I’ve had this post half-written for months, and given the emphasis on time, I suppose there’s no time like the present, eh?
I started following Laura Vanderkam a few years ago after I heard about “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.” It focuses on time management and well, rather obviously, the notion that we all actually have more time than we think or at least FEEL like we do.
First of all, full disclosure: I have not actually read her book. Over the past several years (and especially since having children), I have become both fascinated by and extremely leery of the idea that improved time management is some sort of magical fix that will allow me to feel more relaxed and get more done.
Do I want to be more productive yet relaxed? Sure! Sign me up!
Do I want to scrutinize my daily choices and tell myself that a spare 5 minutes is actually meaningful free time? Nope nope nope.
Anyway, I have not read her book, but I did start reading her blog on an occasional basis. (And more recently, I’ve been enjoying her Best of Both Worlds podcast with Sarah Hart-Unger.) She’s reallllly big on tracking your time and has been doing it in her own life continuously for a couple years now. I don’t have any intention of tracking my time indefinitely…but I was willing to concede that doing it for a week might be interesting.
And so, I did. I tracked my time in 15-minute increments for two weeks this past September. Here’s what I found:
I’m actually using my time pretty darn well. There is not a lot of time in my life that I would truly call “wasted.” I’m fortunate to not have to spend a lot of time commuting, or otherwise stuck in a vehicle going to and from various appointments or commitments. I don’t watch a lot of TV. When I’m not at work, I’m at home and/or with my family at least 75% of the time.
I need to give myself a break. This isn’t something new, really, but goes along with the previous realization. The fact that I’m using my time pretty wisely already means I absolutely SHOULD allow myself to “waste” it from time to time. This means just hanging out, watching TV, reading a throwaway magazine, whatever.
I sleep ~6.5 hours a night, on average. This wasn’t a surprise, since my Fitbit tells me the same thing, but seeing my sleep time laid out in chunks gave me a different perspective. I know I should sleep more — ideal for me I think would be ~7.5 hours per night. It’s a perennial struggle.
I’m doing a lot of the chores right now. A lot of the day-to-day household labor (laundry, dishes, general upkeep) is on my shoulders, and I need to talk to Jose about how to even the load a bit more.
My thoughts and actions are often very scattered. I knew this before my time tracking weeks, but seeing it on paper drove the point home. There were multiple instances where I spent a single 15-minute block doing at least 3-4 different things. And I’m not talking related things like doing dishes, starting the dishwasher, wiping the countertops and taking out the trash. No, I’m talking four totally separate things like paid a bill, read a book to Charlotte, jotted down notes for a blog post and put in a load of laundry. When I’m literally doing several things at once, no wonder I often feel exhausted and completely scatterbrained! So I’m trying hard to be more single-minded and focused.
I want to listen to more music. This didn’t show up in my time tracking, but was sort of a corollary that crossed my mind when I thought about multitasking. I love podcasts and listen to them frequently if I’m in the car alone, on a run, or sewing in the evenings. But one evening I randomly decided to listen to music instead and noticed a difference. I felt a little calmer, somehow, just letting the music play instead of trying to listen and comprehend what was being discussed on the podcast. It’s almost like it gave my brain a breather! Since then, I’ve tried to balance my listening a bit more. I listen to podcasts when doing more “mindless” activities like running, but like to bring in more music at other times.
Step away from the computer, Sarah. I spend hours each day staring at a screen at work…and then I come home and often spend several hours in the evening ALSO staring at a screen. Not a TV screen, but a computer or iPhone screen. And while there is some value to be had there if I am blogging or working on a quilt pattern or taking care of assorted household tasks, a good portion of my at-home screen time is aimless clicking around. Surfing. Checking Facebook, then Instagram, then Facebook again. I need to work on recognizing when I’ve fallen into this cycle, and getting out of it.
I’m not really sure how to wrap up this post, because while I did find my two week experiment to be valuable, I also don’t think any of my conclusions are all that earth-shattering. I’m a working mom with a husband, two small kids, and several hobbies and other interests. Even though I use my time pretty well, there’s still not enough of it for me to do everything I want to do.
And really? That’s ok. No one can DO ALL THE THINGS at any given time. It’s a balancing act, and there’s no one person or entity to blame for that. It’s just life!
p.s. I’m doing a 31 day blog writing challenge!