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The 30 Minute Timer

Yesterday, I woke up with a deep to-do list. I had a lot of different projects going in a lot of different directions and I wanted to hit the ground running. I knew I had to get some Smile Project work done but I also wanted to bake a cake for a family dinner. Okay, I bargained. Cake now with fun music. Focused Smile work later.

Then I remembered I needed to soak the dates for 30 minutes before I could continue the baking process. So back to Smile. Alright, I thought. I can focus for 30 minutes and get as far as I can and then when the timer goes off, I’ll go bake my cake. 

So I sat down on my sofa and began writing a blog post for Smile. I wrote the post that had been bubbling in my brain for a bit and was shocked that the timer hadn’t gone off. Nevertheless. I began the process of scheduling the blog on our website and creating the graphics that we share to our Instagram account. At this point I was so sure the timer hadn’t been set properly but figured a few extra minutes of soaking couldn’t hurt the dates and after all, I was on a roll.

When I’d finished the entire process of writing, scheduling, and graphic-creating the blog, the timer went off—the kind of timing that really only happens in movies. 

Satisfied with my progress, I put my computer down, put my apron back on, and began mixing cocoa powder and almond butter. 

As I was assembling the cake, I thought about how I’d been putting off that particular piece for a while, certain it would take a lot of time and energy. So why, then, one sleepy Saturday morning, was I able to start-to-finish it in just under 30 minutes? And then, shouldn’t I always be able to craft blogs in that amount of time? 

My mind immediately jumped to efficiency mode as I began thinking about the various ways I manage my time and my tasks. 

But the patient, graceful side of my brain kicked in just in time to make me think twice. Okay, but what if you are really tired? What if you don’t have any creative energy? Sometimes it takes longer because you’ve been working all day. Or you didn’t sleep well the night before. Or your mind just isn’t in the right space to share.

Fair, I thought. But before I could go back to my melty chocolate, my gentle brain continued. Think about running a 5k. It feels really different when it’s a hilly trail. Or when you’ve been fueling properly. Or when it's 91 degrees. Or when you took time to stretch. Or when you’re running with someone who pushes you. Or when… Even something so mathematically tangible, such as the exact same distance, varies. 

So why am I hard on myself when something that is usually simple feels challenging? Why am I discouraged when I need a little extra time to think? How sad to not have patience with every ebb and flow of my energy, my creativity, my efforts. 

The 30 minute timer was a fun and sparkly reminder that I can sometimes crank out work in a focused and attentive manner. But some days, I might need a 45 minute timer. And some days I might need a 45 minute timer plus a 30 minute break plus another 20 minutes to pace and think and breathe and and and. 

And that’s okay. You need not be at top performance at all times. You need not save the world in one day. 

What matters is that you save yourself every day. In small moments of understanding. In simple wisps of grace. 


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