I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of time lately, prodded by Jacky’s recent thoughts, and have been exploring how we can reclaim our perception and experience of time rather than feeling controlled by it.
In Aaron Lewis' great article about time, he talks about the strange “zombie metaphors” we use to refer to time and explores the phenomenon of calendar apps intending to give us control but actually making us feel over-booked. Traditionally, literature describes Time as an overwhelming, unconquerable force, the great equalizer that cannot be changed regardless of your status in life. Our calendar apps are a microcosm of that effect, where our attempt to control time with technology backfires on us. In a previous mini-essay, I’ve talked about how time is depicted in a short story in a world where we’ve harnessed technology to physically experience time differently, the rich and powerful giving themselves an infinite amount of time for their endeavors, showing an opposite world in which we can conquer time for ourselves through gated and inaccessible technology.
What if anyone could reclaim control of time for themselves? What does a world look like where we challenge Time for control but that power is free for anyone to seize rather than only the wealthy and powerful?
One method I’ve seen to take control of time is boxing out time for yourself for a certain task. As opposed to calendar events that take your time from you, this is a practice of reserving time for a personal purpose. In art, a common learning technique is to practice drawing with different time limits to remove the reliance on the time to do things perfectly. Different intervals force you to capture different levels of abstraction in each work, which train your brain to work at different levels of fidelity. This sort of constraint setting, done intentionally, can create spaces of intense focus for creation. I’ve tried this practice before with my mini-essays to force myself to focus on a single idea and get to the point concisely.
Another way of reclaiming time is creating time artifacts to engage with in the future. I’ve thought about this from the perspective of time capsules. The concept has always fascinated me, and one idea I’ve explored is how you can create a software tool that lets you create digital time capsules for yourself and others. Imagine being able to create a time capsule of your most cherished memories, your writing journey, or the history of a meme in your community. I think the act of snapshotting incremental progress and then reflecting on that journey in the future is a practice of intentionality and self-gratitude. It provides space to reflect on what went well to repeat and to make space for appreciation for how far you’ve come. Another time artifact you can create are what Jacky called emotional tupperware. Emotional tupperware is the concept of preserving leftover precious emotions to experience at a later date, like the joy of finishing a project or being with your partner before a long period of distance. Snapshotting is a practice in self-care by acknowledging the present moment as valuable and useful and marking yourself as present. Reflecting on a time artifact is how you can leverage those snapshots later.
Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with energy and excitement by all the different projects I want to work on and ship, impatient to seeing results. On one hand, this is so energizing because of the incredible alignment with my mantra of building cool shit with amazing people. On the other hand, it’s scary because to get anything done and out there for the world to see and interact with, I need to ruthlessly prioritize things. I’ve had periods where I’ve felt scatter-brained and torn between all the different threads, but I’ve found time boxing helpful as a forcing function to do valuable work for the specific streams that I’m excited about in a given moment. This tension with time I’ve felt is difficult, but it’s reaffirmed my desire to feel everything intensely and honestly commit myself to what I love.
I want to create playful environments, design humane interfaces, and craft agencyful futures. I want to marvel and wonder at rich worlds and beautiful mechanics and simple joys. I want to love fiercely and be devoutly attentive. I want to laugh, make my belly sore from the effort. I want to cry to have cherished something so much that it hurts every moment it’s gone.
All to say, I want to experience every moment of my life fully and attentively, and the first step is reclaiming my time to sharpen and accentutate that attention on the avenues I care about.
This is the 96th installment in my experiment of publishing raw, lightly edited mini-essays every day towards achieving 100 public pieces. Check out the rationale and the full list here.