Three Ways to Trick Time Trolls

Don’t know what a time troll is?

Then you, my friend, are in trouble because you can’t defeat an unknown enemy.

Time trolls belong to the fantasy class of “generally unknown creatures” (of which there are quite a few). They are a subspecies of the troll variant, and as such they usually smell bad, eat too much, and dislike sunlight. However, whereas the common Troll (troll vulgaris) likes to steal gold, the time troll (troll tempus) likes to steal time.

Caution: Trolls Ahead.

I’m not sure what time trolls do with the time they steal. Some have suggested that they eat it. Others have suggested that they hoard it like gold. In the end, it really doesn’t matter because either way, your time is gone, and you will never get it back.

How can you tell if a time troll has been stealing your time?

Well, first you must determine if the cause of your problems is indeed a time troll. Everyone has issues with time management now and then. We often cram our lives with far more tasks than can be accomplished in a day. Additionally, unexpected tasks pop up, demanding time and attention we’ve already promised elsewhere. Your alarm goes off late, so you rush to get breakfast for the kids, but the toast burns and your youngest can’t find her socks, making you late for the school drop off and the mid-morning work meeting, which becomes a fiasco because the client left when you didn’t show up and now your boss wants to see you in his office, but you had planned to finish the reports… etc.

That is not a time troll’s work. That is just a combination of life, stress, poor planning, and bad luck. I hate to say it, but that’s your bad.

A time troll works differently. He doesn’t just make you late. He messes with even your awareness of time itself. Your alarm goes off on time, and you wake up feeling fine. You go downstairs to use the bathroom, you go through your normal morning routine, and you head to the kitchen for a normal breakfast. For some reason, you glance at the clock (you probably haven’t before this because everything has been perfectly normal and routine), and you realize you’ve managed to lose twenty minutes! Where did the time go?

You didn’t lose it, my friend. It was stolen.

Here, we see some very common characteristics of the work of a time troll. First, the victim never notices anything is amiss because nothing feels amiss. There is no mad, breathless rush to get things done. Instead, the time troll lulls his victims into a sort of daze–then he can take his time taking your time. Second, the victim doesn’t check the clock until it’s too late. This is another troll trick, and it stems from the first. Since all feels normal, the victim feels no need for a clock check. And third, the victim feels a complete bewilderment after the theft has taken place. A common phrase said by the unfortunate victim is “where did the time go?”

Well, now you know.

A particularly pernicious aspect of the time troll’s devilry is that the theft can take months, even years, before it ends and the victim becomes aware of the loss. Unfortunately,  once the damage is done, it’s very hard to reverse. High school seniors graduate and ask, “where did the time go?” Parents watch their children leave for college and ask, “where did the time go?” Thirty-somethings grow to be sixty-somethings and ask, “where did the time go?” But do you think any of them will ever get it back?

Ah, but now we come to the heart of the matter. How do you trick the time troll so he keeps his dirty troll paws from taking your time?

First, beware of routines.

This is not to knock routines. Routines can help us get through the day. But there are a few downsides to routines as well. Time trolls count on our routines becoming, well, routine because we’re less likely to notice the time (or lack of it). The more firmly a routine is set, the better the odds for the time troll’s success. So every once in a while, vary your routine. Take a different route to your destinations. Try a different dish at mealtime. Do a different activity in the evening when you’re relaxing.

Second, stay present in the present.

Most people become time troll victims because they aren’t in the here-and-now. Instead, they’re in the then-and-there. They’re thinking about the future–what to wear, what to buy, what to do for work, what to say. Or, they’re thinking about the past–what he/she said, what went wrong, what should have been done, what if… Engaging in these activities too much always places you at risk for time theft. Why shouldn’t the time troll steal your time? You aren’t even really using it, right?

Third, appreciate the time you have.

Most people lose their time to time trolls because they fail to appreciate the time they have. They let themselves be lulled into a belief that there will always be a  tomorrow and a tomorrow, that there is an infinite amount of time to use (or more likely waste) because it flows from a never-ending spring somewhere deep in the Isles of Eternity.

Well, yes it does, actually, but you only have a single cup of it to drink in your lifetime. Only a single cup of it to share with your friends and your family. Only a single cup to sprinkle on your goals, your dreams, your aspirations. It is VERY precious. Yet with the way some people go splish-splashing it on every little whim, distraction, and useless frivolity, you’d think they were getting it from the garden hose in their backyard.

If people really understood how precious their time is, they would buy special safes and special alarm systems to protect it. They would purchase special locks and own special time-troll-sniffing dogs. But they don’t. Rather, they seem to go out of their way to make the time trolls’ devious deeds easy for them.

Don’t let this happen to you. Watch out for the time trolls.

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