• Kim F Vaughan

Time is an illusion

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

So said Einstein. And, incidentally, do you know what the @ symbol weighs?

Here we are, September has arrived and, once again, I am reminded of how time flies. No need for Professor Brian Cox to explain it. There are plenty of examples to hand.

Yesterday, Sir George Ivan Morrison OBE celebrated his 75th birthday. It seems like no time at all since I first listened to Van Morrison's Moondance album in a friend's front room and was blown away. His music has continued to transport me ever since, yet he remains ageless in my mind. I still (sometimes) think of my 36-year-old daughter as 'my little girl', to her chagrin. In that context, time really IS an illusion.

But the real world steps in. Today, I see my inbox full of messages, some of them are important and rich in content; for example, news and photos from family in the Isle of Man. Many more emails are 'nonsense' that rob me of time and energy, or are trying to infiltrate the inner sanctum of my private data.

It started me thinking of the olden days, before email and social media, when a memo would be dictated on a Monday, typed up, corrected, signed, duplicated and put non envelopes to be sent to a carefully considered circulation list of people on a Tuesday, carried by a mail system on Wednesday, delivered on Thursday, reviewed by a secretary and arrived in the recipient's in tray on Friday. Recipients could then read it before the weekend and leave it until the next week before acting or responding.

That is one memo, from one person, containing one fully thought out idea and maybe some clear proposals, requests or instructions. Several people took part in its construction and delivery, and time was taken to understand and act on it.

Now, we have multiple ways of receiving electronic information, instantaneously. We respond in a heartbeat, without due consideration and, sometimes, cause upset and confusion as a result. We feel pressure when we have hundreds of messages building up. We spend a large part of our day wading through it all before we start working fruitfully.

Here are some statistics for you, from this website consulted today (1-Sep-20).

  • By the end of 2023, the estimated number of active email users is going to be 4.4 billion

  • In 2020, there are an estimated 306.4 billion emails sent every day; 124.5 billion of those are likely to be business related and 55% of them are considered to be spam

  • And to answer my question at the top of this article, the @ symbol weighs 25 pounds * (see below)

In short, we are driven by the tools that are meant to help us. Stephen R Covey taught us about the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, in which he asked us to think about how we 'invest' our time based on achievement of our own business or personal objectives, based on our own 'main thing'. We waste time on a range of unimportant things (not just emails!), reacting to the demands of others instead of investing time in the important, future-focused things that really make a difference. Covey said,

"In order to be truly productive, we need to gain the habit of being conscious and intentional about everything we do. In today's world, we can't just go on 'I have a busy life' autopilot and expect to end up where we want to be."

Is time an illusion for you? Do you need help with being conscious and intentional about how you invest your time, especially in your personal development?

I work with my clients to define their goals, refine their thinking, shine in their careers, and design plans that improve their future performance. Invest your time wisely and you will find that the illusion becomes a reality. Contact me if you want to find out how I can help you.

* Before it was adopted by email, the @ 'at' symbol featured in three different languages – Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. In the 16th century, the Spanish and Portuguese used @ to signify the word 'arroba' – which was a unit of weight equivalent to 25 pounds. Some South American countries use it to this day. The Italians also used it to represent an amphora or a standard measure for wine.

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