At pharmacy school, my lab partner and I used to set ourselves up for a goal — we had to be the first ones to complete the experiment and get out of the lab. Our protocol was set — follow the suggested method, divide and conquer when it came to sourcing ingredients, and avoid the banter. And low and behold, got out of the lab first we always did.
And where did we have to go by finishing up early?
This rush was without a purpose. My partner and I only enjoyed the thrill of the pressure we put on ourselves for no rhyme or reason. *wink*
I correlate much of my lab attitude to the rest of my life. I always have three burners going while cooking a meal, plan my presentation backward according to a set deadline, and think about where I have to be next (meeting, errand, vacation) when I am already at one. Everything I do is set to a clock — my clock, that caters to my sense of time. In this process, I have ended up being governed by time as I associate control over life by getting more things done, in less time.
They have a name for this. It is called Time Urgency or Hurry Sickness. Time-urgent people mistake hurrying for time management, fail at stressmastery, and invite anxiety into their lives.
I get it. There are 24 hours in a day. There is work, family, social commitments, personal time, exercise and upkeep. Everything, aside from work, is tightly crunched into 2–3 hours of the day. Sometimes you only have two hours to turn something in even at work. Time-urgent behaviour then is not a choice, but the only way out. On the upside, you always meet deadlines, are punctual, and never drop anything from your plate. But there is a downside too — you lose out on making mistakes altogether. These mistakes keep one from growing and discovering genius because they constantly feel rushed.
PROCRASTINATION GOOD. TO-DO LIST BAD.
There is a way to diagnose and figure out if the rushed response is necessary. In general circumstances, not doing something at a speed can be perceived as lazy or procrastinating — but in essence, it is our mind helping us deprioritize.
Checking off a box on a to-do list activates a reward system in our brain which pushes us to finish as much in a given time frame. Counterintuitive to self-help mechanisms that advocate the go-get-them philosophy through deep scheduling and checklists, to-do lists tend to falsely identify a simple task as extremely important. The job of a list is to remind; we forget that and make it into a race.
Finally, time urgency does not let you savour moments. It reinforces the habit of living in an imagined future with much of ‘what ifs’ and ‘what next’. It is one thing to anticipate events and have a plan of action, but it is another thing to completely forget the ‘now’.
If you are a time-urgent person, I won’t tell you what to do because honestly, I don’t know your circumstances. But learning more about yourself usually helps things to fall in place.
I came across, Ichigo ichie, a Japanese Zen method of moment hunting or treasuring the unrepeatability of the given moment. This is my theme for 2021. To be more present. As there is will always be somewhere to go, but nothing matters if you don’t have a moment to be.