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Time, Not Enough Time?

Yesterday was catch-up day with pals. As someone who really hates the telephone, some aspects of that require quite a significant boot to cause me to take the necessary action.

My diary is set up - yes, by me - to send me regular reminders about tasks that need to be done. The most important appear on the electronic page in the most vivid and unappealing orange colour. The reward is to be able to click on the "mark complete" button and stare in approval at lines drawn through the task to show it done.

But that is not sufficient. To complete a task one also needs time. Writing this daily diary has an hour allocated in the calendar starting at 0700 each and every day. Reading the papers, over breakfast, porridge, since you ask, has another starting at 0600.

I am a wee bit flexible about timings. But utterly inflexible about their being in the diary and about the amount of time being allocated to that task. I might move them a bit, but they never get removed.

These first two tasks of the day are the easiest to complete. Why? Because they are the first tasks and they are early in the day. There is almost nothing can displace them from that early slot. The phone won't ring - people rarely ring anyway because they know that I will only answer to a few select known numbers. Text me first, or send me an email, asking if I will receive a call? Perhaps I might say yes.

Ain't going to happen between 0600 and 0830. Especially today, a Saturday. So that period is the "golden time" for getting things done. Decades ago, I used to run for 30 minutes first thing. Because there was never, almost never, anything that could get in the way, and it became a habit, a very good habit.

I promote the most important tasks into that slot.

Strangely, contacting others doesn't make it into the diary at all. Because some things don't go away however much they are being ignored. And of all the impacts of this social isolation is that it is - social isolation.

So a series of short text messages to pals. Leading within 30 minutes to responses, and then quite long interactions, with everyone contacted.

For the young in the family, for whom time runs much more slowly, the loss of social contact is particularly acute. And inevitably this leads to the question, "When does this end?" for which there is as yet no answer.

For my God-daughter Darcey has been being kept busy by school work delivered electronically. Her mother reports that the mathematics looked very difficult. But herself hoovered it and spat it out as solved with apparent ease. Good stuff!

Physical contact with pals has been replaced, with the aid of a newly purchased computer, mum needed the laptop for her work, by electronic "parties" and, what her mother tells me is the new normal, endless gossip online.

Like me, Darcey's mum has decided that fitness in the body is part of how to stay fit of mind. Every day has a regular walk, mine's diaried for an hour at 0900 but is generally actually at 1345. And apparently, junior aerobics for her at 0900 with "Joe" who leads a YouTube class. Mum reports to being sore and exhausted after this but thinks she and her daughter may be feeling the benefit.

Another pal reports that she is extremely busy trying to repatriate Scots stuck abroad by this bug. People in "normal" tourist destinations can present some challenges to get them home. But if you are "up the jungle" in a distant country that's a bigger challenge. I get the feeling she doesn't have time to be bored.

While a third has two new kittens, determined to type on the computer keyboard during working hours, or leap at, and climb up curtains.

There's still a place for snail mail, the physical letter. I have "scanned in" copies of letters to my Great-Great-Grandfather Archibald Stewart. Upon being widowed in 1841 when in his fifties, he and four of ten children emigrated to Canada.

Some of his descendants in Canada still treasure these letters written in Scotland and sent to Canada 150 years ago. And kindly sent me these scans. Will electronic words be loved and curated for that length of time? Doubtful.

I know that the National Library of Scotland now archives web sites, my main website at is one such, and ensures that even as technology moves on these electronic records will be available to future generations.

But for private communication, no such effort is likely to be practical. And even if it were, it is unlikely to be done.

So the printed, or handwritten, word still matters.

Accordingly, when I have finished my daily diary report, had my bath, dressed - yes, I write this in my dressing gown - I will sit down to write my weekly letter to Darcey and to some of my ten Great Nieces and Nephews.

And that all has a timetable too. The Post Box at Cornhill is emptied at noon on a Saturday. The walk down to it takes 45 minutes. The writing will take an hour. So I have to start by 1000—exactly the time I publish this.

Being given a huge amount of time, at a time when the constituency workload has shot up due to this bug, somehow still leaves me short of time unless I critically and carefully deploy that which I have.

Cyril Northcote Parkinson's 1957 book, "Parkinson's Law, or The Pursuit of Progress" articulated that work expands to fill the time available.

True, so true. Even when I have been handed a big wodge of it.


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