Time Limits are Actually Your Friend. Image from Jim at unprofound.com.
Somewhere across the work of Steve Chandler, I came across a saying, “You have three hours to live. Two of them are gone.” Of course, that “hour” could be another fifty years and I wish you a healthy and wonderful life. This could lead you to be depressed , panic or wake up to all the possibilities of the moment to create and learn. I do all three just to cover my bases.
It’s funny that I woke up to the possibilities of time right as my children were born. When I come home after an intense day of work, I do bath-time, help with dinner, read stories, change diapers blah, blah, blah. I don’t come home and wonder how I will entertain myself. Instead, I do what Toni Morrison did when she had small children. I have become a morning samurai. I leave the house an hour early and write, study Japanese and music, and cook other stuff up in my mad labs. Having less time “to myself” put those hours at a premium so I value that time more. You have three hours to live and two of them are gone.
A little Japanese math helped me on my way. I am re-reading “Each Day Thirty Minutes: 55 Study Techniques to Win in Life” or 「１日３０分」を続けなさい！人性勝利の勉強法５５ Learn to Win 古市幸雄 by Furuichi Yukio. One of the simple but powerful things that stuck with me is about the power of steady small efforts. He talks about avoiding becoming a “three day monk.” (I was introduced to this phrase originally by alljapaneseallthetime.com). This is a Japanese idiom for someone who holes themselves up to study (cram) for long periods, usually after avoiding study. That kind of studying leads to internal resistance to the idea of study, the idea that study is onerous, hard, and boring. However, thirty minutes a day adds up quickly, both in time, connections, results, and a generally positive attitude to learning. This is more than a theory to me now. I’ve learned and done so much more than when I used to be a “three day monk”: WordPress, blog writing, reading Japanese, and now, in drips and drops, music.
Time limits don’t mean it’s time to panic and rush but rather that it’s time to “bring it home.” Image: unprofound.com.
You have three hours to live and two of them are gone. I was on the Jamplay website (awesome website for guitar–sign up through me and help a brother out). Someone recommended a lecture by Kenny Werner, a jazz pianist. This lecture is amazing and I plan on watching it more regularly. It’s about how to become a better musician, but I think you could substitute any skill into what he is talking about, especially the importance of not hating yourself in the process of getting better. Yet again, a difference voice talking about the power of the small and how even five minutes of practice can make a difference:
If you say ‘ I’m going to practice for 2 hours’ – then you don’t practice at all, because you’re waiting for 2 hours to come up. If you say ‘I’m going to practice for 5 minutes,” you’ll practice a lot. Everytime you start for 5 minutes, before you know it is 45 minutes. So then you start to expect 45 minutes, and then you’re not practicing again. This is part of the reverse psychology. So if you start saying, ‘there are many 5 minutes opportunities in my life, let me focus what I’m going to practice . . . It’ll feel good, because you’ll finally start to feel that you’re not a hostage to the external events in your life. You’re not alone. We all empower the environment to affect us and it always will, but how much of it affects us is up to how we train ourselves. Five minutes is always your way ‘in’, so instead of not practicing ( because of whatever excuse etc), practice 5 minutes. You will be amazed and pleased with yourself, that now these things that come up in your life are not blocking something you got going, something you got started. Everytime you do it, that 5 minutes is usually 10 or 15. So you are functioning, even in the face of resistance. ….Kenny Werner, Jazz Pianist
You have three hours to live. Two of them are gone. Practice. Play. Repeat.