I become a Timelord, and tell you why when you say “I’m too busy,” I think you’re handing me a lame excuse

It happens like this: Sean buys me a Dalek dress and…

…actually, no, it happens like this: I’m trying to get together with a friend, and we’re comparing schedules, and arrive at a date 18 days out.

“Seriously?” I say. “This is the first time that works for both of us?”

She shrugs. “We’re amazing people with full, busy lives. You’re in deadline hell until the 8th. I’ve got this, that and the other until the 13th. Then you’re on a new story. Then…”

Then… I become a Timelord. I bend the laws of time and space, and we get together the next day. I’m still in deadline hell. She’s still got this, that and the other. We take a break for a slushy walk and a glass of wine.

Deadline hell is there when I come back. So is laundry, and a living room that looks like it’s been ransacked by very unskilled terrorists. And an eternal construction zone on the bottom floor of my house. And… oh, so many tasks, duties, obligations that can contribute to making me feel “too busy.”

And, ok. I’m busy. Stuff to do, always. But I’m not “too busy.” I’m not too busy to do the important, fulfilling. Or just the… fun. I’m not too busy to live. And neither should you be.

Want to know the secret to being a Timelord? It’s three-fold.

First, to steal shamelessly from United States Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum: “Prioritize A, B and C. Discard C.”

You know this. You probably do this. But you know what? You’re probably discarding the wrong C. See, getting together with my friend for a glass of wine—that’s an A. Right up there with reading to my kids at bedtime, meeting my deadlines, and NOT skipping a single work-out session.

Second—ready? This is the big one—realize that amidst your “I’m too busy,” you’re going to piss away a lot of time. OK, let’s not make it about you: in the middle of my “I’m so busy! Waaah!” I’m going to piss away a lot of time. I’m going to feel burnt out and spent, and will need to recharge and get refreshed before I can slog through another 12-hour “must produce” day. I can spend that inevitable piss away time unproductively, feeling like I should be working-doing-something, wallowing in guilt and ick… or I can plan to spend it in a re-energizing way: taking two hours away from deadline hell to go sledding with my kids. Recognizing that by Wednesday night, there is no way I will be capable of working into the night, and so, that’s a really good night to go to the theatre, yes, babe, let me arrange for a babysitter.

Third—and this is what separates the Companions from the Timelords, beloveds—I say yes to 20 minute commitments. It goes like this:

“Mom? Can we go sledding?”

And I look at the clock, and it’s 11:20, and Sean and I are doing a kid-and-car switch off in 30 minutes; his workday over and mine beginning. And my “too busy” instinct is to say “No.” Right? By the time the snowsuits are on… You know what? Screw it. I say yes.

We’re out the door in 5 minutes, on the hill in 10. Sean meets us there; I effect a snowpants- into-“suitable for client clothes” change in the truck. I make my meeting, cheeks frostbitten, a little sweaty—but happy. I spent 20 minutes outside engaged with my kids doing something, instead of inside, marking time until the switch-off, listening to bored kids whine.

It also goes like this:

“Hey, I’m five minutes away from your office and with a 35 minute gap until my next interview. Time for a coffee?”

And like this:

“I’m heading down south to Costco this afternoon with all three kids. Meet at the River for a sanity walk before or after?”

That’s all:

1. Prioritize—but make sure “A” includes the things you really need to do. Yoga, if that’s your thing. Poker night if that feeds your soul. Chocolate. Wine. Sex.

2. Plan for piss away time—and turn it into time for stuff you want to do that feeds your mind-soul-body.

3. Say yes to doing something for a very short time—use your “in-between” and “waiting” time instead of just filling it. A walk can be a 20-minute commitment. Less. As can getting naked with your lover. Or writing a blog post, pitch or long-overdue email letter (remember those?) to a forever friend—or at least the first draft of one.

So… Timelord with me, will you? And don’t tell me you’re too busy. I know you’re busy. Me too. Kids, family, money-tied work and love-tied work. Volunteer commitments. Dishes that won’t do themselves, and a bathroom that refuses to self-clean (is there a warranty for that?). And also: books I want to read, plays I want to see, events I want to experience. Friends I need to see. Places I need to  be.

And yeah, sometimes, deadline hell, work hell, this-that-or-the-other (the newborn, the un-potty-training toddler, the sick parent, the near-death experience, the divorce, the massive natural disaster, the nothing-else-matters event) takes over everything. Of course. Sometimes, you can’t bend the laws of time and space.

But most of the time… I can.



NBTB Timelord

P.S. In a totally coincidental unplanned, event, my Strategy Session column this month is about Sweating The Big Stuff:  stop putting out the fires and start strategizing. And it opens with Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum, whom I met in Martin Seligman’s Flourish.

P.P.S. For the bloggers in the audience: When I am in deadline hell, blogging—in particular, that aspect of blogging that involves interacting within the blogosphere and doing all those social media things, becomes “C.” And gets discarded, without a second thought, without guilt. Writing for the blog(s)* becomes “B” (when I’m truly a Timelord, it is “A”).

*If you can’t get enough of me, and having out-of-box ideas about education, I also write about unschooling and my kids’ learning journey at Undogmatic Unschoolers. My real self’s business writing portfolio is hangs out at Calgary Business Writer. Looking to connect in the SM (social media, get yer mind out of the gutter) universe? Go to Find “Jane” … or just follow @nothingbtbook on Twitter. Easiest, lowest effort, highest ROI act.

15 thoughts on “I become a Timelord, and tell you why when you say “I’m too busy,” I think you’re handing me a lame excuse

  1. A time lord? I am WELL impressed! Always time for chocolate and wine and “creative” sex just about anywhere, any time. Glad you reminded me 🙂

      • What you need to know is that I am ONLY a morning person due to my bolshie need to damn the man come daylight savings. Prior to my early morning epiphany, I was a grouchy 2am bedtime babe. If you woke me before 9am with ANYTHING other than a cup of tea you would be very foolish indeed. I got sick to death being a zombie every time that daylight savings rolled up so I started setting the alarm earlier… and earlier…and earlier…and then something strange happened. I like it! I now get up at 3am every morning. I have 4 hours ME BLOODY TIME and no-one else is there. I can lay prostrate on the floor naked if I choose…for 3…whole…hours (got to get up and move around occasionally so that takes up the extra hour) but aside from that I have all that time to myself. Worth every single second of falling asleep at 7pm as I have now gone from being a wide eyed insomniac to someone that you could chain to a barrel and hurl over Niagara falls once asleep…just arrange my soggy snoring body back into bed after the event and I would NEVER know. Always good to keep at least 1 morning person around…who else are the monsters going to feast on first when the doorbell goes?!

      • Narp…you obviously didn’t read the post where I proudly declared my status as the president of the Tasmanian chapter of Luddites United. Steve is contemplating shoving the app on his phone…you never know…

  2. I especially will benefit from doing something fun for the 20-minutes of between time because it’s so easy to just fill it with nothing and then, later, fill my head with guilt over things like having not gone sledding. Or had some good old fashion sex fun with the hubs. You rock for being a Timelord. Plus, you’re hot. So there’s that.

  3. I definitely like this – I know it’s true. You can get a lot more done when you focus and quit pissing the time away. Being focused on doing only valued added things, even if that value added thing is simply a 20 minute rest on the couch before a big afternoon.

    My only pushback is that sometimes you end up saying yes to every single 20 minute thing and then you are up until 2am doing the deadline. You might want to do all the things, and they might all be valuable and not wasting time, but sometimes you just have to say no.

    • Prioritize. A. B… Discard C… I’m only ever up til 2 am if a child is sick — or I’m out dancing. I prioritize sleep and wellness too… Those “20 minute” yeses I’m talking about: they’re not time that goes, naturally, to work or creativity. They’re “waiting” time. We feel it’s not enough to do THAT thing… So we do nothing.

      I love the idea of saying yes to a 20 minute rest!

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