No Time is a Present

white+rabbitI don’t have time to write this blog.

I notice I didn’t get round to it when I did have time planned in the diary. Which started me thinking about the diary and how little my life relates to those neat, coloured, rectangular entries on the computer.

I had ample opportunity to reflect on this living in Italy where everything seems to happen at the ‘wrong time’.  People always arrive unannounced at an unexpected time on the wrong day – bearing a tray of persimmons.  I swear it’s the same tray that keeps getting passed around because they look great but taste foul.  And what’s odd is that, after a few minutes of inner Englishness when I am secretly mourning the episode of Modern Family we are missing, I find that the ‘wrong’ time turns out to be the perfetto time.  Out comes the panettone.  Logs go on the fire.  And the day’s plan goes to ruin while we chat in Ital-glish about wine and taxes and the evil that is Carrefour.

Why then, do people not drop in now we’re back in London?  Why has ‘popping over on the off-chance’ died out?  Because we look into our ordered diaries and there seems to be no time.  Those pastel events butt up against each other in Outlook and iCal like B+Q bathroom tiles and there appears to be no space between.

When I am meeting doctoring I am forever reminding clients not to end one meeting AND start the next one at the same time.  Until we kick this habit – or until Apple comes up with a time travelling device – we are doomed to spend our lives apologising for leaving one meeting prematurely and/or arriving late at another.  And while I am in rant mode, why the sixty minute default?  The only thing in life that I can think of that takes exactly an hour is – an hour.

Our rectilinear calendars offer the illusion that our lives are formal, logical, that we have tamed chaos.  But though you wouldn’t guess it from the computer screen, the really interesting stuff in life doesn’t happen in the blocks, it happens in the cracks.

It’s something I reminding myself every morning.   Like a escapee from the Prison of Planning, I can see a chink of daylight and am determined to force my way through.

This week I noticed that a colleague and I had spent seven minutes SMS-ing each other to set up a 5 minute call.  This is clearly a dumb thing for two reasonably intelligent people to be doing.  (Nick Buckley is actually scarily clever – so he has even less excuse!)  I was just about to send the fatal words “let me check my schedule” but then noticed the little green phone symbol and actually called him instead. Then and there.  Who knew it was possible?  I was digitally ‘popping in’.  And it felt good.

There is something about being bigger that your schedule that does feels powerful. A very busy man I know, the president of a major corporation, has just managed to write a hefty novel as well.  Where did he find the time?  “Well, 100% of my time was full.  So I just found another 30%.”

Yes, there is something delicious and energised about ‘stolen time’.  This blog has rocketed itself onto the page.  And apart from the waiter looking at me oddly – and a few narky comments from fellow diners who clearly think I am a sad case working at dinner – I have really enjoyed it.

I didn’t have time to write this blog.  I hope you also didn’t have time when you read it.

There’s a nice piece by Jamie Dunn @JDEntrepreneur on Valuing Time on the Virgin blog.  I can’t help thinking someone from Virgin trains should read it. 

6 thoughts on “No Time is a Present

  1. My six-year old grandson has just asked me if time always existed or did we invent it? Good question. Do ants know time, or just respond to situations? Could we love without time?

    • He’s clearly a philosopher in bud! What I am noticing – as I am noodling with a new book about the future – is that any time we are depressed or stressed there is a time compenent in our thinking. E.g. This will never end. I am too old/young. I have to do this right now. Freeing ourselves a little from time might free us generally?

  2. Thank you David! Lovely piece as usual – kids just “popped over to Italy” in the off chance – feel envious if them walking, foraging, getting “prodigal” treatment while we are here. Seize the moment and off on our bikes in this glorious sunshine… Have a lovely day w your beautiful family and save Mar 11th if I forgot to say.

    Do you have Didier’s detail while I think about it? X

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. In Bangalore, India where I grew up and now working here, we always had popping-in and it was understood just as such.if you were drinking or eating something you just offered too.But that is changing so much too and the advent of software and handy mobile etc has changed this so much( among other reasons ). But I stubbornly reject the Diary running my life. Yesterday at 12 noon our freindly garbage collector banged my door and wanted a loan of 8 Pounds.! I gave him a bit and heard his story for a bit and closed the door only to be quickly banged by youngsters requested access to my roof for collecting the cricket ball that they hit-up. I mumur sometimes but I like this encounters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *