It's hard to find the time to do all the things we have scheduled. For me, it's difficult to do the writing that I want and need to do. For you it may be not getting around to finishing your education, getting into shape, or fixing up your house. Most of us find that we have far more demands upon us than the time needed to accomplish them. While stopped in a traffic jam the other day, I found the time to read an article about a French journalist by the name of Jean-Dominique Bauby. At forty-three years old, he wrote a book of poetry entitled The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Prior to starting the book, he was the editor of the Paris-based Elle, which is a very upscale fashion magazine. Running a world famous fashion magazine surely put a crunch on Bauby's schedule. How did he find the time and commitment to write the book of poetry while editing Elle?

To complicate his life even more, in December of 1995, Bauby suffered a massive stroke that left him in a coma for nearly a month. When he awoke, he discovered that the stroke had completely paralyzed him-save for the muscle around his left eye. This was when he started to write his book of poetry.

Bauby had a chart made with the letters of the alphabet arranged in order of frequency. During the summer of 1996, he worked with his secretary three hours every day dictating his one hundred and thirty-seven-page book. His secretary would start by pointing at the first letter on the chart and go to the next letter until she pointed to the one that he wanted. Bauby would blink his left eye to indicate the correct letter. He would laboriously dictate his poetry with a wink of his eye. In his poetry, he compares his body to a diving bell-something that merely sustains life. He likens his soul to that of a captured butterfly longing to fly free again. Bauby winked his way through his thoughts while lying there paralyzed for countless days and weeks as the world went on outside his room.

In a wink of an eye, our lives can also change. None of us know what is around the corner. Illnesses and accidents seem to lurk like predatory animals in the forest of life-just waiting to pounce upon us. Aside from being prudent about taking care of ourselves, there isn't much that we can do to protect ourselves from the ravages of these unforeseen problems. However, we do have control over how we spend our time in life.

After reading about Bauby's determination, I resolved to rededicate my efforts to find the time to write and to do the other things that I take so much for granted. Here are some suggestions:

  • Instead of grumbling about my schedule, I will be proactive about getting things accomplished. If my schedule is tight, then I shouldn't spend any of my limited time fretting about the scarcity of my time. I just don't allow myself to waste the time that I do have.
  • I will do a better job of managing my time. Bauby winked for three hours everyday to get his project completed. He set aside that much time from all the other necessary medical activities that were required every day.
  • I will get and stay committed to the task. Without total commitment, I'll waste the time that I do have. Decide what is important and what isn't. Then commit yourself to accomplishing the project.
  • Finally, I will be grateful for my set of problems-they could be far worse than I am experiencing. Sure, my day is hectic. However, I wouldn't want to trade places with Bauby to avoid my list of little nuisances.

A postscript about Jean-Dominique Bauby: he died on March 9, 1997. Just that week, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was published. After blinking nearly a quarter million times, Bauby had completed his most arduous task. In addition to his book of poetry, he gave each of us a standard by which we can judge ourselves. The next time you feel sorry for all the demands placed upon you, remember Bauby's blinking his book into existence. What are our excuses for not accomplishing as much as we need to?