You know how people say: When I have time, I'm going to write a book.
People make statements like that all the time. As if one magical block of time is going to show up one day. And so, they wait for this mystical moment.
And as you'd expect, it never shows up. So they get frustrated. It seems to them, that they're the busiest people of all.
But that's not true. Time management isn't about how busy you are, because we're all super busy. Time management is about how you seize the day.
Or in other words the ‘carpe diem' system' of time management
The term ‘carpe diem' is Latin for ‘seize the day'. And I'll be honest. I had trouble seizing any day at all. And the reason I used to struggle to get things done was because I used to assume I'd have a block of time. So I'd carefully mark out that time in my diary and yes, it would get done. But there would be so many other things I wanted to do, so much I wanted to learn.
And I never had the time for it. Then I started observing the things I did, and the places where I had time. And I realised that I almost never had blocks of time. But I always had snatches of time. Tiny snatches that helped me.
And so I called it my ‘carpe diem' moments
If you want to get things done, you can't wait for the block of time to show up. You have to seize the moments as they present themselves. And for this, you have to be prepared. For example, I'm trying to read half a dozen books at any given time, learn a language and do about ten thousand assorted things.
I want to learn photography a lot better, and yes, there's an upgrade of my favourite programs that I have to catch up with, and hey, there's that new shiny object I need to investigate.
All of this learning and fiddling around takes time
And I do make blocks of time for it. I mark out a bit of time (not much) in the morning. Some in the evening. But mostly I'm in ‘carpe diem' mode (seize the moment). Like for instance, I was washing the dishes last night (no, I don't use a dishwasher) and at that point I was listening to a book.
Yes, listening. People say: I can't learn with audio. Well, I treat it as though I'm listening not to audio, but to radio. I don't feel the need to learn. I just listen. So I put the iPhone on speaker mode and I listened.
If I'm stuck at the dentist (and he's always late, no matter what) I have my drawing book with me. I pull it out and I sketch a bit. When he shows up, I'm not as irritated as I could be. And so it is with most things in my life. I carpe diem my day in bits and pieces.
Yes, I also block chunks of the day for what I have to do. And those blocks of time work wonderfully some time, and sometimes it's just nothing but chaos and frustration.
But what works all the time, is the carpe diem learning.
For this to work, I have to be prepared
Simple preparation is the key. I can't do my goals for the week if I don't have pens and paper. And I can't listen to audio if I don't have it downloaded on my iPhone. So I'm prepared, even over prepared. I have five-six audio books pre-loaded at any one point in time. I have a truck load of books on my Kindle. I have my brushes, my drawing books, my inks with me at all times. I can be stuck just about anywhere, and not be irritated at all, because it's my carpe diem time.
But I also try not to be silly
Well I did say ‘try'. I know I shouldn't be browsing on my iPhone or trying to peck my way into a forum. So I leave that for a coffee break when I'm at my desk instead. It's faster, and more visually appealing. Spending time (or rather wasting time) at the iPhone isn't going to help.
And this is an important point. We have different tools to work with. And some tools, like your phone are suited for some things and are clunky for other activities. So it's better to avoid using the wrong tools, because then you're just eating into your carpe diem time.
And let's also be fair: Some jobs require blocks of time
No one is saying you have to do everything in a haphazard way. If it's that book you intend to write, you're going to need huge clumps of time. And you'll need to block it out. But even if writing that book was your only project (and it rarely is), you still have to outline, still have to get a whole bunch of ideas. And you can do all of this in carpe diem moments that present themselves through the day.
But isn't this exhausting? All this trying to squeeze every moment of every day
Yes, it can be. So you don't do this every day. But you do this a lot. Because truly speaking, no one has time. No one has had the time through history. It's the same ol' story. And people have time to moan and groan. They'll stand in the supermarket queue with this overworked face. They will tell you they have no time.
What they mean is they have no blocks of time.
What they mean is they don't use the carpe diem moments in the day.
Time marches on madly
We have no choice. If we truly want to be the people we want to be, we have to carpe diem our days.
The moment is here. Are you going to seize it? Or complain?
It's your choice.
P.S. I take three months off every year. We visit places all over the planet and sometimes just lie quiet in the backyard and drink some amazing Kiwi beer. All this vacation stuff takes time too. And it's important, because if you're tired all the time, you function inefficiently.
You get more tired and even more irritated with your work. So you have to have long blocks of nothingness. To be able to get this time in place, we have to carpe diem our year, when working. So that there's a time to just relax and do no carpe diem. Just to do nothing. Nothing but eat, drink and sleep.
And yes, blocks of time work, but you can carpe diem your breaks too. Most people wait to get a week or two to go on a break. Well, what about this weekend? Renuka and I used to make this mistake and wait for the break. And we'd get more tired and yes, sometimes fall ill as well.
And then we discovered that a couple of days without an agenda, was often just as good. We'd start to relax almost the moment we left for our break. And two days later, we'd be super refreshed. Carpe diem works for work just as it does for breaks. And you need both.
So yeah, carpe diem away!
P.S. It’s not easy to save time. We all know that.
Yet, time management isn’t just a factor of getting a fancy to-do list. Sometimes it involves some pretty odd things that you have to do. Find out more here—Unusual Time Management Ideas.
It’s almost funny that I just overslept by 5 hours, before waking up to see what’s on my RSS list. This article looks spot on. I mean, taking time to rest is as important as finding time to work.
This is SOOO Bingo! I realise that this is how I live and work, but am always asking myself: should I stick to that “to do” list, or “go with the flow” and follow what comes up in those carpe diem moments? I tend to do that, to trust my inner intuition. But then I wonder if I’m rambling and distracted – that I should have followed through on that original “to do” list …. What would you recommend?
You described my carpe diem minutes perfectly. I used to get impatient, sometimes a bit angry when waiting 30-60 minutes for doctors, transportation, waiting lines, etc. Then, I read what Emerson said when referring to the human spirit, “Can crowd eternity into an hour, Or stretch an hour to eternity.” That prompted me to do what you defined and my impatience and anger disappeared. My solution was to always have a book or a “to do” item with me to absorb the “lost time” moments. I’m a word person and your words were enlightening.
Peter Murray says
I read this blog and others in the RSS reader on my phone during my ‘carpe diem’ minutes while commuting or waiting in queues.
Sean D'Souza says