Fast Forward to Yesterday

Most of us use a calendar as a tool for managing the future. That’s important, and In my own life, and in my practice with others, yesterday’s calendar is much more interesting.

Here’s what happened yesterday. I was about to cycle out to my morning swim at 7:30 am. I checked my incoming before leaving — no digital media while swimming — and saw an email from Gihan, a long-time associate and advisor. We’ve both been deep in our separate endeavors for a while. I decided to reply right away, wanting to grab the opportunity before it could slip away again.

The back and forth put me about 30 minutes late for my workout, but I’m glad I didn’t delay responding to Gihan. This is an important relationship with a busy person.

Afterwards, I had my helmet and gloves on when the phone signaled an incoming call from my son, Clark. Clark is in Japan, and soon we have our first visit with him since he set up headquarters in Tokyo. That put me two hours later. And it was a good choice: another important relationship with a busy person.

At this point, I had no fixed appointments so I still could have gotten my laps in. However, the day was open because I had some backlog to catch up with and an open day without distractions was ideal for what I hoped to accomplish. The gloves came off. I decided to focus on my backlog instead of my backstroke.

Swimming is important to me. Not only does it keep me fit in my elder years, but it has a significant impact on my mental health. I get a long-lasting neurostimulus from both the large-muscle activity and the breath control essential to the four core strokes. I commit to seven days a week year-round.

And because I commit to every day, travel, injury, illness, and other commitments, mean missed days. I don’t give them up easily. There’s public access to pools worldwide, and I’ve kept my workout worldwide. Today I gave up.

I began the series of small but important tasks for which the day was planned. I was making steady progress, and then responses started to return. My flurry of activity generated a flurry of response. I’m not sure why I hadn’t seen that coming: all those further interruptions and deflections from my planned activity. I took a walk to clear my head and to recover some of the motion lost from the missed workout. A short distance up the road, Jon, the forester managing our woods, was at the end of a trail. I hadn’t expected him. We stopped to talk, which turned into a long report on the condition of the forest. Another unplanned 45 minutes — plus the walk.

Upon reflection, those responses from my output were prompt, positive, and generative. And my morning and afternoon deflections from my plan were also positive and generative.

Without this reflection on yesterday, my story today could be of a missed workout, a missed chunk of morning prime time, another lost chunk of afternoon time, and an inbox and next-action list longer today than it was yesterday: the day set aside to reduce those. I could tell the story of being behind and frustrated by my having lost control of my day.

In fact, I had a great day! I had a day full of meaningful interactions with a wide range of people and ended the day with an inbox and next-action list full of new opportunities.

The second part of reflection is to assess whether, if I had known all this the day before, would I have done anything different. Often the answer is, yes, I would have. I could have gone out to the pool without having checked for incoming. Had I done that, I wouldn’t have been distracted by Gihan’s email; Clark’s call would have come while I was in the water. Having gotten my workout, I wouldn’t have taken the walk and encountered Jon later that day.

On second reflection, I wouldn’t have wanted yesterday any different. I might have ended the day with a shorter inbox and next action list, but might not have had as rich a life.

Francis Sopper

This essay appeared in the Kairos Cognition newsletter.

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  1. Francis, My sincere thanks to you for sharing the essay. Sometimes (often?) I need to be reminded of the true value of my interactions and relationships with others. Too easily I am distracted by “the schedule.”

  2. am glad i read this – pretty much describes why i am 3 days late for my login to my lessons, but somehow realise that in the course of life, with all the good intentions we may have, things do happen which in the bigger scheme of things, they complete the picture.

    1. thank you for the above post that I can totally relate to. I have been happy about the change in schedule on some occasions allowing me valuable time with family, however I prefer when things go according to plan as it makes me feel more at ease.

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