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Soft Time, Flow Time, Lost Time. Wednesday October 30, 2013

How many time-management books have you read? How many time-management courses have you been on? Did they help? Probably not.

You see, the problem is that time cannot be managed. It just gets on quite nicely ticking away at a steady rate without us doing anything whatsoever. There is the same one thousand four hundred and forty minutes in each day whether we do anything to try to manage it or not.

It is we who need managing, not time.

And what generally happens is that we overload ourselves with tasks and schedules, try to do too much, fail to get it all done and then, instead of congratulating ourselves on what we've actually achieved, we beat ourselves up for what remains undone.

Does that sound familiar? Last Saturday's post dealt with a similar theme. It's a regular pattern for many of us.

One of my friends recently introduced me to a new concept; the idea of soft time and flow time. Soft time is time spent doing that which empowers us. For some people it's time spent outdoors, or in some kind of sport or physical activity. For me it's the precision and creativity of my card-making. Some people like to bake, or paint, or hang out with family or friends. The point is that this is recharging time.

Recharging or energising the batteries means that chores or work gets done in "flow time" where everything seems easier. We accomplish more without stress.

The problem arises when we attempt to do too much – we fall out of flow time and become increasingly unproductive and end up in "lost time". Lost time is time spent mindlessly watching TV, scanning through Facebook (wondering why everyone has a much better life than we do), reading magazines that contribute nothing to us. Each of us has their own "lost time" activity, just as we have our own "soft time" activity.

When I spend an hour creating beautiful greetings cards that will bring pleasure to the recipient this feeds something in me. If I spend that same time on Facebook (I think I'm defined as a "lurker") that hour drains me.

It's the same hour. I just need to get out that paper, ribbon and card and get creating.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our Blogspot:

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Anonymous Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 6:57am

Thank you for this very powerful post today that speaks to me so much. Some brief background to explain how this post "speaks to me".
I had a bout of depression when I turned 40 and had talking therapy for three years. What I thought at the time helped me the most to fight the solitude and low mood I was so dreading, was to keep myself nearly permanently occupied. Over the last ten years, it has gradually led me to exhaustion, caused severe insomnia and I have been warned I am risking dangerous burnout. I have in that time only worked outside my home for a few paid hours but have taken on numerous volunteering roles, raised two children, helped ageing parents and mother-in-law, supported my working husband as best as I could, etc. We all have our never ending list. What I now realise I forgot over that period is soft time and I think I know that for me the outdoors and artistic creativity might be part of it. I will think hard to find out what else might be "soft time" for me and be sure to include it in my daily schedule. I have also copied your post to my children who need to find theirs...

June Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 7:09am

Thank you Mary, a timely post to help me back 'on track'.

Ginny Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 7:54am

Thanks for this, as well as the moodscope for today, your reply has helped me too.

Ginny Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 7:56am

Thank you for this post today, I have found it very helpful. I do make cards too, but when my concentration/mood is low i find it difficult to be inspired. However, i will really think about it today as I do spend a lot of time on meaningless things like facebook! I am on there a lot for the company and playing scrabble, but i know i have to limit my time. i always find Wednesday is a good day of the week (half way through it) to look at things. Hope you have a good day

Anonymous Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 8:02am

Mary, you sound so judgmental saying that Facebook, TV and magazines are a waste of time, or loosing time. We cannot all be doing something productive all the time, where does that leave meditation in your book, where your actually seen to be doing and basking in nothing!

Anonymous Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 8:39am

I agree
Time on Facebook is time connecting with friends.It is often a time when I share my creative activities with those who care about me.
And I agree, where does that leave meditation.

Hilary Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 9:23am

I think it was a brilliant post, and irrespective of what you personally choose to do in your soft time (I like dead heading and weeding - how sad is that!) the important message was - make time for your self, or you will find it increasingly difficult to cope with all the other demands! Hilary

denisthemenace Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 9:26am

Yes, I agree with both these posts - and that was my instant reaction to Mary's post, which I liked apart from the references to lost time. Looking on Facebook helps me feel connected, when sometimes I feel incredibly isolated. It lets me know there is still a world and people out there, even if sometimes I can't face them in person. And watching TV gives me enormous pleasure - there are some great programmes on. I don't like this being described as mindless - it can be educational, enjoyable, uplifting, a great laugh (Graham Norton, Would I lie to you - I'm sure you've got your own favourites).
So as with most things, I think the way we spend our time is about balance. Sometimes it's necessary to do nothing - being, not doing, and not feel bad about it.

Anonymous Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 10:20am

Thanks for this Mary. In answer to some comments, having practised meditation myself from time to time I would classify this as definitely "soft" time (re-charging) and definitely NOT "lost" time.
And I do facebook - but can find myself easily drifting from the positive connection aspect, into the timewasting, comparing lives etc aspect - so have to keep an eye on it!

Daniel Efosa Uyi Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 10:35am

Nice post meh, I learnt something from this post and I'm working on making it useful. The blog reminds me of an equally interesting blog on my reading list <a href="" rel="nofollow"> Dating and Personal Development Blog</a> .
keep up the good work.


Mary Blackhurst Hill Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 11:01am

Oh dear, I didn't mean to sound judgmental. I think we all have our own definition of "soft time" and "lost" time. Meditation is definitely soft time and for some people, Facebook or watching TV is soft time. Last night's Autumn Watch was definitely soft time for me as I sat with my husband imbibing the last of last year's Sloe Gin. Apologies to anyone I have ruffled the wrong way. You watch Graham Norton (whom I cannot like) and I read slushy romantic novels (which you probably despise). It would be a boring old world if we were all the same, wouldn't it!

Suzy Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 11:30am

Great post Mary. Just what I needed today.

Quacko Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 12:12pm

I liked the idea of flowtime and slowtime. I also have to say that the time I spend on FB or just e-mailing friends keeps me from being isolated. I am in a horrendous job situation and have not had any vacation to speak of for nine years due to work situations. I have no real time off to get my life in order- it has me very depressed and am in dire need of a recharge/rest time. I am wondering if any others are going through this and how they cope. It is quite overwhelming. I used to do a lot of soft time things and now can barely get basic housework done after working 50 hours a week.

Anonymous Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 12:38pm

I like making my own cards too for soft time but i have lost my original printmaster cd so bought the new version which i can not for the life of me figure out. do you have a program or do you make cards the traditional way? if you can recommend an easy to use card making software id appreciate it. thank you.

denisthemenace Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 1:14pm

Ruffle away Mary. Our differences are as important as our common ground. Especially on this site.
I am quite a sucker for a happy ending though.

Anonymous Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 1:58pm

i used to feel like doing things like that, now I just can´t stop thinking about all the people that I´ve met in my life that has made me a weaker as a person, that has hurt my feelings. I hope someday I can go back to feeling like making things like that.

Anonymous Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 2:46pm

Mary - I love this post! This is exactly what I needed today! This week I made a conscious decision to be more aware of how I spend my time because often I wonder why I wasn't able to accomplish what I set out to complete by the end of the day. I love the point about not beating ourselves up when we set unrealistic goals, but also being aware of "lost" time to help us be more productive! I definitely feel more rewarded when I spend "soft time" rather than "lost time" - thanks again!

Anonymous Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 3:41pm

Excellent post. Around lost time and slow time, there's also the activity time. I personally love the time management genre and pick up some tip or concept to incorporate in my life from what I read.
There is a way approach the activity time that's a hybrid of the activity-to-a-time slot system and flow time. It's call autofocus and you can find it by doing a web search.
My own method runs something like this: make a grid or table for the period I'm planning for: could be a few days, a week, a month, or a film festival, trip, etc.
Block out the periods where I don't have discretion or intend to take it as slow/flow time: commute, meetings, support groups, meals, breaks.
Make my list of what I need or want to do. After completed, add how long I think it will take times about 12%. So if I think something should take an hour, I'll list it as 1:10 or 70 minutes. That extra wiggle room allows for flow or grants permission to get "sidetracked" in a productive way. For example, I'm working on a project involving the reproductive system and wonder when people worked out the egg-sperm connection. It's not immediately obvious as demonstrated by how some cultures hold different ideas about how pregnancy happens. That could take up that 12%. Or it could happen that the paper jams in the printer, I can calmly deal with it because of that slack I added.
The last step is the most helpful, for me. I give each task a degree of difficulty score from 1 to 5, easy to hard. I get a task list like this:
remember to get treats while in the market, 10 minutes, 1°
sperm-egg research, 20 min, 3°
build 3 hour presentation from multiple sources, 8 hours, 4°
Obviously, some are fit for a single day, and one will likely span several days.
Using the autofocus idea, I then leave each day's precise actions to the day itself. On Monday I may feel tired, so work mostly on easier and shorter activities. Tuesday, I've recovered and put in 3 hours on the presentation. And so on.
Revu2 in Seattle

Anonymous Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 6:30pm

i've tailored fb for information only now. i don't need to see how everyone else's life is so much better than mine, it just makes me feel a failure. i try and use it positive things now like information on events happening etc.
being creative and getting away from the tv is very fulfilling, i'm trying to do it more. i still need my slouch time to watch a film or something but only in small doses

Amy Wed, Oct 30th 2013 @ 9:22pm

This is the first time I have commented and I've been using the site for >2yrs now. Moodscope is GREAT.
I loved the post today. Can really relate to lost time - and know that i have a lot of it in my life. The concept of turning lost time into soft time, brilliant.
Thanks for a great post

Steve Rosen Thu, Oct 31st 2013 @ 2:00am

My approach to time management is this: I make a list in the morning of what I would like to do during the day. Generally about 20-25 things. I check off what I've done as I do along. I NEVER expect to complete the list. I choose to be satisfied if I do half of the list. I also have, in the past, kept a running "DONE" list. Noticing, and taking credit for, my accomplishments is very helpful Once attuned to what's done, I would generally have 15 -20 things on that list. I did it for years and had THOUSANDS accomplishments on the list - it also acts as a mini-journal... I also choose to believe that THERE IS ALWAYS ENOUGH TIME FOR WHAT THERE IS TIME FOR...

Julia Thu, Oct 31st 2013 @ 9:11am

Hi Quacko. I have been so busy with life these past few days, I have had no energy let alone time to even read Moodscope. I am just going over posts now. Your job sounds too bad, too horrendous and really is it worth it? I am sure you wonder this too. But not to have a proper holiday for 9 years is quite frankly silly and unsustainable. You must take a break. ASAP. Drastic action is needed. This may seem impossible to achieve but think of the alternative. Another 9 years of 50 hour a week work? I don't think you need to know how anyone else in your situation is coping. The answer is they are not! (Or else they love their work so much, they are happy with the overload, love complaining about it but really deep down don't want the situation to change) I think trying to find out how others are coping is just a delaying tactic. You are putting off doing the sensible thing. Good luck!!

Anonymous Thu, Oct 31st 2013 @ 9:34am

I think there is a huge gap between what people post on FB and what is actually happening in their lives.

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