Time

My name is Dan, and I am a chronogoldfish.

Is this a chronogoldfish? I don't know. And neither do you. I just made them up.

You see: the thing that goldfish are famous for – except for their allegedly very short memory, which is actually a myth – is that they grow to fill the available space. That is: if you keep a goldfish in a smaller tank, it’ll grow to a full-size that is smaller than if you kept it in a larger tank or even a pond. I’m not certain that’s actually true either, and I’m sure that Kit will correct me pretty soon if it’s not, but it’s part of my analogy and I’m sticking with it.

A chronogoldfish, then, is somebody who grows to fill the available time. That is: the more free time you give them, the more they’ll work at filling it up. This is a mixed blessing, which is a euphemism for “usually pretty bad.” You’ll almost never catch me bored, for example – I’ve no idea how I’d find time to be bored! – but conversely it’s reasonably rare to find me with free time in which I don’t have something scheduled (or, at least: in which I don’t have something I ought to be doing).

Earlier this year, I started working for the Bodleian, and this – along with a couple of other changes going on in my life, suddenly thrust upon me several hours extra in each week than I’d had previously. It was like being transplanted from a tank… into a pond and – once I’d stopped checking for herons – I found myself sitting around, wondering what to do with my sudden surge of extra free time. But then, because I’m a chronogoldfish, I grew.

The activities that I already did became bigger – I took on more responsibilities in my voluntary work, took more opportunities to socialise with people I spend time with, and expanded my efforts to develop a variety of “side project” software  projects. I’ve even lined myself up for a return to (part-time) education, later this year (more on that in another blog post, little doubt). And so, only a few months later, I’m a big, fat chronogoldfish, and I’ve once again got just about as little “free” time – unplanned time – as I had before.

But that’s not a bad thing. As Seth Godin says, wasting time (properly) is a good thing. And there’s little doubt that my growth into “new” timesinks is productive (education, voluntary work), experimental (side-projects, education), and joyful (socialising, everything else). I’d like to think I use time well, even if I do sometimes wonder: where did it all go?

I suppose the opposite of a chronogoldfish might be a chronomidget: somebody who doesn’t grow to consume any more time than they have to. The test, I suppose, would be to ask yourself: what would you do if there was an extra half-hour in the day? If your brain immediately rushes to fill that space with an answer (a genuine answer: something you’d actually do – there’s no point lying to yourself and saying you’d spend it at the gym if you wouldn’t!), you’re probably a goldfish. If not, you’re probably a midget.

I think I can name people among my friends who are goldfish, and people who are midgets. But I do wonder what type they would say that they are…

16 replies to Time

        • Honestly, for you… I’m not sure I’d know. Most of my friends are Goldfish, I think, with a few notable exceptions (like Claire, below, who’s a Midget, and Ruth, who’s had recent Midget tendencies).

          So statistically-speaking, I’d peg you as a goldfish. And I bet that’s a sentence that’s never been said before.

  1. Midget, of course. I like the feeling of endless hours of nothing-in-particular to do! Still, it must be nice to be so time-efficient. I like having time to read, play computer games, sit and watch telly with Jim without having to schedule it. God, I hate schedules. Hmm, perhaps there’s a lesson there somewhere…

  2. Midget! But your other sisters definitely a Goldfish, If Goldfish can get OCD.

    Also I think my goldfish is a midget because he never does anything! And has gotten exponentially bigger since living on his own. And I think he may be pregnant…

  3. I call it huntley syndrome, its why my underwear is always folded and iorned and why i need another job!!!!!!!!!

  4. Hmmm… I’m inclined to say ‘Midget’ because I don’t like to have my whole day planned out – I like some flexibility in there – and I love to spend some time just looking at the world and thinking about how amazing life is. On the other hand I absolutely abhor time wasting activities like being in an airport for hours because they’re too incompetent to get me through the system and into the plane in an efficient way. Perhaps I’m a stunted goldfish?

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