Project Junior

Finding more with less in the fourth dimension.

The Most Valuable Currency

Your kids want your time. And the younger they are the more of it they demand. You have only a finite amount to give, and they are not the only ones making demands on it. There’s always work to do. You cannot create more time. You cannot slow it down. You cannot ask for it to wait until you are ready. It waits for none, and it hasn’t for me.

In those early years of fatherhood it was hard to find the time for both the dad stuff on the one hand and the gearhead stuff on the other. Both demand a lot of time and attention. After work, meals, and sleep get their cut, there’s just not that much left on the bones of the day. I don’t know if there is a perfect answer out there for this kind of tension, but here’s the line I have taken.

I cannot create or slow down time. I can’t do more and sleep less, burning out on both ends. I cannot call a timeout while I catch a breather or catnap. But … I can slow myself down, alter my expectations, and conform myself to the new shape of the responsibilities before me. And rather than seeing everything as a traffic jam of tasks competing for my attention, start seeing how some tasks are intended to ride together on the left, enjoying the steady flow of the HOV lane.

Common Dance Partners

Coming to such a conclusion was not the result of any sage observation on my part. Rather, I’d say I tumbled bass ackwards onto this nugget, having barely enough wits to stick it in my pocket to ponder later. Rather than seeking solutions to my time shortages, that Fall I was rummaging around in search of baggage to hide behind. “Looking busy” has always been the preferred costume for sophisticated shirkers of responsibility.

When one is having trouble finding the time to complete a current project it isn’t conventional wisdom to adopt another project to help. Alas, conventional wisdom was not readily on tap during this phase of my life. Therefore “looking busy” behind a slew of other business seemed just the ticket!

It’s not procrastination if you’re working (on another project), right? Precisely!

Doing more is good, unless you consider the getting less done part. Procrastination need not be just a five syllable word or the four letter concept talked about in the last episode. Fools like me could even dress it up as regular old fashioned work to avoid the anxiety associated with completion.

You know, back then I never really connected the two, but anxiety and avoidance seem to be common dance partners. I’ve earlier discussed the anxiety associated with the unknown (the lions in the street), but just as it can keep you from making progress on a certain phase of a project, it can also keep you from completing a project altogether for fear of what comes (or doesn’t come) next. And one step further, finishing something often comes with some sort of evaluation, and the fear of failure is one of the biggest lions in any young man’s streets.

Anxiety and avoidance do a mean tango.

Commencing Project Junior

And the project I’d use to procrastinate behind in this case would be something for my oldest son’s impending birthday. October kicks off a seemingly unending string of birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries for our family that lasts until after the New Year. Rather than take him to the zoo or buy him some Legos or something easy like that, I decided that this year, as if I didn’t have enough to do already, I’d spend every available minute of free time pretending to be a carpenter. I’d attempt to make him a Cherokee of his own.

Why work on my own Jeep when I could make a whole new one from scrap wood and free time? Brilliant! It would be safe to assume at the end of this additional project I would theoretically have two Jeeps, though neither would have functioning headlights. A whole lot of work to avoid getting something done…Genius!

Loose Change from the Fourth Dimension

Looking for spare time is like finding loose change between the couch cushions. Sure, you may find some, but nobody expects to be able to do much with it. And since those shiny nickles aren’t worth investing or worth enough to purchase anything significant, what do we tend to do with it? It’s the same thing we’ll do with those spare bits of time we come up with. We’ll probably waste it on something trivial, vain, or just plain dumb.

In the same way some people would rather invest their loose change in the Lottery than the Stock Market, I would often rather invest my free moments in scrolling away with my thumbs or in a ten minute video or surfing through for-sale ads on your online marketplace of choice. I know nothing good will likely come from it. I know it won’t get me any closer to completing any of the myriad of other bigger, nobler, or more necessary callings in life. But what good can I do with only five minutes?

But in the case of this birthday present, even though I thought I was just wasting my free time on a scratch ticket, I was unwittingly investing in the next big thing. I wasn’t expecting to accomplish anything significant, content to hide behind busy-ness while anxiety and avoidance danced the night away. Yet I was to begin to find more with less from the fourth dimension. For the return one gets with investing time isn’t more time, but more wits to use it well.

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