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The Unboxed Brain is a monthly ezine bringing you innovation, spirit and creativity.  We feature articles by coaching professionals and others working on the creative frontier.

Lessons From the Microwave

(and pop music too!)

 by Peter Jacobs         

The Microwave is your project management friend. AM radio is your motivator. What a brave new world!

My relationship with time is an interesting one. Ever since I was a pre-teen I seemed to have the uncanny ability to know what time it is… without a watch. And ironically, I own about 15 watches! (It is a law of physics that the more timepieces you have, the more time your have!).

Yet procrastination has been my friend, well, companion, most of my life. Somehow, while I could be present with time, in the moment so to speak, I had no sense of future time. I wouldn’t start a project because it felt like I needed lots of time to get anything done. Time management courses and books could not cure me of this less-than-helpful perception of time.

Enter the microwave! (Drum roll)

Some years ago, like many of us, I worked in a conventional office. Often, I would bring my lunch, and often it was something that needed heating in the trusty microwave. My breakthrough happened over a “light” entrée that required five minutes in the radiation chamber,

I popped it in, set the time and pressed start. I was all set to wait. BUT, I said to myself oh-so-wisely, I could use these 5 minutes to take care of a few things. I scurried back to my office and proceeded to answer a bunch of emails, authorize some invoices… things of that ilk. Suddenly, I remembered my lunch! Oh my God! I had been immersed in all this stuff and forgotten my lunch. I rushed back to the staff kitchen in a panic, sure that my meal was now cold or worse, someone had scoffed it when it was left unattended.

You guessed it. I arrived and there was almost a full minute left of heating time. Can’t be, I said. I asked a colleague if they had restarted it for me. No, they hadn’t.

Here’s my learning. In less than four minutes, I had gotten an extraordinary amount of work done. I was astonished at my capacity, and even more amazed at how I had previously perceived the relationship between time and task. It was life changing for me. Now I saw great potential and capacity in the smallest chunks of time. This was cool! I could get so much more done!

From this experience, I have reframed time for myself. I look for structures that are small bits of time. The ads on TV (and they are getting longer and more frequent, especially at the end of Oprah!) are great ones. Pop music songs are typically 3 minutes long.

Here are some ideas for you to explore a new relationship with time.

What naturally occurring structures can you find around you to help with your sense of time?

Assign your self something to do while that event takes place. Let go FULLY of thinking about time. Let the end of the event be your natural ally. It will tell you when time’s up.
Notice how much you got done.

Notice how you felt when the “time” piece was being taken care of. Less anxiety, I’ll bet.

How can you apply this to your own wish list? For example, if you’re an aspiring writer, what would it be like to write for three minutes and only three minutes? Could you get that paragraph for your brochure well started?

Once you’ve got a new feel for time, you productivity will go up, and your anxiety will go down. You’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Oh. And buy another watch. Just in case Peter’s law of physics is right!

 © 2003. Peter Jacobs, all rights reserved



Peter Jacobs calls himself a life and work “guide.” Others have called him a “visionary leader”. Through his company, BALANCE, Inc., he serves as a personal coach, a speaker, a workshop leader, a poet, a photographer, and a writer. He combines this work with training and consulting based on 30-years experience working with businesses and trade & professional associations. A native of Montreal and bilingual, he now resides in Toronto.

Contact him at :



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