Tag Archives: Time

Invest in time and spend it wisely

The longer we are in lockdown, the more philosophical I become about notions of time. It’s been seven weeks now, and in some respects that time has flown by. It’s the end of the first full week of May, and April seems to have passed in a blur. It’s equally true though, that there have been occasions when I have had absolutely no idea what day it is. At those times, I haven’t been helped by the comedians on social media who (taking today as an example) post things like : “For those of you who are confused, it’s Thursday today and tomorrow is Bank Holiday Monday!” My head is scrambled enough as it is, without these sorts of tautologies to contend with!

Gandalf

There is a danger that in our desire to come out of lockdown, to move back to something nearer to the normality that existed before March, that we miss the opportunities that are happening in the here and now. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo says to Gandalf : “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” Gandalf’s reply could well be the leitmotif for our times : “So do I”, he says, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Mother Theresa put it even more succinctly : “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Living for the day, making the most of each moment, looking for the good things that we can take from where we are. These are truisms, probably even clichés, but they have also helped me to try to make some sense of the bizarre times that we are living through. It’s why I’ve come to appreciate the opportunities to get out into the countryside during my exercise hours; and why I now appreciate the chance to sit in the garden for half an hour at lunchtime enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face. These are privileges that I had previously taken for granted, and that I have now really come to value as a result of lockdown. And I really do appreciate how lucky I am to be able to enjoy these things when the same restrictions are so much harder for those in urban areas with no access to open spaces.

It seems likely that by the end of this coming weekend, we will be starting to emerge from lockdown – however slowly and cautiously. We will be taking our first faltering steps into the ‘new normal’ that will be a world living with coronavirus, rather than one locked down in order to protect ourselves from it. The transition is likely to take several months, and its very likely that things will never quite be what they were. Through it all, its worth remembering the profound words of Anthony Oettinger : “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”

Thoughts from my virtual notice board

improve the silence

It’s been two days of back-to-back meetings. Most of them have been productive and interesting, but not all. Some decisions have been taken, lots of information has been shared. Data has been pored over and questions raised. Projects have progressed – not always to the extent hoped, but they’ve moved on a little. I’m not one for talking a lot in meetings unless I have something worthwhile to contribute to the subject under discussion. In general, if I have nothing to add, I’m very happy to add nothing. It’s a function of my introverted thinking style and preference – I don’t need to think out loud and generally I’m not comfortable externalizing my thought processes. The Borges quote sits very comfortably with me, although I acknowledge that it infuriates those extroverts who work (and live!) with me. I do try to adapt my style sometimes, but I’m very happy with the silence.

achieve great thingsThe university that I work for is in the midst of a lot of change. Having spent much of the last two years working out where we want to be in the next five years, the pressure is now on to do the things that will get us there. There are some very large projects under way. A £300m plus new campus in the city centre; a £90m new library and learning commons building in the existing Clifton Campus; and new information systems to better manage student and financial data across the institution. Beneath these, there is a host of smaller initiatives running : new teaching programmes; small-scale improvements to existing buildings and facilities; process improvements to improve the service to students and academic staff.

All of this generates a significant additional workload for many of us alongside the ‘business as usual’ day job (which has to be done in addition to the sexy, project stuff). There are often days and weeks where there are simply not enough hours to get it all done, and this is where the Italian proverb comes in handy. It’s always worth remembering that a good plan well executed is always more effective than a perfect plan that never gets off the shelf. Implementation done well enough is always preferable to perfect intentions.

dalai lamaAnd finally, there’s this quote from the Dalai Lama. It’s a timely and necessary reminder that however busy things get, you must always make the time to live. When busy-ness gets in the way of life, then it’s time to review what really matters and to re-focus on what’s important.