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May 2019

Time disruptions

Have you ever wanted to go back in time? To fix something you did, or right some historical wrong? Even if you could, it would be tricky: backwards time travel carries with it a whole load of unintended consequences. That's why it is makes for good movies, from the classic teen comedy Back to the Future, to the thrilling super-hero adventure Endgame, to the excellent new sci-fi drama See You Yesterday.  So I was excited to read in the New York Times last week that a team of quantum physicists, using an IBM computer, launched five qubits back in time for a millionth of a second! OK, so that's a far cry from Marty McFly dating his mom, but researchers say this discovery holds promise. 

It looks like we'll just have to wait on the time-reversal technology. In the meantime, I could really use some time-stopping technology. Since I moved to New York from Virginia in August, I've spent so much time going back and forth from Brooklyn to DC that I almost meet myself coming and going. So I'd like to stop the clock and have a chance to catch up! If you can relate, you might be interested in some of the strategies that have helped me make the most of the time I have. 

  • Get it off your plate--when someone e-mails or calls me with a quick and easy question, I don't "put a pin in it" for later, but try to respond right away. It's done and I don't have to spend time "calendaring" it. Bonus: the person on the other end is eternally grateful!
  • Block it--those small things I couldn't get off my plate quickly sit in a pile of notes that grows higher and higher till it's a towering mountain of rebuke. So I schedule a block of time (30 minutes here, an hour there) to "clean up" and deal with them. Sometimes I haven't finished the task when the time is up, but at least I have a clearer idea of how much more time is needed. 
  • Turn off your phone--if I need to do a deep dive into a project (editing a client speech, drafting a proposal, or writing a scene for my play) I focus ONLY on the task at hand. I get in the zone. I don't let calls, Facebook posts or (especially) tweets distract me. There is always some shiny object within reach. If I ignore it I finish faster than I thought I would! And guess what? There's an app (actually several) for that! 
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare--I really save time in the long run when I allot sufficient prep time for speeches, presentations, or anything that requires me to synthesize information and deliver it to others. Building on a strong foundation, I can discover my thesis, put together a deck, and compose talking points much more quickly and effectively than filling in holes on the fly. 
  • Reward yourself--I give myself a break when I hit certain milestones: go get a cup coffee when the first draft is done; allow myself a few minutes on social media (avoiding the sites that raise my blood pressure and take me down a rabbit hole!) after I press "send;" get up and walk around after I've made those crucial edits.

You are in very likelihood doing many of these things already. But just in case you've forgotten one or two of them, I hope this is a good reminder. And when you next put them into practice, send a good thought to me bussing it to DC and Amtraking back to NYC. 

Or start working on that time machine!