Posted by: Jenny | Sunday, 9 September 2007

Café culture

I am musing over the biggest question that faces me these days: how to use my time effectively?

I can’t remember when I had so much choice as to how to spend my time.  There was always something I ‘should’ be doing.  As a young mother, I felt as though I enjoyed a fair amount of freedom.  True, I had to get the children up and dressed, give them meals, bathe them and amuse them.  Within these constraints, however, I was free to construct my day as I chose.  On a fresh, clear autumn morning, I could bundle the children into their coats, get out the pram and take them to the park.  The laundry was not so urgent; it could wait till later.

Among many new experiences when I started work, the least desirable change was that I no longer had the freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted.  If the workload was low or non-existent, I still had to stay in the office till at least 4 o’clock.  I couldn’t just head home early and make up the time another day.

For many years I have been so busy that I just rushed from one task to the next, fitting in the smaller tasks around the bigger ones, using up every last five minutes in an effort to stay ‘in control’.  Often, I was aware that I did not do justice to the tasks I took on.  It would have been better to try to do less, and do it properly – and to make time for reflection and personal development.

Now, I relish the time for reflection.  I still feel very task-driven, and have to try hard to allow myself to ‘be’ as well as to ‘do’.  A little trick I’ve learnt is to treat reflection time as an activity in its own right.  I may sit in a café for an hour, enjoying my coffee, reading the paper, writing and exchanging the occasional remark with the staff and other customers.  Is this a wasted hour?  Undoubtedly not.  But to count as a worthwhile activity, it requires a tick in my ‘reflection time’ box.


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