Chris’ Brief Intro to Lakshmi
Lakshmi’s title for her blog is ‘Uncontrolled control’ and yet the first words that come to mind when I think of her are ‘Uncontrollable joy’. Lakshmi’s joy emanates from her. This joy is apparent in nearly everything she does, whether it is going for an exultant run in the rain (which I hear she does more often than your average person), delighting in nature, drawing beautiful pieces of art decorated with bible verses, horse riding or hosting dinner parties. Lakshmi drinks from the marrow of life with an unbridled joy, indifferent about what other people think of her as long as she is true to herself and enjoying herself! I hope you enjoy the blog as much as I did.
Keep being awesome,
Uncontrolled Control by Lakshmi Piette
Wake up at 6.30am, have a quick breakfast before squeezing in an hour or so’s work before a 9.00am lecture. 2 -3 lectures, a 3+ hour practical and a supervision quickly brings us to 3.00 / 4.00pm. Make use of the 1hour gaps between contact hours and what’s left of the afternoon to make notes on all the new material learnt today. 6.00pm; end the working day by going for a run followed by dinner with friends. 7.00pm onwards dedicated to social activities. In bed by 9.15pm. Repeat.
This is what my first year at university looked like. One could almost say my time management was impeccable: a strong and dedicated work ethic, time for 8+hours sleep, time for exercise, time for friends and time for extra activities. And indeed, the number of times people told me “I wish I was you and …could start work so early…be so disciplined about bedtime…be so on top of revision notes…have the motivation to go running…”. I was an enviously well-functioning swiss clock, proudly, and controllably, making the most of every second.
But the reality was a lot less glamorous. The reality was always being a little late to join my friends for dinner; the reality was always power walking left-right-and-centre to be where I needed to be to start studying; the reality was feeling uncomfortable in impromptu conversations, feeling precious revision time slipping away from me; the reality was always leaving socials almost ridiculously early; the reality was exhaustingly rigid; the reality was constant fatigue. Forget the pristine swiss clock; the reality was more like a dying watch with just enough battery power to keep the hands ticking, maintaining the illusion of perfect time keeping – but secretly dying inside.
I was uncontrollably controlled.
How can that even be a thing? Well it can. At the time, it all felt fine. I felt fine. Constantly fatigued and stressed, I didn’t even notice it. But looking back, my life was a numb, teetering, grey.
3 years on, I feel like an explosively, sparkly, exuberant yellow! After much (as in, a lot a lot) of “loosening up”, I feel infinitely more alive, infinitely happier and I’m pretty sure I’m also an infinitely better person to all those around me. I’m by no means completely reckless, and my days are still rather structured, but I am infinitely freer and have a much better relationship with time, and consequently a much better relationship with life in general.
How come? How do you go from uncontrollably controlled to controllably uncontrolled? It’s hard to pin down, but ultimately, I think it’s about learning to live life slower.
Time’s funny – you can cram quite a lot into it, and it seems to give way, enabling you to fill your day with ever more and more. But as you do so, time only gets tighter and tighter, becoming constricting and ultimately leaving you gasping and desperate for… more time. And yet, the more you relax into it, the more it seems to expand, giving you the space to inhale life’s blessings – friendship, family, love, joy – more deeply. (For Harry Potter fans, I guess one could liken time to Devil’s Snare! If you resist it, it suffocates you; if you relax into it, it relaxes too!)
Whilst I’ve never been a crammer when it comes to revising, I was very much a crammer when it came to time! With only 2hours to spare between coming back from a lab and going to choir, I would milk that 2hours to the limit, working intensely to get done what needed to be done. It’s a well-known fact that the more time you have to do something, the longer it takes (and vice versa); and as I always had early evenings “time blocked” for a social activity, I very much perfected the art of efficiency and getting rather momentous tasks completed in quite a short space of time.
Isn’t good time management about “time blocking” for the things that matter and also becoming more efficient by doing so? Well, yes – of course – but there’s an unhealthy limit to everything. Sure, my intense social / activities calendar was full of things and people that mattered to me, and sure, they forced me to complete my work with an almost in-humane efficiency… but I guess my point is that:
– there’s more to life than efficiency
– important things, to ourselves and our relationships, often fall outside of blocked time
My efficiency came at the cost of spontaneity and relaxing into life. Seeing as I only had 2hours to complete revision notes for 2 lectures, before having to promptly leave for a rehearsal, it meant that that WHOLE 2 hours HAD to be for work. No stopping to have a little chat with any friends I bumped into; no stopping to wind down with a cuppa on the back of a whirlwind day; no stopping to make time for life’s little spontaneous blessings. And whilst it meant I was efficient at work, it meant I was exhausted at life. I love spending time with people, yet, as part of my efficient time-blocked work model, I constantly had to fight the temptation to relax into encounters with people and instead drag myself to work. Sure, I was very self-disciplined, but the internal fight was exhausting. I was a puppet controlled by my calendar; an accordion forcefully stretched by the demands of work and time, never getting round to relaxing and exhaling into life.
So, what has changed? How have I gone from stressfully speedy to all too cool-cucumber? Well, in the spirit of catchy taglines, ultimately, I went from my calendar controlling me, to me controlling my calendar. Eh? Does that even make sense? Well, yes, if I define regaining control as: learning to accept my calendar isn’t always perfect, accepting that reality doesn’t fall squarely into pristine 1 hour blocks, and generally learning to let go.
Your definition of “control” will be a different colour to mine. The challenges which tempt you into being controlled by your calendar, and the control you need to exert over your calendar to regain balance, will be different to mine. The bottom line is, we can all paint ourselves a healthier relationship with time, by picking up the helpful colours from a palette of habits, tips and tricks, gradually applying them, until our canvas is no longer dominated by weary greys and stressful reds, but instead becomes a reflection of our true colours and the masterpieces which we are called to be.
Question for the comments: When have you had a particularly healthy or unhealthy relation with time?
Some TimeNavi suggestions for Time management:
- ‘Painting the colours of your day’ – One part of Lakshmi’s blog which inspired us here at TimeNavi was her description of colouring in the time of her week. Our suggestion is that you make that canvas a reality and use your calendar colours to track how relaxed or stressed you were during that time! Your calendar could become a literal portrait representing the stress or joy of your week. If it was a stressful, hour long meeting, put it in red in your calendar. If it was a joyful creative brainstorming session, put it in blue. This will give you the birds-eye view on your week and help you steer towards a week of relaxed greens and blues rather than stressful reds and weary greys!
- ‘Flexi-time or blank time’ – A technique I use to give my calendar flexibility is I plan ‘flexi-time’ into it or I just leave time blank between meetings or events. This means that I can let a meeting go slightly over without it intruding on another meeting, or it means that I can stop and have a cup of tea if needed. Try it out and see if it works for you.