We are less than a month away from the summer Olympics, and I am gearing myself up for some epic television watching. To be sure, I do not watch the games live. I DVR the broadcasts so I can forward through the commercials, the gauzy athlete portraits, and endless commentary. Still, I know this is going to consume a lot of time.
It’s not just me. Lots of busy people will be watching Olympic coverage. I suspect some of these people have claimed, with straight faces, that they have little leisure time. Yet when something compelling is on offer, the time appears.
We should not be surprised. Time is highly elastic. If your water heater breaks and floods your basement, you will make time to deal with it. Likewise, we get sucked into watching hours of gymnastic floor routines (check out Simone Biles! Wow!). Time can often be redeployed from one thing to another, and what it is appropriate to spend time on is as much a judgement call as anything else.
This is all fine. But it is also incredibly useful information. If you are an intense Olympic viewer, try tracking your time during the weeks of the games. See how much time is devoted to TV watching, and when. See what does not happen during this time. Once the Olympics ends, you can make a conscious decision not to resume the things you didn’t care about that got crowded out. So the basement is a little messy. So you were a bit slower responding to emails. Oh well. The time devoted to Olympic watching can then be repurposed for other things you’d like to do but believe you don’t have time to do. Painting? Writing a novel? Starting a book club? Reading in general?
I experience this phenomenon of elastic time occasionally when I’m really into something I’m reading. From Sunday to Thursday this week, I read all 437 pages of Jordan Ellenberg’s book, How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking. I enjoyed it enough to fill pretty much any available time with it, which is how I got to read 437 dense pages over 5 days. Sometimes I feel I don’t have time to read, but clearly I do. It’s just a question of seeing that time, and deciding to fill it with what I wish to fill it with.