The Moon
Earth’s Other Moons REUTERS/NASA NASA

Winter Solstice is approaching this Dec 21st-early Dec 22,(Updated) the shortest day of the year. As usual there's the pressure of too much to do during the holiday season and too little time to do it. But this year, I've started to think about next year already--It's supposed to be the end of the world in 2012 on the next solstice. So amidst the winter cheer, office parties, eggnog and such, now I am worrying that I could run out of time. Not just not get everything done on the list for the year, but next year...What about my bucket list? Just one more year to go!

That said, I can't see how it can make that much difference here in deadline-driven, endlessly manic New York. Most of us ran out of time a long time ago. A year from now I will probably be just as frantic to finish things up before the end of the year as I am now. Well, one difference, next year, I guess the year will end a few days earlier. Boy, I really can't afford to lose that week; I'm already behind for 2012.

The Mayans predicted that the solstice in 2012 is when it is all supposed to come to a close, according to Curious.Astro at Cornell. The explanation I found there is that the Mayans had a cyclical sense of time, like ours, but with a twist. A twist too complicated for me to go into here, but here it is. Apparently among Mayan scholars, however, the date is still in dispute, so I wouldn't book a bargain flight or anything quite that precise, a year in advance just now. I mean, who knows?

That's just what a New Yorker needs-not the end of the world. I am sure New York could-or will--get through that OK. We got through the Lindsay administration, and the Beame one, too, after all. And those years spawned John Carpenter's classic movie Escape from New York.

I mean who needs less time? This is the city that never sleeps already. Who has time for less time?

Especially this time of year. My holiday-season desk is always littered with year-end projects I swore I would wrap up. In my desk drawer right now are the few gifts I managed to get ahead of time-well ahead of the night before Christmas, at least. I need to wrap those. But first, I need to buy some wrapping stuff; where am I going to find the time for that?

I could skip lunch and race over to the Duane Reade to buy some paper and ribbon. But, of course, that is when everyone else is going to be doing that, instead of eating. And then, by the time I've finished that I won't have time to eat, so it'll be a quick granola bar to kill my appetite and the acidity of the afternoon coffee at work, while I race ahead with those year-end projects I swore I would be getting done last month.

It's around this time of year that I try to take a moment to reflect, as I'm sure we all do, on the mercy of the year finally coming to an end and a new one beginning. Only this year, like so many in the city, I am busier than ever before just keeping up. Gone are colleagues and come are their workloads onto my desk. In the name of efficiency we are all working more. Here's a nice summary of the situation of our growing workloads from Mother Jones. And just to make it clear, the magazine has turned into charts a bunch of detailed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Congressional Budget Office, the Economic Policy Institute and the Census Bureau, among others.

The bottom line is everyone in the country in working longer hours, often increasing productivity by basically doing uncounted overtime (which is why it shows up as productivity gains). That, in short, is why this is such a jobless recovery, according to a 2010 Washington Post article. It's not offshoring...and it's not just robots and computers taking jobs formerly done by human beings. It's human beings doing more in the workplace to fill in for those let go. According to a the Post, Instead companies squeezed more work out of remaining employees, accounting for a 3.8 percent boost in worker productivity in 2009, the best in seven years.

I will feel this time-pressure particularly on this Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year. I know I am supposed to just live in the moment and all that Zen. But I could really use those few extra seconds back.

So I better get everything done fast. Now where am I going to get that wrapping paper, just in case the world doesn't end and I need to show up with presents on Christmas?