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  • Writer's pictureSonia Ter Hovanessian

Harnessing Time

Updated: Jan 25, 2019

I am now in Lubbock, Texas. I go out on a mid afternoon walk to brainstorm my next article, which has been brewing in my mind and now just needs organising. Headphones go on and the first song in my playlist happens to be a wonderful rendition of the jazz standard, Summertime, by Italian jazz-soul fusion band "Soul Jazz Unit" #souljazzunit #summertime. It's a fitting tune to the bright Texan sun which makes a pleasant change from the relentless Oregon rain.

Winter in Lubbock, Texas

Time, our most precious asset, gift of the Gods, giving meaning to life and our endeavours which fill it. Yet, it is also often our biggest struggle. Do you often find yourself chasing time, always just a few steps behind, never quite crossing off everything on your To Do list, which just seems to get longer and longer? This is often a reality of us adults, but let your mind journey back to memories from your youth - was it the same? We were blessed with real free time, free from responsibility. Ok, yes, there was homework to contend with, and, for me, hours of studying music, but that time was never interrupted by a work phone call or the washing needing hanging. Oh, to be a child again.. long, lazy summer holidays, which in the case of an only child like myself, veered on the edge of boredom at times, willing for time to go faster so I could rejoin my friends again at school at the start of another school year.

See, winter, I have a hat on

I remember my piano teacher, who had also done a Masters in Philosophy, was not the best time-keeper - and I don't mean musically, from that point of view he was a true master of his craft - I mean, you never quite knew when you would be able to enter and actually have your piano lesson. Sometimes you'd be waiting for nearing on an hour. There was a reason why, which became clear once you entered the room. John wasn't the kind of teacher who stopped after an hour on the dot, because that was the allocated time for that person and someone else is waiting. No, no, he would teach until we reached a moment of comprehension or saturation, whichever came first. And a good part of the lessons were him philosophising about music, life, all of it! I remember very clearly one time, whilst I was desperately trying to grasp a complicated piece by Schumann, this moment of enlightenment, well, at least for the 17-year-old girl I was back then:

"There is a precise start and finish to the piece. They don't move. In that sense, time is finite. Yet, what happens in between is up to our interpretation and how we use the notes on the page, allowing the moments of rest to take on meaning, respecting the various rhythmic constraints as is the nature with written classical music, but allowing for emotion to pull our conception of time a little forward or a little back. Then, music starts to come to life and there's an emotional communication between player and listener, and perhaps a hair or two will stand on end on an arm somewhere."

Isn't this exactly what time in life is like? #ilovemusic #schumann #musiceverywhere

"And remember, to a young child time has one meaning because it's in conjunction with the length of the time they have been alive for. For a baby of six months, three months is half of their life. Yet, for someone older, that same period of time takes on a different meaning. Remember that."

How could I forget?

Moulding time through music...

So, emerging from our summer daydream, I want you to come back to the present day. I want to reflect on time in the life of an adult, on time in the life of a freelancer, on our eternal quest for harnessing time, our most precious asset.

One of the main reasons why I became a freelancer is my desire to use time as I see best appropriate in whichever moment of my life I may be in: I love the idea of being able to work where and when I want, I love managing relationships with my clients directly and even dealing with all aspects of the job at hand, from doing my books, deciding prices and the financial costs of a business, to establishing lesson content when I'm teaching, or studying and preparing repertoire for a concert, and now to putting together my home recording studio to a professional standard and building up a business from the ground up. But it's that first aspect, the elusive concept of freedom which motivates me the most. #freelancersunite #timemanagement

Whether we are a freelancer, an entrepreneur or whether we are employed within a company, we are living in a time where technology allows us more flexibility: we are hearing, more and more, of people working remotely, flexitime, and now companies and countries even supporting the idea of a 4-day week. #fourdayweek Whichever way you work, how can we avoid cramming things in at the last minute? Avoid being overloaded with deadlines looming? Often, especially as a freelancer, we have to put on different hats, quite literally, and do different jobs. How can we best manage shifting between projects and even between roles? And how do we make sure we have a healthy work/life balance? I was curious to reflect on how I personally manage my time, so here are five of those that come to mind:

1. The Tomato Timer:

This simple page allows us to work in chunks of time, which we can decide in length, but which comes already programmed at 25 minutes. After which, you have to take either a short break (5 minutes) or a long break (10 minutes). And then get straight back to work for another 25-minute chunk. I have tried using it in the past, and even though I love the idea of it, and it would most likely help me focus more and be more productive, but I find it a little restrictive. Perhaps it depends on the kind of work we are doing?

2. The To Do list

We all do them. On a piece of paper, or post-it, which follows you around all day, eternal lists of things "to be done". This is one technique I find particularly useful. I have tried having the list on my phone or my computer, but I want that satisfying feeling of crossing off tasks done and dusted and see the post-it become littered with decisive crossings-out. And I know there are many ways to then attack your To-Do lists, with the most popular (or sage) being to re-order them in order of importance. Is it wrong that I tend to attack the most mundane first thing? Send out all those email replies which are needed? I'm not a morning person, so perhaps for me that's ok. Or is it me avoiding the more important and challenging items on the list? How is it for you? Are there other ways to approach these lists?

To do, or not to do, is that the question?

3. Dividing your time into chunks on your calendar

This is actually something I started doing when I was still at school, not realising how Google Calendar has made it even easier: and it combines nicely with the revered to-do list. Just create chunks of your preferred colour on the digital calendar of your choice, allocate a time and decide how 'big' to make that chunk. Then it's easy to move them around, change the order, realise you've planned too much for one day, dragging them to the next day (and sometimes, the next and the next and the next...).

4. Setting yourself goals

With my life coach, we have started calling these Mission Milestones, as goals can sometimes feel rather sterile, and we all need inspiration. Along with a vision board so you can gain clarity on what you want and where you want to be, working towards something and building on something with a clear vision in mind is exciting and that energy should be harnessed too. And for any life-coaching needs, here's your lady: #lifecoachingrocks #whatsonyourvisionboard

5. Rewards

On this last point, I'm not so proficient. They say it works wonders. Do the hard work and then reward yourself, in a specific way so you know you're receiving this little treat because of a specific task you worked on. Don't get me wrong, I do give myself rewards, but it's not so systematic. I often just do the work that needs doing, I think that's pretty common. Perhaps we could all benefit more from more treats? A symbolic high-five.

Whichever way you manage your time and the tasks at hand, one thing is for sure, we could all learn to appreciate the time we have more, and learn to be in the present more: the change is happening... more and more people are getting in yoga, it's even being introduced into schools, and meditation is doing wonders for many and thanks to technology and apps for our phones, it's being made more accessible to a Western mind-set (check out for a great meditation app).

And when we're truly enjoying what we're doing, that's when we are most at one with our Being in the present moment. That's enough of a reward in itself in my eyes.

I'd love to know your ideas of how to deal with time management. What's your approach? What techniques do you use? Any of the ones above or some non mentioned? Any advice on how to wear numerous hats as a freelancer? Leave a comment below! #commentsherebelowplease

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