressionable than usual, more like a child's state of mind, which Jim mentioned). So, to slow down time for ourselves, we must channel our inner child and open ourselves to new experiences.

    That'll be five cents.

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  9. Good advice, Kathryn. New surroundings makes our minds take in more data and seems to slow time down. I know that when I have a number of events over a weekend such as a book signing, travel or perhaps a party to attend, I always look back and think the weekend seemed longer than usual. When there are no special events and I'm doing my normal routines around the house, the slip-sliding begins.

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  10. I used to just kick my cousin Leonard out of the time machine and go back for any do-overs or extra hours I needed. But a few months ago he said something about falling for Lindsay Wagner (who apparently is bionic after all) and disappeared into the 70s. Haven't seen him or my time machine since, although his name now shows up in the credits of the original Bionic Woman as "Hair Artist & Leg Wax Assistant: Leo de LaFuchure".

    So I came up with a new idea. Being in Alaska I am at the western edge of time since the dateline is a three hour flight west. Whenever I get a little behind on something I take a quick flight over the dateline, land, and set my watch to the Siberian local time zone. Their today is 22 hours ahead of Anchorage therefore that which had previously been tomorrow becomes the new today making my today yesterday. I eat a nice lunch of stroganina and ukha with my friend Khan Piotr, chief of the local pub. After a couple of hours for good measure I get back on the plane and fly home. Suddenly, when I set my watch back to Alaska time it is yesterday and I get a do over!

    Reality....yeah, whatever...

    I love Einstein and all of his relatives.

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  11. I want to visit Basil's mind and walk around in it for a while. Not a long time, mind you. Just long enough to get a feel for the place.

    John Gilstrap
    www.johngilstrap.com

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  12. There are probably two components at work here. We naturally slow down as we get older, so everyhting else seems to move by quicker. We also become more aware of how much time we probably have left, so each minute seems more precious. It's the converse of Mark's comment. A year may only 2% of a 50-year-old's time on earth, but it's probably at least 3%, maybe more, of the time he can expect to have left.

    Even though most of us don't think of it in such morbid terms, it's there, and we're aware of it.

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  13. Thanks for letting us in on your technique, Basil. I guess the only drawback for me would be to leave sunny South Florida where right now it's about 70 degrees and go to Alaska where it's not. But it's interesting how everything always comes back around to Einstein.

    John, that would be a field trip to beat all others.

    Dana, so you're taking Mark's side on this? I don't know.

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  14. I've been in Basil's mind, back in the 60s. It was a trip I'll never forget...because it comes back on rainy days.

    But Joe, I think time is the same as it's always been. It's just that you don't remember what you did five minutes ago. Getting old is NOT for sissies.

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  15. You're right, Jordan. Getting old takes courage and whiskey.

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  16. Joe
    You just need to hijack the Tardis and you'd be all set. That's what I plan to do!

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  17. Actually, scientifically, the days ARE getting shorter. The Earth is slightly spinning faster all the time...but probably not enough to make a difference.

    I dunno. Strangely enough, my days seem to last longer when I'm keeping busy. Days go faster when I'm relaxing on the weekend. I think I want activities I enjoy to last forever, so in comparison to forever, they go by in a flash.

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  18. It's the old Toilet Paper Law. Simply put, the more you use, the faster it spins.

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  19. Definitely time is speeding faster and faster because we have so much to do. And a lot of that are self-assigned chores. We are multi-tasking nonstop, feeling guilty when we don't accomplish something. There's something to be said for stopping and smelling the roses.

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