Grades 6-8, High School

Time – Do you manage it like a physicist or a poet?


PHYSICISTS strive to precisely define the fundamental essence of time. One physics aficionado states that, “Time is the dimension on which the evolution of the state of a system is allowed to occur.” This roughly translates to the idea that time is a way of measuring or marking events that occur in a system.

Humans first marked time by tracking natural cycles like tides, sunrise & sunset, or constellation movements. Now they use clocks and calendars to measure ideas like ‘now,’ ‘before,’ and ‘after.’ In other words, time keeps everything in the universe from happening all at once.

Physicists will accept that clocks and calendars help people be clear – or at least agree – on when an event truly happens. However, the science of time is much more complex than these common tools. For a more in-depth explanation, see NOVA’s show:  The Fabric of the Cosmos:  The Illusion of Time.

Physicists also say that time seems to show that systems go from highly organized to less organized. We don’t know why time seems to move only in one direction. And we don’t know why that direction seems to favor making things messier or more complicated than they were a ‘moment’ ago. But it’s true. We can’t un-shatter a glass. We can’t be un-late for a test. We can’t get younger.

TIME is a BIG DEAL. It’s an abstraction that can overwhelm. No wonder so many people suffer with the burden of time. That’s where the poets can help.

POETS say time can pass slowly or it may fly. They say time seems infinite yet can disappear in the wink of an eye. Some label time a dictator while others call it a gift.

Consider this essay from, Carpe Diem: Poems for Making the Most of Time. It sites such classics as Herrick’s, “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.” Excerpt:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

Pro Tip:  See also the long list of ‘Time’ poems offered in this same post.

So what’s an EVERYDAY PERSON to do about time?

calendar-time-managementMY definition of TIME MANAGEMENT is not set, but it includes the idea that we are balancing some extreme concepts. That is, to manage time we must be mindful of grand questions like, ‘What am I doing with my life?’ while juggling schedules, deadlines, and milestone dates. It’s balancing our finite time on the planet with what we must (or get to) do today. And, yes, as we juggle the clock is ticking and night follows day follows night.

So how do we manage our slice of time? A first step may be understanding terms, tools, and your priorities. Start here:

Activities & Resources

  1. Use a search engine or book of quotes (e.g. Bartlett’s) to find your favorite quotes about TIME and TIME MANAGEMENT. Find two quotes for each term. The first quote will explain or define TIME/TIME MANAGEMENT. The second quote will offer advice on how to handle TIME/TIME MANAGMENT. This means you are finding a total of 4 quotes, two for each term. Explain why each quote you selected is your favorite for the intended purpose. Does your opinion of the person you are quoting impact how well you like their quote? Why?  Tip: and are specific sites with many options.
  2. Download one of these freebies to organize your time. Explain why you picked it. Test it. Was it useful? Why or why not?
  3. Interview two people who have complementary experiences with time (suggestions below). Ask each person: What is time? What is time management? What is your biggest struggle with either? What is your biggest success with either? Option:  video record the interview; keep it to 2 minutes or less.
    1. Night-shift hospital staff and patient who had care 24 hours (in the hospital)
    2. Airport or airline staff and frequent flier
    3. Parent who works opposite shift of spouse and child of those parents
    4. Retiree and early career worker
    5. Person who ‘punches a clock’ and person who sets own hours
  4. Consider one of these songs about time:  ‘Clocks’ by Coldplay; ‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Haley & the Comets; or ‘Time’ by The Alan Parsons Project or ‘Time in a Bottle’ by Jim Croce.
    1. What is the song’s key message or theme about time?
    2. Who would like the lyrics more – poet or physicist? Why?
    3. Does the music add or detract from the song’s message about time? How?
  5. Find a song about time from a different genre than the one you selected above.
    1. Answer the same questions (as #4).
    2. Rewrite the lyrics to the song so it sounds like something a physicist would write. (Or a poet, if your song choice already sounds physicist-y).
  6. Write a motto (or epitaph) for somebody who manages time well. The person can be real or fictional. Explain why you selected the person (i.e. ‘Dr. Who has a Tardis; of course he can manage time!)

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