“If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.”
“Regret for wasted time is more wasted time.”
“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Most books that I read on writing say that I need to spend anywhere from four to six hours a day developing my craft. I’m not there yet. It’s true that I’m doing a lot, but I’m not at that mark yet. I’m not going to beat myself up over this. I’m doing what I can and I will try to do more. I will try to use my time better, because it’s a gift I’ve been given. I’d say I’m putting in about two hours a day but they are broken up. Yesterday I was able to put in a lot more time because of Memorial Day. I got two blogs written and I read about 60 pages of On Writing by Stephen King.
When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to write. Then, even though I’ve been keeping journals for over 30 years, I forgot that. I went into teaching and I held down a lot of different jobs. I did some things I loved and a few things I hated. I spent a lot of years being immature and unproductive. At the same time I like to think I did a little good. I wasted a lot of time. This is one of my few regrets in life. What I lacked most was direction. I thought I had it, but I really didn’t. Now I do and while this doesn’t make life easier, it makes it simpler. Whenever I get discouraged I tell myself, “House on the beach” and I know what to do.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be easy.
Here’s something else. It helps to put a number on things.
For example, I could set a goal of reading 500 books.
Or I could say, “363,” the number of days in which I will be in my house on the beach (if not sooner).
I could say “7 to go,” the number of books on financial management I have yet to read.
I could say the amount of money I want to earn or the amount of money I need to clear my debts.
I could say, “1,000,” the number of blogs I want to write. (Then I’ll say “2,000.”)
I could say “20 minutes,” the amount of time I’m giving myself to finish this blog.
So, in using my time well, or better, I can get more done. I can reach my numbers, or at least get closer to them. Some numbers are not flexible, such as 363 or 7, because those are time-bound. The numbers 1,000 and my debts are also time-bound, but they have some flexibility.
For some reason, quantifying things helps me greatly. It makes a game of it, a competition with myself. How well can I use my time? How much can I reduce a problem? How much can I increase money or the number of books I’ve read or the number of hours I exercise in a year?
In 1981, George Doran created SMART Goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound. I like the idea that goals have a deadline. Otherwise they are in danger of never being reached. Peter Drucker said, “That which gets measured, gets done.” Brian Tracy said, “Avoid Someday Isle. Someday Isle is the place where people say ‘Someday I’ll reach my goals.” There is no “some day.” There is only today.
So today, having been up just over an hour, I’ve hand written three pages and I’m in the process of finishing another blog. I’m not saying this from conceit. I’m just stating a fact. I feel relieved because I was able to get off of Someday Isle, at least for today. I feel blessed. Even though I’m doing the work, it all feels like a gift from God who gave me desire, ability, time, and health. I feel extremely fortunate.
The one thing God didn’t give me was excuses. Those come from the Enemy.
I say all of this not only with gratitude, but also with a sense of responsibility. I have given my word – to God, to my Muse, to the people I love and to myself. So I Get Started and I Keep Going. Time is a gift and I want to use it well while I have it.