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Washington Voices

Time to decide what to do with time

I have 10 minutes.

What can I do in that time? Clean the floor? Make that necessary phone call? Dust? Nah. I’m probably staring, along with our cat, through a window, my mind wandering, eyes glazed, as I enjoy the sun.

According to a recent article, I can use 10-minute chunks of time to easily spruce up the house. I’ve practiced such hints before – “spend 10 minutes doing everything possible in one room.” It actually works. Doing “whatever I can do in one hour in the house,” works too.

It just doesn’t work that well with me. I’m too easily distracted.

I’m stowing stuff in the bathroom when I realize that my makeup drawer is an intolerable mess. That foundation … ewww, it’s practically alive! What else is in there? Rooting through the back of the drawer, I find Paleolithic products and begin playing cosmetic basketball with the wastebasket (I have a nice hook shot). Thirty minutes later, the drawer is pristine, but, oops! – no time to clean the counter or sink, or do other bathroom tasks in that handy 10 minutes.

I faithfully attend to e-mails, favorite blogs, and writing, but somehow never see the piles on my desk. I hate piles. They’re daunting and I don’t like their evil, intimidating stares. Who has the courage? Piles ignored.

Last January, I fully organized my office, and feeling righteous, placed a box on the floor containing some items to go through, easily accomplished within a couple of hours. All year long I’ve just been adding more stuff to it. I’m tempted to toss the box, but there’s information I need in there. I’m just not getting to it today; time is too precious, and there’s not enough of it to waste on what I can put off.

A pile of books and magazines by my chair in the living room awaits attention, but “incoming” goes on top. I’ll probably discover the world ended without my knowledge, because I failed to read a November issue of Time.

Have you ever noticed how news magazines always have no-fail prescriptions for whatever ails the world? “Afghanistan: Six Ways to Fix It.” Do they think the President and Congress actually read these “solutions,” slap their foreheads, and exclaim, “Why didn’t I think of that?” I wonder if they do read Time or U.S. News; I sit down to skim, relieved that there are answers, even if they’re ignored. Talk radio has solutions, too, but I refuse to listen.

See what I mean? I start to cull a pile, hit an old Time, and 20 minutes later am still poring through it, pondering its political influence and how I hate talk radio.

I’m pathetic. And notice how I got off topic?

My husband Richard gets amused with me when we’re shopping. Distracted, attracted, I wander and weave. He likens me to an ant, but I think that’s unflattering to the ant; bearing their burdens, ants march straight along to their destination.

However, when I’m writing, I’m so focused, that if I applied that focus to the 10 minute concept, there wouldn’t be a speck of dust, a spot on the floor, or a pile anywhere within an hour.

I don’t know what this says about me. Mind trumps matter?

Because I’m often lost in thought, I like to think that it’s profound thought about big things. And it often is, as I’m an idea person. But truthfully? I often zone out, dazed by too many ideas at once.

Perhaps in this new year/new decade I’ll get with the 10-minute principle.


I’ll have to think about that.

Spokane Valley resident Deborah Chan can be reached by e-mail at