A few weeks into my Benedict Project I’m coming to the insight that getting up in the morning and going to bed at night at more or less fixed times is actually hugely depending on the art of starting and stopping a previous task.
Given my passionate and somewhat impulsive nature, I have a big tendency to get carried away by the latest and the loudest. Often times I start an internet task (like: research for my blog) and find a thousand more interesting things, which I clip onto my Evernote or (even more addictingly) pin on Pinterest or share on Facebook.
Very often I get so swept away that
- I get into procrastination mode
- my task doesn’t get done
- I experience a gnawing sense of being lost, of emptiness and failure
- the distractions are not even fun anymore and are guilt-inducing
- I have the feeling time is slipping away…leaking away..and I am wasting my life
Benedictine monks have several fixed tasks during the day, like: praying, working, meditating, reading and studying. They are never short on time!
Why is that?
They don’t carry on reading a particular good piece of literature “because it is so compelling”, they don’t continue praying “because they’re not done yet”, they don’t prolong their meditation time, “because they’re spacing out so nicely”, they don’t drag on with Mass “because working is less important”, they don’t study longer than scheduled “because they’ve procrastinated and have to catch up”, they don’t continue working after the alotted time “because work is not finished yet”.
How refreshing and counter-cultural is that, in a world where 60 hour workweeks seem to be the norm and working through the night is considered virtuous and ambitious? But the monks don’t ignore the bells and neither should you, if you want a to live a more productive, frictionless and spiritual life.
“But as soon as the first signal for None is made, let each and all break off from their work and be ready by the time the second signal has sounded.”- Rule of Benedict
Benedictine monks stick to their daily routine like velcro and know how important it is to start on time and stop on time, making mental space for the next task.
This goes against my human nature. I want to quit things I find hard or boring and I want to prolong things that give me pleasure as long as possible. How freeing it must be to develop a healthy Benedictine sense of discipline, character and time management.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
An added benefit of starting and stopping properly is that I am never “idle“.
Benedict already knew:
“Idleness is inimical* to the soul; and therefore the brethren ought to be occupied, at fixed seasons, with manual work and again at fixed seasons with spiritual reading.”
I’ve noticed that my productivity is inversely proportional to the time I seem to be having. I seem to get less productive because I get idle or lazy by thinking I have all the time in the world, and I actually function better with deadlines and setting my timer for tasks.
- keep a kitchen timer or your phone with you at all times and consciously start each activity, alotting a specific time for it before you begin and setting your timer.
- STOP when the timer goes off! Be still!
Make some notes of where you’ve stopped and wish to continue next time, to make starting again easier.
- Prepare for the next task, be conscious and aware, creating space in your head
- Set your timer for the next task (or resting period)… and so on
Let me know if you’re implementing Benedictine time management into your own life and what your experiences are in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you!
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love and peace,
You can find my previous posts of the Benedict Project here: