Cast your mind back to when you were just seven years old. The date is December 22nd and you’re waiting for Christmas Day to arrive. Can you remember just how excruciatingly slowly the time passed? The days felt more like weeks as the countdown ticked idly towards its festive target.
Now, transport that same seven-year-old you forward a few months, and recall the balmy summer holidays with no school. Didn’t those six weeks of joyous freedom seem to pass more quickly than the considerably shorter 72-hour run-up to Christmas Day?
What was going on there – was time speeding up? We know that can’t be true, though, as only God (and possibly Doctor Who) has control over time. The rest of us have no choice but to exist within the limits of its construct. We can’t do a thing to make time speed up or slow down, stop or start; even if we wanted it to.
Which most of us do.
Expanding or adding time to our days would be such a bonus, as we all have unique demands on our time that are simply unavoidable. You may have children. You may have a full-time job. You may have a member of your family who is sick and for whom you are the primary carer.
We commit to these necessary endeavours, and while not resenting them, we may discover that there is very little margin left for our creative selves. So, reluctantly, we accept that making art is something we’ll never fully experience in our lives. That is reserved for the lucky ones who are blessed with more time.
Time, however, is the one thing that actually creates a level playing field for all of us. Nobody gets more time per week than anybody else.
You'll never have more time than you have now
You get 168 hours. I get 168 hours. The current British Prime Minister gets 168 hours, and the new born baby letting out her very first cry is just starting her very first 168 hours, before her second week starts.
This time next week, 168 hours of your life will have passed by. Gone forever.
Of course, our individual responsibilities and commitments do vary, but not one of us is allotted even a minute of extra time to get it all done.
However, what we do get to choose is exactly where we place our focus.
Focus on your focus
As the strain of many of our manual and repetitive jobs has eased – first by the machinery of the industrial age, and more recently by the computers of the information revolution – you’d be forgiven for thinking that we were on the cusp of some kind of utopian era.
However, in the mother of all bait-and-switch moves, it seems that technology’s promise of taking the pressure off, so that our lives can finally slow down, is proving somewhat empty.
As life gathers pace year-on-year, and our stress levels go through the roof, you can hear people everywhere complaining that they are busier than ever before.
One of the biggest indictments of modern society is that, instead of technology freeing us up, it’s conditioned us to respond to its every beck-and-call.
The good news, however, is that, despite much propaganda to the contrary, there is time available. There actually is. The problem we have is that we’re filling it with noise.
Digital distractions are new phenomena that artists of previous generations didn’t have to deal with. So, let yourself off the hook a little bit if you feel like you weren’t prepared. None of us were.
In a sobering line from the cult novel 1984 (published in 1949), George Orwell prophetically wrote, “The people will not revolt. They will not look up from their screens long enough to notice what’s happening.”
Orwell’s words could hardly be more descriptive of today’s alarming trends.
Watch as people around you are blissfully oblivious to all that is going on around them, their eyes glued to the warm glow of the smartphone lovingly cradled in their palm.
Suddenly, someone’s phone beeps into life as one of their ten social media accounts blinks insistently for attention. Yes! It’s a new ‘like’ for their latest duck-pout selfie. A mini rush of dopamine acknowledges this success by giving their addicted brain a little celebratory high, before their mind settles back into neutral, anticipatory of the next hit.
This self-created existence unashamedly demonstrates a frightening new level of self-absorption that we’re encouraged to accept as being normal. And people accuse artists of being self-indulgent!
Of course, you are probably not as addicted to distraction as the people I’ve just described, but do yourself a favour and take careful note of everything that attracts your attention, especially if it retains your focus. Some of it may be holding you back you more than you realise.
Our minds are a gift to us. They are active endowments, not just passive receptors for the latest social media trend to dump its advertising campaigns into.
Are you, like me, ready for a truly creative revolution to explode into our world? One in which we:
With the right focus, you can achieve a great deal in a short span of time.
You would not likely argue that Van Gogh or Mozart failed to create meaningful art with their life, would you? But did you also know that they died at ages 37 and 35 respectively?
Their work is revered as some of the greatest ever produced, and was achieved despite their available time being less than ideal.
So, please take note. This, now, is your time. Your life is happening right now.
The big question to ask yourself is not about how you can find more time, but this: on what are you consistently focusing your mind?
Your next 168 hours start now.