Burnt biscuits and perfect timing

I’ve been thinking a lot about time management recently. In particular, the art of staying on top of things. Paradoxically, this can sometimes seem more of a challenge when time stretches out before me, seemingly limitless and unpunctuated. A little pressure to juggle multiple things is often needed for me to be maximally efficient with my time. I pride myself on once getting ready for work at a conference in Stockholm in precisely eight minutes, after waking up at a boutique hotel with one of the top five worst hangovers of my life. In contrast, nothing seems to be a more foolproof way to make me exactly five minutes late than having the luxury of an entire morning to get ready.

In lockdown, there’s new rhythms to contend with. Many of us are trying to fathom how and why we feel less efficient than ever, despite having fewer places to be and fewer things to do. My usual habit of taking on too many tasks at once like a cheerful circus plate-spinner has no place in this reality. I’ve begun to learn to let go of the frenetic energy which usually serves me well when I need to do five things at once, and really focus on doing just one. It hasn’t been easy. I want to become someone who can live like this longer term; someone who can actively choose focus and reduced background noise over chaos, even the organised kind.

It will take a while until this new version of me can reach full effectiveness. Right now, things keep popping up which I’ve neglected to do. Last weekend, I suddenly remembered the leftover stout that I bottled in early December. Typically, I like to taste homebrews fortnightly throughout their drinkable lifespan. I absorb the data hungrily and feed it into my ever-growing spreadsheet of recipe footnotes, all designed to make each new batch better than the last. This time, I had simply forgotten.

Tentatively, I cracked it open and poured it into a tulip glass. As I went to take the first sip, I was met with a sweet and roasted aroma of slightly burnt biscuits; the sort that have been removed from the oven a couple of moments too late, but not so late that they are spoilt. These were my favourite kind as a child; treacle-coloured edges, blackened raisins, a satisfying crunch from the first bite.

By the time I finished drinking my homebrew, I had no idea if it was the best of the batch or not, and I didn’t write down anything about it. A week later, I’m still thinking about that first aroma, redolent of my haphazard childhood baking days. It was a reminder that not everything has to happen perfectly on my strict invented schedule in order to be successful or enjoyable. Time doesn’t have to be my enemy, even when a little of it slips through my fingers.

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