Continuing a series that starts here.
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I figured out in the last post that there are about six basic ways I can slice up the hours in my day.
- Rest and sleep
- Learning time
"Work" encompasses a lot of different things, but I found one easy way to figure out if a thing is "work:" might I put it on a to-do list and then procrastinate it, possibly for days, while feeling guilty about not getting around to it? If so, it is work.
I do not tend to do this with, say, taking a shower or eating lunch or going to the gym. That is how I know that showering is not work, but self-care; and lunch is not work, but a meal; and going to the gym is not work, but an activity.
I do tend to do this with housework or school planning or home improvement projects or even many hobbies that I enjoy, such as writing blog posts. So they all count as work of one kind or another.
I suppose instead of "work" I could call that category "My To-Do List." That isn't a bad idea. I will consider that.
Anyway, it's all the stuff in "work" that tends to dog me.
I. Cannot. Do. It. All.
I need to let some of it go. But how much to let go? Do I even know how much time I have to do these things?
Let's figure it out, roughly.
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"Roughly" is the best I can do right now. I have a 6-week-old baby and my efficiency is consequently unusually low, plus it swings widely from day to day depending on his nursing pattern. ( I am taking advantage of the resulting low postpartum schooling and housekeeping standards to write these blog posts while the kids play poker downstairs.)
If I was in a more stable pattern, I might try another time study like the one I did a few years ago, only with the time categories chopped up a little differently. That was a lot of fun, and I recommend the exercise to anyone who is curious about how they spend their time. But that measure takes a week, and I need something a little more quick and dirty -- just an estimate.
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We start with 24 hours in the day. I estimate generously that I should sleep for about eight hours -- about 10:30 pm to 6:30 am. That leaves sixteen hours.
Meals -- this does not include real cooking, just serving and eating and putting away -- are variable. Breakfast is fairly self-serve and not messy, so let's say I spend half an hour on that (including unloading the dishwasher from the night before). I take longer, maybe an hour, for lunch and post-lunch cleanup -- that's because I have helpers. The same for dinner. Then we have two snacks in our day that probably add up to a half hour. That's about three hours in a typical day at home. Remaining balance: Thirteen hours.
A day's bathing, dressing, grooming, and getting ready for bed -- let's say 45 minutes. I think that's pretty generous. Remaining balance: Twelve and a quarter hours.
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Let's pause here to notice that activities, learning, and work -- plus any extra rest I might need -- have to fit into twelve and a quarter hours. From day to day, the allocation of that time among those three categories probably fluctuates quite a bit. But I am looking for a reasonable, realistic estimate of how much time I have for the to-do list. So let's truck on with estimates of time spent on activities and learning.
I allot about five hours a day (9:30 to noon, and 2 to 4:30) that at least one of my children is doing schoolwork, and I really should be engaged with them for most of that time. So let's say that I am busy that whole five hours with "learning time." Remaining balance: seven and a quarter hours.
That time gets divided up between work and activities (unless it's used for extra rest). Sometimes there isn't any special activity at all, of course, leaving the whole 7.25 hours free.
(Did I say "free?" Ha. It is telling that I am now beginning to think of the "knock-things-off-my-to-do list time" as "free time." Can we say, "workaholic?" Can we say, "defines self-worth in terms of accomplishments?")
Anyway, typical evening activities are swimming lessons at the Y, or religious education classes at church. The swimming lessons take us about two and a half hours when you count travel time, changing, and showering. Religious ed is two and a quarter. So let's estimate generously and say that two and a half hours go to activities, when there are any.
Remaining balance that I can count on having for "work" on this typical, imaginary day:
4 and three-quarters hours.
Well, now. That isn't so bad. It is less than I would like, and it's true that it needs to be broken up throughout the day -- a half hour here, an hour forty-five there -- but it isn't like there is no time at all. And when there isn't a scheduled activity, or if I get out of it for some reason (say if Mark volunteers to take the kids to RE) -- there's bonus time. And any time I don't spend that time working, it could be used for resting.
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That calculation being finished, we come to the resolution part of the post: to accept that those 285 minutes in each day are what I can expect to use for work, give or take a little.
So here is resolution three, in full. I resolve
- to stop pretending I can somehow stretch those 285 minutes out;
- to value them, and try not to waste them;
- to quit berating myself for not doing more than I could reasonably have done in those minutes;
- to decide what tasks to use them for, and then to delegate the rest or let them go.