Out of the 86,400 seconds which define the parameters of your day, this article might set you back by 180, give or take another sixty depending on your typical reading speed.

Is that something you were wary of before clicking into this page? I’m fairly confident your answer is no, unless you’re a particularly rare specimen of meticulous schedule-maker who specifically set aside three minutes in your timetable to read this – in which case, nicely played.

But for the other 99% of us, we tend not to spend our time thinking about, well, time, and we plunge into the beginning of a fresh academic year, all of that becomes a growing concern of mine.

It feels like clocks have been moving faster since 2012 – side effect of the supposed apocalypse, anyone? – and as this annual acceleration progresses, I’ve become increasingly worried about wasting my daily ration of a mere 24 hours.

Are we making deliberate choices in what we’re doing each second of the day? Are we truly awake and in control?

I’m constantly in a position where I can’t recall what I did earlier in the day, not because I have a bad memory, but probably just because my brain hasn’t deemed whatever event that took place meaningful enough to remember. Large, blank parts pattern my weekly recounts;  aimless scrolling through sites that my brain’s history can’t even be bothered storing, unmotivated lounging-around polluting entire afternoons, an accumulation of moments doing too much of nothing-at-all. By the time I enter the 24th hour and finally recognise the mindless drone that my day had become, the only thing I can do is be mad about it. Knock myself out, wake up the next morning, rinse and repeat. Is this really okay?

I’m not preaching about procrastination as much as being present. Even if it’s productive activity, is it the best use of your time in the moment? Or are we just following vague outlines of what we want or feel obligated to do, then just running with it when “fate” takes the wheel?

Fate here might embody the convenient proximity of your bed to your laptop charger, or the code for ‘twitter’ + the enter key your muscle memory might run every time you approach a search bar. Whatever it is it’s easy, usually instant. Supernatural powers guiding you towards what’s familiar, with such charm that you forget to question whether it’s what you genuinely want. Much better than the mental (or even physical?) acrobatics it might take to not only figure out, but get up and execute your true plan of action, right? So much of what we do is curbed by routine or habit, some tangent-inspired menace to our time, that it’s difficult to blink hard and clearly see the silhouette of solid goals and objectives.

External forces disrupt the careful equilibrium of an ‘ideal’ day, and suddenly we’re once again wading through whatever the hell it is life has thrown our way – the leftover scraps of a world map which refuses us a definitive route and leads our brains to the quiet comfort of autopilot.  

It seems that snapping out of it and the option of taking control may not always be accessible or immediately viable, but this is your reminder that it’s a concept drifting in the open, waiting for you to grab hold – if you’re willing to swim out to it.

That’s not to say that every second of your life, every action you take, must be measured and profound and pretentiously meaningful. Being hypersensitive to the construct of your day may as well be living alongside a large, obnoxious analogue clock – the endless, obvious tick just prevents you from fully focusing and experiencing whatever you’ve set out to do. Your ‘meaningful’ conscious action might be starting a Korean drama, or deciding to finally sort out your laundry (like I did before sitting down to write this.)

Living your life to the fullest doesn’t necessary entail carrying out the most majestic motions; I implore you to simply be a little more aware of your choice. It’s easy to be swept into someone else’s rhythm by the tides of school and social pressures. Don’t let the structure of your schedule be completely dictated by byproducts of boredom, chance, and outside influences; press pause and ask yourself, is this really what you want to be doing? Colour your thoughts with a little more purpose. Live with precision, that’s all.

And so we arrive at the last paragraph, which means that your two minutes – five minutes -however long it might’ve been – on this page is up. Consider what you were actually doing before you got here – spending the better part of a late night on Facebook, or trudging through an unreasonable amount of maths exercises? Take a moment to de-cloud and de-clutter your brain. Give those neurons a gentle wake-up call (or roundhouse kick, if you prefer.) What’s your next move, huh? Make it count.

Written by Isabel Li, published on 31/01/19. Header image courtesy Maria Nguyen

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