Splice time in new ways to have more of it
I have been trying to think of time differently, so I don’t panic because I don’t have time to do that. I have a job that requires about 60 hours of work a week. And I homeschool my kids. So the only way to get by is to stop thinking of time in terms of work time and personal time. I don’t have enough time to fulfill the needs of those two categories.
I have to find new categories so that I feel like I have enough time.
Tuesdays my son and I drive four hours to Chicago for piano lessons, cello lessons, and orchestra rehearsal. I used to think of it as a terrible day where I drive eight hours and get no work done. But then I realized I could do work while I drive.
So I recategorized drive time as work time, and then I felt better about getting work done on Chicago days.
Then I noticed that I could also work during orchestra rehearsal. It’s true that parents are supposed to be paying attention. But it’s not like individual lessons where I have to write every little missed note on our list of things to practice. Orchestra is a place where a mom can fade into the audience. And pull out a laptop.
So I wrote a blog post during orchestra and I told myself I can pretty much recategorize Tuesday as a work day with two music lessons stuck in the middle.
At the end of the session, my son brought his cello over to me and he whispered, “Mom, I can’t believe it. That was the longest bathroom break I ever took. Fifteen minutes.”
I said, “You didn’t take a fifteen minute break. We all would have noticed.”
He said, “Everyone did. The orchestra teacher left the classroom and got me.”
So, fine, orchestra is not a place where I can check out and do work. But still, I am trying to figure out how to look at time differently. And here is a list of ways I’ve thought of and none have gotten me in as much trouble as my Tuesday idea.
Work life/Home life
This is the typical divide. It is useless because it’s not helping anyone feel better about themselves. And also, if we really wanted to divide time this way we’d all put away our iPhones. The other thing about dividing life between home time and work time is that there is then clearly not enough time. So we go nuts. And we always revert to overlapping the two.
This is why I started coming up with new ways to think about time: to make enough space that I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed by my lack of time all the time.
Doing time/Not doing time
You can get tons of work done without actually doing it. You can hire people and delegate. One of my favorite things about coming home to a clean house is that I didn’t have to do it. There is something magical about time when I am getting things done and not having to do them.
So I try to have a bunch of things each week that I have passed off to someone else. They have to be big enough projects that when they are done, I feel that relieved sense of accomplishment you get from doing something significant in your work.
Phil Libin, founder of Evernote, writes that you don’t want to be the smartest person in your company. This is because if you surround yourself with bright people they get more done without you. I know that virtual assistants are all the rage right now. I caution you to hire a very smart one. The joy in getting things done when you’re not doing them only comes when it’s done well.
Fun time/ Play time
I hate fun. Fun drains me. But I like ideas. Actually, ideas are fun. Fun to me is reading and writing all day, and every so often, someone pops in to listen to me talk about what I’m thinking, and then I go back to reading and writing. That is a great day for me.
I have a son who thinks fun is play and excitement. It’s a problem for me. I am not the joyous type. But my husband loves fun. When we were dating, he would try to be goofy and it would make me cry. It’s stressful if you don’t understand role playing, which is what I think goofiness is. So he is very happy that I have a playful son. And I am very happy to not play.
We divide our family time between fun and other stuff. I do most everything else. It’s easier for me to do dishes and clean bedrooms than it is for me to play kickball and jump off the rope swing. So I look for times when the family is doing their fun which is play, and it’s a nice time for me to do my fun, which is more like work. Of course.
Nice time/ Critical time
One of the biggest weaknesses I have is making time for a marriage. It’s not natural for me to stop my work to take care of emotions. So I started trying to measure the amount of time I spend with my husband. I told myself if it wasn’t an hour a night, the marriage wouldn’t last. If it wasn’t an hour in the morning, we would have a bad life. I told myself all kinds of time-constrained truisms.
But what I’m thinking now is I can divide the day into positive comments and negative comments. Psychology Today reports that marriages do well if you have at least 5 positive comments for every one negative comment. I can do that. And when it’s difficult, I tell myself I’ll be rewarded for my kindness with the ability to help him perfect one thing.
Engaged time/Unengaged time
People actually don’t mind working long hours when they are engaged. Burnout is not a result of how much work you’re doing but what type of work you’re doing. So instead of organizing time into work time and personal time, you could organize it into time when you like what you’re doing and time when you don’t like what you’re doing. This is actually my big gripe with Tim Ferriss. He says he only works a 4 -hour week, but he really means he only does four hours a week of work that is not engaging to him.
People are doing this with learning as well: binge learning. This is when people take courses that are compressed, and they watch all the courses at once, sort of like watching a whole season of Arrested Development at once.
A lot of times you have a day where you do no work or a day when you do all work. And then you might feel that the other part of your life is in trouble. But instead, you can think in terms of weeks and months. You can have a week where you mostly work, and a week where you mostly don’t work. That’s balance, but in a larger picture. The idea of balance seems impossible hour by hour, but there are other ways to think about having a balanced life.
And you know how you can tell if your way of thinking about time is working? It feels good.
Sometimes you scare me.
You know it really makes more sense to look at time this way since time really isn’t linear like we all think it is. You actually gave me a few ideas on how to make better use of what I consider “dead time” or time where I’m really not getting any work done. My biggest problem is actually getting myself to focus on what really needs to be done without getting distracted (gotta love ADHD).
Great article Penelope. I like the Days/Weeks one most.
Right now I am in a period of “rest” and “reflection” before I figure out how to go about publishing a book. It helps to think that I will rest to recharge, then go all out in the next project for several weeks (until I get tired again).
And yes, I am watching back to back episodes of The JUSTICE LEAGUE cartoons too….
I have the same idea of fun as you do: reading and writing all day. And thinking of ideas. Ideas are exciting. Implementing the ideas…not so much.
I read something about some industry people being horrified that Netflix released House of Cards in one fell swoop. But it went over really well because that really is how people consume things these days. We started back when “24” came out on disc. Without commercials it was “18” and made for an intense and cozy weekend.
PT, could you audio or video tape your son’s lessons so you can check out?
Oh dear lord the goofy husband thing. I used the fact that that stuff would probably appeal to a child when I was lobbying for kids. It worked. And she does still find it charming.
These are great ideas and ways to think about time management. I’ll definitely find some fun making up my own and similar type of schedule.
This is a great idea in theory, and particularly if you work for yourself and have control over your time. Those who work in corporate America (or probably for anyone working for people other than themselves) will have a tough time implementing these things. I doubt I can get away with leaving work 2 hours early b/c I “thought about work” on my morning commute.
I work in the corporate world and have used these methods to become incredibly efficient by noticing when I feel most productive and use those moods to power through the unfun stuff (sometimes a time of day, sometimes a day of the week, sometimes a week out of the month – it varies). And there are some periods (again, sometimes hours, sometimes days) when I just can’t focus and need to take some time to reorient – a yoga class during lunch, a few minutes of blog reading, a walk around the block (sounds like the walk may be the most advantageous per P’s link in another comment). Ultimately, the point for me is to check in with myself and take advantage of my mood, whatever it may be. In a strict corporate setting, this may mean that I spend some time being more social with my coworkers. So long as the work gets done within its deadline, what does it matter when or how long it took you?
You sit through lessons and take notes on what to practice? Isn’t that what the teacher is for?
I agree- That should be what Teachers are for- The teacher needs to make notes and tell you what your son needs to work on-I am a College Professor and I would feel remiss If I did not give students advise on specific areas they need to work on; indeed I would not be doing my job. Besides, are you not paying that Teacher a goodly sum of $ to teach? Whose idea is it to take those notes any way, your’s or the Teachers?
Wow, P, you are really pumping out the posts this week. Why, I’m still working on communicating “interestingness” in my life and/or work (You have made me scared to separate the two). I share in your definition of “fun” for the most part. I could sit and read & write every day, but I need occasional sunshine breaks. I also love to mountain bike, when I can. That’s about it. You’re fighting asperger’s in that respect, and with the marriage thing as well. You people need a script for how to act natural (believe me, I have experience with this… ongoing experience). Enjoyed your post, as always! Bless you, G
I think we probably all need sunshine. I force myself to go outside each day. It’s hard sometimes. But someone just sent this link to me, about how essential it is to our wellbeing to go outside – better than doing a yoga class!
My intuition would agree with you that a walk in nature is better than yoga – but the article you linked to in fact states the opposite.
“That said, they note that yoga’s impact was far more widespread, which indicates the practice “may have additional effects over exercise plus simple relaxation in inducing health benefits through differential changes at the molecular level.””
I would go nuts listening to my son practice his instrument. You are a saint. Maybe that’s why my kids don’t play instruments! I’m not.
Like this, I recently heard Sanjay Gupta say something like – we should think in terms of “energy management” instead of “time management.” When we’re doing something we love, we can ‘work’ for hours at it and still love life and have energy. And when we’re doing something we don’t like, an hour of it can drain us. I love this concept.
Oh, absolutely. People say that we all have time but if you’re exhausted and stumbling and slurring, you are only going to screw up whatever you undertake to do.
I am exhausted like that a lot. The doctors don’t seem to want to deal with it. I wish that they did.
There is a flow, isn’t there? I started a blog about 18 months ago, and I realize that I put enough time into it that it is essentially a part time job. Most of the time it feels like fun and learning.I have had comments about all the free time I must have because I blog, but I really don’t. I just use my extra time differently. For example, they have favorite TV shows. I enjoy TV and entertainment but I don’t have enough time for it. Always about priorities.
I am laughing as I read this since I had two conference calls while my kids played at the Jumpy Place this week. I did have another mom watch them for me, since we both juggle work this way and an hour to do focused work makes all the difference. Today we visited a succulent plant nursery and I had them “find” this plant and that one, and I got my order for an upcoming event squared away. It is challenging, but I would not do it any other way. Kudos P –
This description of small moments in time, and parents helping each other, is such a great, realistic picture of what working and parenting looks like.
Thank you for this truly perceptive post. I’m used to you being perceptive, of course, but you wrote this one exactly when I needed to read it. At just the right time.
I am a slave to time. This organizing system is so pervasive that I rarely notice its tyrrany. I’ve internalized its oppression. Definitely. When not putting my conscious attention on time, I assume that I am at its effect. Time happens to me. I have no agency.
Intellectually, I understand that time is not fixed like I’ve been taught. I know there are cultures who relate with time like quantum physicists describe it – fluid and dynamic.
And, the Buddhists, they also challenge our understanding of time. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche made the following distinction between reality and fantasy. Reality is anything that we can experience with our senses. Fantasy is everything else.
Direct sensory experience is always occuring now = Reality.
Everything we say about a sensory experience that is not happening now is an interpretation, whether in the past or future = Fantasy.
This makes sense to me. Does that mean that most of my life I am in an empowered relationship with time? No. Mostly because I don’t pay it enough attention, I disregard it like the ground I walk on. I guess all that’s missing is a commitment to give time more of my conscious attention.
Recently, I read The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. It’s a interesting, fast read about moving beyond our zone of excellence into our zone of genius. In it is a chapter called Einstein Time. In that chapter he says that to the extent that we are taking responsibility for understanding who we are and being responsible for our experience, we can CAUSE time. Period.
Your splicing time into categories that make sense in your life occurs to me as causing time.
A distinction that makes sense to me, is Coordinating with Others Time/Deciding solo Time
I’m inferring that to the extent that my coordinating is sourced by conscious and animating purpose, I can reconnect with or re-create that purpose and cause time.
I love this blog, it always makes me stop and think. It also changes my perception on just abiut everything you write on. Anyways, is this time splicing really a new concept? I am guessing that is why Yahoo doesnt want people telecommuting is because they (Yahoo) cant decisively say that people are working 100 per. Microsoft solved the problem by bringing personal life stuff (beauty, buying a cell phone, etc) to its campus. Ive always heard that the more personal you make the office, the more likely one is to stay and work longer hours. Google has a perk where someone will go pick up your dry cleaning. Even the fun stuff, a lot of corporations are blurring the line between play and work (pool and foos tables at the office).
Still, Ive seen this trend at corp ebb and flow. Things are good, go play foos ball, see arent we a cool company? Things are bad, out comes a memo that no one can telecommute, see we are all business. Thoughts?
Heather, have you ever worked for Microsoft when you say “Microsoft solved the problem by bringing personal life stuff (beauty, buying a cell phone, etc) to its campus.”? I suspect not or you would realize the complete hilarity of this statement.
This whole blog is a disgrace to women, especially working women everywhere. We are to judge our lives by metrics, how much time we spend with our husbands, an hour a night at minimum? Give me an F’ing break. You are ruining what women have worked hard to even think about. #FAILINABIGWAY
Penelope and Heather ARE talking about what women worked hard to acheive. I don’t think my current life is quite the vision MY mother worked very hard for yet she and her generation are the ones who made it possible. They fought so we could have choices-choices in who we marry, what type of work we do and where we do it, mamma k seattle. Because of that generation and now my generation (and maybe some technological advances inbetween), I can work from home on our family business while homeschooling my kids.
When you work from home, the boundaries are blurry-what’s work, what’s family time, what’s relationship time? Have you ever heard of “date night?” It’s the same idea as Penelope noting that she has to spend at least an hour a day WITH her husband. My husband sits 2 feet away most of the day but I’m not spending time with him-it just feels like it. It’s about being deliberate in your day.
Perhaps “solves” was the wrong word to use. I can see that now, all I was simply trying to say is that corporations realize that they want and need employees to be at and stay at the office so they provide “personal” services on location. Getting a haircut is not a business necessity. The challenge you see is whether or not you actually get to use the personal services. Penelope brings up a topic that is true to point though, how do you balance work and personal? All of us have metrics, these are just some of them.
This is why people read your blog Penelope.
I feel the same pressure when I really want to blog but can’t because I have to go do STUFF.
This is an excellent post on a number of levels thanks for sharing ideas of how you’re dealing with a problem that we all are facing, 24 hours.
After all its the time that we use to make whatever life that we have. Why not layer things on top of each other if you can?
PS which post did you write while at music practice, this one?
I wrote the post before this one –
I don’t break my time up the same way you do, but I do agree with your idea of balance on a larger scale. I have entire days when I do nothing – and then I have days where I’m running from dawn to way past dusk. I have weeks where I’m engrossed in work, and others when I am getting by at work and really focusing on my family.
Big picture balance is much more realistic.
Maybe this means I will be a terrible mom someday, but I don’t get why you need to be aware of your son’s 15 min. bathroom break. Unless he is sick and needs your help – it sounds like the orchestra teacher had it covered. While your son is engaged with another teacher sounds like a perfect time to check out and do your own work. Do all the parents attend orchestra practice like it is an orchestra concert?
I’d love to hear your take on Rebecca Martinson (sorority girl email rant). If you were career coaching her, what should she do now? Should she drop out of college, get an agent, try to land something on HBO? Hoping you’ll take up this topic because I’m so curious to hear your opinion on this. Early on, people wrote that her mainstream professional career is shot after this notoriety, so what is Plan B for her? Sorry my comment is off-topic from your blogpost, so think of it as a new category of “viral time” or “spotlight time” and how should she spend it?
(p.s.- liked your post on Matthew and the pigs).
“A lot of times you have a day where you do no work or a day when you do all work. And then you might feel that the other part of your life is in trouble. But instead, you can think in terms of weeks and months. You can have a week where you mostly work, and a week where you mostly don’t work. That’s balance, but in a larger picture. The idea of balance seems impossible hour by hour, but there are other ways to think about having a balanced life.”
==>You know what I love about this paragraph? It’s that it’s a great tip for people who are ENXP.
Most of the productivity advices we find is designed by J’s, for J’s.
I’ve spent many hours searching for the equivalent of Getting Things Done for Perceivers, I haven’t found it yet.
If you have any more tips/suggestions about time management for perceivers, I beg you to share them!
GTD for Percievers…I laughed out loud reading it because it’s what I am looking for too. I am an INTP female with an ENTJ manager. He is great at making me feel engaged about work but always kills it by asking for a spreadsheet to track progress… Maybe getting someone with a J to do that for me would work. However, these J’s in my life will always make me feel I accomplished nothing.
What do you think P, could you help us here?
Except that watching a whole season of arrested development at once is awesome! Cannot wait for the new season. Penelope how do you feel about netflix releasing it’s own programming a season at a time instead of one episode at a time?
I think it’s totally cool. It’s Netflix recognizing that people like to do binge TV. And I adore Arrested Development, so I have a deeper love Netflix for being the one to save the show.
How about ME time/WE time? I’m an introvert.
Good point! Same logic for the extroverted btw.
Other possible recategorization :
-under-pressure/deadline in my face/short-term tasks VS in depth/substantive/longer term work
-work in the business vs on the business
I understand and the time for the love one. I have to close the computer and give him time, even if it’s watching tv together or he feels neglected. While I feel “we’re just watching tv, I could do something else on the computer..
Congratulations, Penelope. Rush Limbaugh read your blog on the air today. Impressed.
“People are doing this with learning as well: binge learning.”
Whether the time is engaged time or unengaged time, I think learning is better achieved with a higher degree of competency and retention when it is not done by a binge method or some sort of compression mode. Learning discrete amounts of knowledge over a more extended period of time allows a person to absorb and reflect what they have learned and allows them to put it into the proper context. As an analogy, binge learning brings to mind someone cramming for a test, doing a data dump, and then moving on to the next set of materials to digest. People will use the Internet and online courses to binge learn no doubt with mixed results. And I seem to remember your son’s cello instructor does not want him to practice material which hasn’t been assigned for a reason.
Mark, I think is all intertwined. I think if a person is binge learning based on interest, it can work really well. If the interest is long lived, then there will be more an more added to the initial binge and it can all be synthesized. The analogy for a class doesn’t really work for me because, presumably, if one has waited until the last minute, it isn’t an interest and is perfunctory. There is nothing added on top, thus, there is no reason (as far as the brain is concerned) to retain it.
In that case, there may be better retention if things are learned incrementally, but I’m not sure for how long for what purpose. If it turns out to be necessary for day to day life or work, I assume it will be re-learned. Only this time with a purpose and a scaffold.
I love, love, love:
”Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.” – Barbara Lamping
But I think it holds true for people of all ages.
Hi mbl. Thanks for your reply about what I’ve written here. I wrote about half to three-quarters of the content I posted here and then started thinking about what you have said here. Also I decided there must be other people writing about this topic on the Internet. So I searched for “binge learning” and read various takes of this phenomenon from different people. I came to the conclusion that binge learning as opposed to a more disciplined learning style can be better or worse depending on the individual, the type of content, and to what level of expertise the content needs to be understood and utilized in a practical setting. I think it becomes a very individualized and customized solution dependent upon many variables best left up to the individual. I decided to finish up my comment (albeit it’s one-sided) since I had already spent enough time on thinking about it and it was getting close to dinner. I’m glad you commented here in defense of binge learning because I’m thinking there are no definitive rules or a right or wrong way. I didn’t come across any research in my cursory search of “binge learning” but it would be interesting to read.
” I think it becomes a very individualized and customized solution dependent upon many variables best left up to the individual.”
Mark, you’ve just summed up exactly why we homeschool.
I have always been a binge learner. I am interested in nearly everything, but need to dive ADD (which can manifest as hyper-focused when interest is sparked) head first into the subject. When I am told how and at what pace, I wilt and get fatigued. This can be great and I can become a pseudo expert really quickly. The negative side is that I have never really learned pacing.
I think that it is really hard to piece out what are are my quirks and styles and how they are similar to and different from my daughter’s.
It seems that there have got to be many pros and cons to each style. I absolutely believe that our brains do all kinds of sorting, categorizing and pruning while we sleep. But wonder if that means it is better to learn over a longer period of time, or maybe in short bursts interspersed with cat naps? How long do we need to sleep for the new filing to commence? Of course, as you said, Mark, what is optimal surely varies depending upon the circumstances.
Hope you enjoyed your dinner!
Really great post P. I heard someone maybe a doctor Fraser speak about flow as opposed to work life balance and have been converted ever since. The balance thing is phooey …. Who wants balance when you can have highs and lows and interesting :) best le
For me, I have a distinct structure of creative project time vs. routine time. The routine time stuff (at home–I’m the wife) has to get done (by me), or we are all tripping over half-unpacked suitcases and the meals get served at dawn and midnight. But saving time for ideas and creations — for me — is restorative.
Since I am married to my best friend I find that I always want to be with him and hang out. There for, I have found when I don’t want to hang out with him, it is a sign I am not spending enough time with him. :-)
Some times this means I schedule a good in the morning with him. And some times it means I spontaneously hang out with him.
If you need advice on a happy marriage, ask people who are happily married, not advice books. :-)
Your first sentence in this post says it all: you don’t have enough time to panic about not having enough time. That’s a kind of recursive insanity. You then wrestle with this issue diagnosing a flawed perspective and then reconstructing something you find more manageable. It is what all us problem-solvers do, but there is another way.
That way is to let go. Your job requires 60 hours a week. Really? Are you a nurse working 12×5 nights? Are you a firefighter? A medical resident (although I can’t imagine any with such a light load). My point is that you put the requirement on yourself and you can remove it. Same issue with the long music lesson commute and the decision to homeschool…
As a parent, I’ve found time optimization just didn’t work. We do what we can and try not to fail at what matters. Many other things fall apart, but it’s seldom as bad as we imagined when we believed we could do it all.
As a man, I know I don’t have the same perspective and expectation women face, especially if they are inspired by the likes of the yahoo CEO and Facebook CFO. But most of us men and women have hit a point with 2-3 kids where we realized: this is not the stage of life where I change the world. Own the moment as best you can and worry about the rest of your life later.
I have realized this – “this is not the stage where you own the world”. Kids! :)
Penelope, just sending some good vibes your way.
You work too hard, but you know that, right?
The sky won’t fall in if you just let yourself be a little.
I made a new system where I write down things I need to do on colored index cards. Green cards are for money, orange cards are for community, yellow cards are for health and pink cards are for personal development. The pink and orange cards fill up fast but I punish myself for having a hard time completing the things on the green and yellow cards by not doing anything at all. Off topic?
Ooh. That’s so interesting to me because my dyslexia makes it really hard for me to learn to read music, and I’m using a color-coded way that makes it much easier for me. I’m thinking that for people who have trouble organizing ideas, they are maybe like musical notes, and color coding would be great!
Well, it’s more that I have trouble sequencing, so I arrange things thematically instead. Have you read “Why be Happy When You Can Be Normal” by Jeanette Winterson? I think that she writes the first half of the book this way and then loses that organizational method in the last part.
Sounds like a typical woman’s day. We have the same division of responsibilities in our family: he is a goofball who works hard at work and come home to relax and have fun. Me, very serious, can’t have fun until I am done with everything on my list which almost never happens. I admire contemporary women! They have a long list and keep working on it even when asleep.They have so much on their plate, but they still manage to look great, take care of everything and everybody, have a great career and keep their sanity.
“Balance?” Maybe to some extent, but all of life is a sine wave. The best we can do is live, try to spot an up or down slope before we’re too far into it, and deal with it as best we can. And try to avoid run-on sentences. G
I love this post but also have to ask about the necessity for you to pay attention during your sons lessons? I was a fairly serious pianist and violist as a child and my parents never sat in on my lessons – that forced me to learn responsibility for my practicing and of course we had the exercises to practice written down in a little book. No matter how talented the child is, he/she should be responsible for the lessons, not the parents!
That will give you more time for more brilliant posts, too.
I’m curious: the work that you do while driving, is it conversations/consultations with clients? If so, do they mind getting only part of your attention (since I assume some of your attention is on driving and your child), and do they get a discount since they’re not getting your full attention?
It’s hard to think of any other work you could be accomplishing while driving.
You “work” 60 hours a week writing blog posts?? And you drive eight hours in one day during work weeks? Yep, just another regular Mom!
I’ve got an idea – stay at home with your children or get a real job.
Love this. It makes so much sense. I run a training on stress management. Organisation and using time wisely are so important to control your stress level.
Even Homer makes mistakes