First week of being (almost) full-time has felt like a military exercise at times. Every minute is accounted for and scheduled on a calendar, especially because I am training for my 15k race. I feel like I am forever keeping track of the hours and minutes, right up til the moment I kiss Star goodnight and walk out of her bedroom. Then my time is all mine, oh sweet sweet two hours before bed!
We all talk about being time-poor, and working parents especially feel the pinch. (Single parents are possibly the most time-poor of all). Lack of time is blamed for us not getting things done, feeling stressed, overwhelmed, never getting projects off the ground. And yet I’ve come to realise that the problem is not time itself, but how we see time, spend it, and how we direct our energy.
This occurred to me when I read the term “brain candy”, referring to the slightly inane, amusing, sometimes addictive and occasionally harmful ways that a lot of us choose to spend our free time doing. Me, I’m prone to spending too much time on (cough) Facebook, and on watching YouTube videos of animals falling asleep. These “brain candy” activities are often mindless, easy, and yes usually fun but they ain’t going to get us anywhere in a hurry (unless your mission in life is to get to level 300 on Candy Crush).
The thing is, we do this a lot. Recent studies show that the average American watches five hours of television, every day. Let’s say you’re not average, and you might watch, say, just two hours a day. That’s fourteen a week. Are we really time-poor? Or do we make poor choices with our time? Are we filling our time with the equivalent of junk food, candy, stuff that tastes good but brings our minds and souls no nourishment and brings little personal growth?
So with this sobering thought in mind this week, I started thinking about how to choose activities that would bring me benefit and improve me as a person. I started to value time the way I value food. Food is enjoyment, yes, but also nourishment. I eat healthy for the majority of the week and on the weekends I’ll have whatever I feel like having. Creme brulee, pizza, fried chicken, whatever, I’ll have it if I feel like it because I know during the week my diet is healthy, it’s low in fat and sugar, it’s packed with the goodies I need to keep me feeling well. Likewise with my choices with time this week. I have questioned myself before starting any activity. Is this going to be beneficial? Will I learn something, grow from it? Azim Jamal talks about the “Hour of Power”. 20 minutes each of meditation, physical exercise and reading inspirational literature. Just one hour a day. What an inspiring concept!
I’m also trying to focus my attention. Us mums are great multi-taskers, but sometimes this works against us. I’ve been using the Pomodoro technique again – a simple but effective way of focussing on predefined tasks for 25 minutes, and avoiding the urge to respond to the seemingly pressing tasks that pop into your head as you’re working. Instead of attending to what appears urgent, you simply note down the “interruption” and carry on. The first time I did that this week I had five interruptions – which I then systematically ticked off once my 25 minutes was up. Of course, this can only be done when not in the presence of small children…
You may not be as lucky as I am to have one or two hours in the evening to yourself. Perhaps you’re a single parent, you have to work two jobs, or shift work, or you work and study at the same time. I wish for you that the time you are putting in now will result in a better life for the future, for you and your children.
This post is not meant to be a summary of time management techniques. What I propose is that a simple reorganisation of a time mindset may assist us in feeling less time-poor and encourage us to pursue richer activities with whatever free time we are lucky enough to get. The Working Mummy Mindset part 4: Time is like food. Consume wisely. And make some time for Grumpy Cat and Damn You Auto Correct on the weekends.