Wednesday, 2 September 2015

40 Minutes a Day

My car radio is usually tuned to BBC Radio 4 and I sometimes catch something interesting while driving.  Sometimes I catch the same fragment of a programme twice. It happened this week, when I caught concert pianist James Rhodes talking about his memoir and briefly about what you can achieve by practising something for 40 minutes a day. The latter is not new; he wrote about it in his blog for the Guardian a couple of years ago. It started me thinking about time management, and quality time.

I'm often aware that I think I am busier than I actually am, and it's because I am allowing activities to linger; the old adage that work expands to fill the time allotted to it. At the moment, I am 'time-rich', and the luxury of it has meant that I've started to forget good time management practice and have started to drift. That repeated fragment of programme was a sign, a wake-up call.

I often hear 'I would love to belly dance/knit/crochet/sew/draw/paint/meditate/do yoga/get fitter'. What it comes down to is how much you really want to do it. Everybody needs some time to themselves to follow their passion, but it can be very difficult to make that time, especially when you generally feel so exhausted, all you want to do is sleep or veg out in front of the TV, without even really paying attention to what you're watching. I also suspect that hobbies are devalued, considered to be something that should have low or no priority, a remnant of the ethos which demands work before leisure, duty before pleasure.

So, do you really want to? Yes? It's too easy to find excuses why you don't, so play What If? What if you got your partner to look after the children one night a week (it's not a big ask, really, is it?). What if you ask your friends to club together to pay for the course of classes as your combined birthday/Christmas present? What if you arrange a car share to and from the classes? What if you steal a little time to yourself by getting up a little earlier some mornings a week to have a quick practice? What if you stop doing something else which you enjoy, but maybe isn't so important really, like those cups of frankly not-very-good chain-store coffee which masquerade as a treat and time to yourself? What if you and the other friends you meet down the pub all go and do something else one night a week, for far less than the price of a round of drinks? What if you ignore the demands of social media for a little while? Apparently, 40 minutes a day is what the average user spends on Facebook in the US. What if you found a way to do what you think you would love to do?

Why 40 minutes? It's generally accepted as the length of time most people can concentrate or sustain their attention on a topic or task before they need a break. It is also sufficient to practise and play without getting too frustrated, and to make some progress. It may be slow, but it's still progress. It doesn't have to be 40 minutes - if you can only manage 30 minutes, or even 20 minutes three times a week, it's still better than nothing.

I started thinking about what I might dedicate some time to. The trouble is, I can think of a dozen things and would have trouble picking one to focus on. Such a wealth of delicious possibilities.

If you're thinking about it too, I would love to know what you would spend your 40 minutes a day doing. Why not leave a comment?

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