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It’s About Time!

I have a confession to make:  I stole an issue of Reader’s Digest from my mother-in-law.  Even worse, I stole it while we were there for Christmas last year.  What in the world would cause me to commit such an offense?

Well, I read a story there that really hit home, really made sense.  In Reader’s Digest it was titled “A Case Against The Clock”.  However, if you know anything about Reader’s Digest, you know it is a compilation of articles, usually abbreviated articles.  So, I did some searching and found the original that Reader’s Digest included in their December 2015/January 2016 edition.  It was a story entitled “Time management is only making our busy lives worse” by Tony Crabbe, and that article was published in Quartz magazine.  Here is how Quartz magazine is described:  “Quartz is a guide to the new global economy for people in business who are excited by change.”

So, what in the world does something from some “Quartzy” magazine have to do with this blogger, this pointy-headed fish biologist and hard-core angler?

Let me tell you, let me cite several passages from that story, from the Reader’s Digest version (If you can, take the time to read the original article, do not just read my quotes, Time management is only making our busy lives worse).  It has everything to do with your time spent in the field and on the water.  It has everything to do with the quality of your life!

Imagine your life without a constant sense that you’re running behind.  Imagine not wishing for more hours in the day.  We haven’t always been this obsessed with time.  In fact, before the Industrial Revolution, clocks were largely irrelevant.  People had jobs to do, and so they did them in the natural order, at the natural time.  This worked for an agricultural society.  However, the factories of the Industrial Revolution needed to coordinate hundreds of people to get them working at the same time.  Businesses imposed clock time on their workforces.

Cast the clock forward 250 years.  We don’t need managers to impose time discipline upon us–we do it ourselves because we are so busy.  We schedule and cram our time, squeezing all the efficiency we can out of each day.  Time management, we believe, is the solution to our busyness:  If we could organize our time better, we’d be less overwhelmed, happier and more effective.

But, we’re wrong, and it’s damaging our careers and the rest of our lives.

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Got your attention?  Sound familiar?  Sound like our lives in this modern society?

Hate to say it, but it does, too much so.

That opening paragraph talks how we used to do things in “the natural order, at the natural time”.  Do we even know what that is anymore?

If you hunt or fish you should!  Every time I am in the field or on the water I am reminded how I need to slow down and allow things to happen at the natural time.  As much as I would like to be able to make big Tom turkeys come to my calls, big Muskies eat my baits, or Buck Mink enter my traps, I cannot.  I have to learn their habits, their times, and even better yet, I have to learn to make those my times.

I know a real good stick who said something to the effect, I am paraphrasing, that he would rather spend an hour fishing the right place at the right time than fish hours at the wrong time.  I know exactly what he meant–so much of our success hunting and fishing depends on being able to identify those right places and right times and be there!

How do you do that?  Easy!  Spend as much time as possible in the field and on the water!  Put in your time, be observant, and you will begin to figure it out.

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Wikimedia commons photo.

Another couple paragraphs from the Reader’s Digest article:

Research shows that if you increase people’s awareness of time–by placing a big clock in front of them–they do more stuff.  (Think about how much work you get done on the day before vacation.)  It makes sense that by getting more done we’d feel more in control.  More than that, it’s one of the great fantasies of time management:  If you get more organized you will get on top.

However, that works only in a finite world.  We haven’t lived in that world for quite a while.  In our infinite world, we will never be able to get on top of everything.  When we complete more tasks, more take their place–send more e-mails, get more replies.  If we do more as a result of better managing our time, we just become busier.

If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you may recognize that I am contradicting myself.  I have in the past blogged about paying close attention to the time while hunting or fishing in order to improve your success.  Give that big Tom at least 30 minutes from last calling to him, make him think that “hen” he heard has drifted away and he will come a-looking.  Or, when I am ice-fishing, I keep myself to a time interval of maybe 5 minutes per hole; if there is no activity in that amount of time, it is time to hit the next hole.

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So which is it?  I say what we need is to lose ourselves in time, but then I have said we need to watch it?  Maybe my contradiction exists because it is hard to know when it has been 30 minutes in the turkey woods.  When there is a loud-mouth gobbler nearby, time stands still.  When I am sitting on a bucket staring at an ice-hole and my depth-finder screen, I lose all track of time.  That is a great thing!  I am amazed at how fast a day on the water or in the field goes, even if they are relatively unsuccessful.  So, I have come to using the time-keeping pieces to maximize my success when I have time to be out there.

There is more:

Our smartphones allow us to communicate in real time and juggle multiple to-dos, swatting away incoming demands like some supercharged task ninja, potent and efficient.  As we seek to maximize our time, we slice and dice it into ever-smaller increments.  But, when we scatter our attention across a thousand mini activities, we prevent ourselves from engaging deeply or thinking properly.

Conversations with loved ones are disemboweled with frequent “productive” glances at the inbox; our ability to think is decimated by the distraction of the ping and the ring.  We maintain a state of chaotic mental activity that is the opposite of the optimal psychological state of flow, where attention is allowed to sink into an activity without distraction, where we bring our thoughts, actions, and goals into perfect sychronicity [wasn’t that an album?].  Flow doesn’t happen in splinters of time but in great big lumps of attention.

Think about your past few weeks.  All the moments you had of real insight or happiness came when you focused your attention, with reckless abandon, into the moment.  In maximizing our time, we rob our moments of their color.

Yep, how much of your recent “insight and happiness” came when you were focused on catching a fish?  Shooting a Dove?

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That excerpt also reminds me of a quote from Matt Straw of In-Fisherman that I have often used:

Besides, when I hear a cell phone in steelhead country, I want to grab it and pitch it into the river.  no matter how smart that phone gets, it can’t match the complexity of a steelhead.  The real miracles are swimming free in wild rivers and finding their way back to the exact spot where they were born 4 or 5 years ago with no need for a GPS unit, recharging, or a program written by a geek in a dark room then sold by a series of capitalists trained to survey your desires and pinpoint knee-jerk reactions to things that seem really, really cool yet make no real difference in your life and actually pale in comparison to that bird flying over your head that goes completely unnoticed.

Rule number one:  Toss that life interrupting, cancer causing, brain-wave altering dummy box of a cell phone into the glove box.  Pay attention to life and the journey begins.  No matter how small or insignificant it may seem, it can lead to a pattern.  The marching of ants along a tree limb.  Pelicans resting on shore.  A gathering of birds.  A school of minnows.  The flight of a single mayfly.

A set of rings in an otherwise placid pool.

All of which, in the mind of an actual angler, just beat the hell out of the most sophisticated toys, games, and phones geeks can build in dark, sterile rooms.

Matt Straw, In-Fisherman on-line, Autumn Steelhead in Low Water, fall 2012

mayfly

I get an evil grin on my face every time I share water with someone who cannot resist yakking on their cellphone.  I know who is going to be catching fish, and it ain’t them.

A few more, need to wrap this up:

You may still think you ‘d be willing to feel busier and less happy as long as you could be effective.  Effectiveness comes from two core factors:  prioritization and achievement.  When we prioritize well, we choose to do the right things not just the obvious things.  Yet a strong time awareness makes us prioritize the urgent and immediate rather than the important and strategic.

Perceived time pressure also lowers our ability to achieve.  Harvard researcher Teresa Amabile has shown that increased focus on time reduces our problem-solving abilities and our capacity to generate imaginative solutions.  We don’t think as well under the shadow of the clock.

It is true:  We will be able to do more stuff if we focus on managing our time, but we don’t need more repetitive, synchronized activity as we did in the Industrial Revolution.

We need more thinking, creativity, and problem solving.  Time management was a brilliant invention that helped to transform society 250 years ago.  Now it’s time for us to develop a different strategy–one that starts from the recognition that, in our overloaded world, the greatest shortage is not of time but of attention.

Amen!  What we need is more time in the field, on the water, exercising our hunting instincts.  So many of the “recreational activities” of our modern world are nothing more than more stress, more rushing here and there, more schedules to keep.  We will be more healthy, and more productive, if we take the time to hunt, fish, trap.  Tell your boss you are taking the day off, and he or she should thank you for it!

This blog post has been too long.

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About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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