19 Aug
2009
Posted in: Simplify
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How Do I Spend My Time?

I am interrupting my own blog post cheeseathon for a change of subject—I’d like to talk a bit about how I, how we all, spend our time. It’s trite to say our time is limited, but it’s trite for a very good reason—it’s actually true.

Like sands through an hourglass...these are the days of our lives...

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives...

How do you know when you are spending your time well? For me, it’s about going to sleep easy; I often have insomnia bouts when I feel things a lot of things are half-done and I’m overwhelmed. I also have trouble sleeping when I’m having doubts about my relationships, whether at work, in my family or even silly things like replaying offhand comments someone made in my head. Sleeping easily means that I have had a day where I have been able to dot a lot of i’s and also to have either maintained or improved ties with those I care about. It turns out that can be a very tall order, though it seems that it shouldn’t be.

One of the best things about working in higher education is the work/life balance. Much like the celebrated waitress/actress tradition, my higher ed colleagues do a lot of random creative things on the side, including music, improv theater, art, writing books and the list goes on. These things would not make enough to support the person full-time, but as a second source of enjoyment and income, they fill the slot admirably.

Besides this blog experiment (which I obviously could stand to do a bit more with), my family commitments, what seem like endlessly iterative home improvements, cooking and all that, I like to kid myself that I don’t have time for anything else. Of course, that’s patently false; it would be fair to say, though, that the choices can be very tough. I pretty much let Benjamin rule my life on weekends and most of the weekday evenings. I’m not saying this sanctimoniously; it’s a very real trade off. I painted my toenails last week and was afraid the polish had dried out it had been so long before that. I’ve cut out a heck of a lot of “me” time, which can be both incredibly rewarding and amazingly frustrating all at once.

As a less emotional example, I know I watched last season’s 30 Rock television finale and I went on a bender where I watched the Food Network quite a bit during our days-long vacation in early July. I’ve seen probably also seen 4-5 movies over the summer, in total. But, that’s it. In theory, I should have been riding high on my wave of free time all summer long.

According to the American Time Use statistics  that Prof. Daniel Hamermesh (Freakonomics fans might recognize his name from his NY Times pieces) put together, that gave me several extra hours every day to do other things, including a few side businesses, crafting, gardening, sleeping, basically all the other “fun/me” stuff I do. Why does it not feel like it? Like gases, I guess “stuff” naturally expands to fill whatever space it occupies. Goodbye, summer. Hello, fall. What will I choose from this point on? Less time on e-mail? More time cooking with Benjamin? I’m at least enjoying the thought of such possibilities, and that seems good enough for these few minutes.

How do you know when you are filling your time well, by your own standards? Can you measure it in smiles, or any other way? Is it just a gut instinct?

So, what do you think?