“You run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking;
Chasing around, to come up behind you again.”
I love Pink Floyd. Ok, I love old Pink Floyd. These words popped up on my Facebook feed this morning, and it got my wheels turning about the idea of time, and how I’ve been at odds with it for the last few months. Ok, years.
I read this wonderful editorial the other day in which the author described our 40’s as the “modern rush-hour of life.” For me, this rings so true. In fact, it’s painfully accurate. I never stop. I feel guilt when I rest or do something other than the next what-needs-to-be-done. I’m caught between career, kids, home, activities and the need to eat. These kids want to eat several times per day!
So my gears are turning, and I’m looking at how I can carve out time. I made a goal for the month of November to “win” NaNoWriMo. When I started, I actually had given myself a slim-to-none chance at success, but I figured I’d give it the old college try. I learned some valuable lessons (posted right here), and the more I reflect upon that month-long experiment, the more I realize there are other nuggets of wisdom that have bubbled to the surface. This being the season for resolutions and goal setting, I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and put forth a plan.
During NaNo, I was extremely focused. I had a goal, I wanted to prove to myself I could achieve it, and I made it happen. Since then, I’ve reverted to some very sloppy, lazy habits.
There is an awesome article on how to conduct a time audit. The time audit, in its most basic form, gives hard data about how you use your time throughout the day so that you can correct habits and set priorities. You set an alarm to go off at odd times throughout the day, and you jot down what you are doing when it sounds. This may seem simplistic, but given the data points over a long period of time (several days over a month, for instance) you can see where your time sinks occur. You can also find when you are most productive, and when is the best point in the day for you to naturally take your breaks.
For my time audit, I’m going to look at four things: What I’m doing, what I should be doing, my current emotion regarding what I’m doing, and why I think I feel that way. Maybe I’m working, I should be working, and I’m enjoying it because it’s challenging and fun work. Maybe I’m on Facebook, I should be working, and I’m frustrated because it’s boring and grueling. Maybe I’m playing World of Warcraft, I should be checking on dinner, but I’m feeling drained from a long, hard day. Maybe it’ll be none of those, and I’ll reveal to myself why time slips away from me before I have a chance to accomplish any of my goals. At least, that’s what I hope to gain from this exercise.
2) I resolve to set monthly goals
NaNo was fantastic in that it gave me a tangible goal and a nifty little chart showing my progress. Goal setting on a year-by-year basis (i.e., the intangible “New Year’s Resolution”) really doesn’t work. However, specific goals driven by numbers can be tracked, charted and measured. Those are the types of goals that work for me. It may be word count on my novel. It could be hours spent interacting with my family. It might be a specific number of miles hiked, or road trips taken, or… whatever! But setting down monthly goals that can be tracked and measured… that is something that works well for me.
The NaNo goal of 50,000 words over a month seemed so insurmountable. But the daily goal of 1667 words per day was palatable and didn’t make me want to turn tail and run. If I take this approach with my goal setting, and break down my tasks into manageable, bite-sized pieces. I can then allot my time and get things done!
3) I resolve to take 30 minutes per day (and an hour on the weekend days) to dedicated “down time”
Once my time audit is complete, I will analyze the data and find where and when in my schedule to fit recharge time. I used to meditate and practice yoga quite often. That was before I had kids. At this point, my kids are old enough that they really can live without me being front-and-center for 30 minutes. It might require some training on my part and theirs, but I really think this is doable. And I think I need it.
But those 30 minutes don’t have to be all me, all the time! During NaNo, I went on hikes with friends. My husband and I went on dates. My kids and I played more together. I talked to my sisters and long-distance friends on the phone. So, even though I was accomplishing more overall, I was also taking more time to connect with others, and I was giving myself time to relax, play and connect. November was, by far, the happiest month of the year for me, and it was because I felt fulfilled by my daily hours.
4) I resolve to dedicate at least five hours per week to writing
This one is huge. I need to be writing for my own sanity. I can already think of times when I can fit this in, thanks to my NaNo experience. During NaNo, I worked writing into my every day. I wrote instead of Facebooking. I wrote during my lunch hour. I got up early a couple times per week and wrote in my jammies with a hot cup of coffee and a purring cat at my side. I spent way more than five hours per week writing during NaNo, so I know this can be fit into my schedule. And I know that when I grant myself this opportunity to write, I’m happier and more emotionally available to my family and friends.
5) I resolve to live deliberately
There is a saying in Buddhist philosophy: “When I eat, I eat. When I sleep, I sleep.” How many times have you sat down to a meal with your phone in one hand and your laptop propped open? How many times have you gone on a lunch date with your friends and just couldn’t help but check your email or social feeds? When you lay down to sleep at night, do you try to solve all your life’s problems? I know I’ve been guilty, even though I try very hard to stay present in what I’m doing.
I’m not so much guilty of the meal distractions, because we have family rules: No devices at the table; No toys at the table; Family dinners are for family connection. Where I am guilty is the constant squirreling to social media, email and other online-distractions while I’m working, writing, reading, standing in line… pretty much any time other than when I’m eating, really. The year 2015 is going to be the Year of Focus. I will dedicate certain amounts of time to online networking, because honestly, it’s important for a writer. But I don’t have to read up on everyone’s every day, because it’s robbing me of my own life. I love to see pictures of my far-away friends, but it doesn’t need to be a daily occurrence. Not when it’s taking away time from what really matters.
This all might seem heavy-handed, but I’m tired of feeling rushed while simultaneously largely unaccomplished. I need desperately to get out of the commuter lane of the rush-hour of life, and I need to start finding the back roads instead. When the sun comes up behind me., I don’t want to be “shorter of breath, and one day closer to death.” I want to look on my yesterdays with a sense of fulfillment. I think it’s possible, and I’m willing to do the work to get me there.
How do you manage your time? Do you set specific goals? And have you ever conducted a time audit? Feel free to comment and discuss!