I’ve been thinking a lot about time management as of late. Rather, I’ve been stressing a lot about the fact that I can’t seem to manage my time as of late. Despite operating under a near-tyrannical schedule, I’ve found that key activities aren’t happening – most notably, blogging and freelance writing – and I assume full responsibility.
I’m lucky to be in a creative profession, but in some ways, being a writer by trade makes it harder to be a writer by choice. It’s not like I’m desperately in need of an outlet, so the last thing I want to do when I get home is park myself in front of a computer. Work aside, I also end up feeling frustrated by the amount of time that disappears into the vortex of “good” behaviors like cooking, cleaning, exercising, and maintaining personal hygiene—not to mention the hours devoted to those oh-so-normal, oh-so-necessary things called relationships, both long-distance and face-to-face.
I wrote this post immediately after finishing school, and I still find that most of it rings true for me. In the layover between penning essays and popping out babies, down time is generally ours to spend as we see fit—a precarious juggling act of wants and shoulds with hopefully more than a little overlap. This is where values enter the equation. The way we spend our time is, at its core, a measure of what matters to us.
In some cases, hammering out a hierarchy is easy. I won’t join Pinterest or watch mindless TV because I don’t value those things enough to let them crowd my time. I find them easy to refuse because the options are off the table. Others are more complicated—for example, I’d like to read more books or volunteer for a cause, but not enough to rearrange my schedule and actually follow through. And then there are the headliners. The big guys. The ones that demand your full attention, even though none of them can have it.
Healthy living is a perfect example. It’s objectively important for a number of reasons, but in order to be executed cheaply and maintained consistently enough to constitute a lifestyle, it’s really freaking time-consuming. Unless you can be satisfied by a dull rotation of spartan food (I can’t, and I’m not looking to be), you’re going to have spend a significant amount of time turning all those whole foods into balanced meals and portable snacks—not to mention the two hour daily sum total spent working out, showering, and packing a gym bag. I don’t do any of this strictly because I “should”—I enjoy both cooking and exercising to unwind, I enjoy eating good food that also works for my body, and I enjoy looking and feeling attractive as a result of keeping up with all of the above. In summation, I value healthy living. Highly. But do I value it to the exclusion of all else, to the point where I want it to hinder my social life or my professional aspirations? Well, no. But time-wise, I often treat it as though it’s #1.
Social interaction presents even more of a conflict, as I can honestly say I would put relationships at the top of my list. I abandoned about 90% of my grand plans for efficiency this weekend to spend time with college friends, and it was: grounding, rejuvenating, just what I needed, et cetera, et cetera. I can’t imagine having made any other choice. I could write a whole blog about how cool my friends are…and yet I can’t help but be aware that every moment I spend with my friends is a moment I don’t spend writing. It is literally impossible for me to do both at the same time. I value my relationships more than anything else, but again—do I value them to the point where I’m willing to let them eclipse all professional and creative aspirations, or even my desire to live healthfully? I can’t honestly say that I do. Relationships can have the plurality of my time, but logistically speaking, they cannot have the majority. This isn’t work-life balance—it’s life-life balance, and it sucks.
The best I can do is spend a morning knocking back mimosas for Pride weekend, and then excuse myself to run five champagne-fueled miles, steam some lentils, and spend a few hours hammering away at my laptop. I resent this. I don’t want to plot my family and friends on a pie chart of values (and I have a feeling I shouldn’t be hitting the treadmill while tipsy). My brother just sent me a sweet text lamenting the fact that we haven’t talked in a month, and I had to table his request to catch up until after I finished writing this post—not because I care less about him than my blog (quite the contrary, kiddo!), but because in order to get through my list tonight, the only time I can speak to him is while fixing dinner. I can chop and chat in a way that I cannot write and chat. So in that moment, he lost. He went on the schedule (as half of a scheduled multitask, no less). Is this heartless? Am I turning into a robot?
Drunkbot. So many levels of That Girl.
I’d mull it over while chopping veggies, but I have to call my brother.
If maximum efficiency requires detachment (or pregaming the gym), how do you know when you’ve crossed the line? Any tips for fitting it all in?