How to find time

 

Last weekend, I was waiting for A at home, and I actually had time to get bored. I do not remember the last time that happened. (Of course I was not bored for long because there is snapchat with disco bowl filters for my face.) Usually, I am always occupied with something and if chasing one’s to do list was an olympic sport, it would definitely be my discipline.

I don’t really think I had less to do last week. What was different was that last week I tracked my time, every minute of it, both awake and asleep, and snoozing. Now don’t think I’m mad – this is a technique proposed by Laura Vanderkam and I think its effect is so amazing, I have to tell all of you (like, my 23 readers) about it.

For a concise introduction, you can also watch her TED talk:

“Laura Vanderkam shatters the myth that there just isn’t enough time in the week for working professionals to live happy, balanced and productive lives”, her elevator pitch reads. She says you should see your life in weeks, not days, and track exactly what you are spending the 168 hours you get each week on. In a large analysis project, she asked women who have at least one child living at home and earn at least 100,000 dollars to log their hours for her. The findings resulted in her book “I know how she does it”. (Needless to say, in our society, if children are involved, this is more of a women’s problem.)

“Time is highly elastic”, Vanderkam found. “We cannot make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we need or want to put into it”. Basically she says, saying “I don’t have time” always means “This is not a priority for me”. I agree with the criticsm reviewers have voiced that her philosophy is mostly for well-educated, well-off people that actually can make certain choices. If you are really struggling to put food on the table, maybe you are less free to prioritize. But still, there are some parts of the day not spent working and those, Vanderkam says, should be spent more intentionally. Time tracking helps making more conscious choices: Do I really want to look at the excel sheet next Sunday and see that I spent more hours watching TV shows (that I don’t even remember) than hours that I spent with friends? Am I really at the office 50 hours a week or might I just be overestimating my workload? Do I want to have to fill in “30 minutes snapchat” on my Google document? (The answer here is hell, yeah #discofilter)

I found that I sleep enough and I cycle a lot. While the cycling is essentially commuting, it’s still somewhat good, and the fact that I do sleep enough on average is rather comforting. I spent 5 hours simply talking to A, and intentionally watched 3,5 hours of television, shows that I actually followed and remember. (I told A on Sunday evening that I needed to increase my TV hours tonight. “You’re probably the only person who says she needs to watch more TV”, he said, a little baffled.)

Laura Vanderkam claims that what you fill your hours with should reflect what you want your life to be: “A life is actually lived in hours”. If you want to be a writer, you have to use some time to develop writing skills. If you want to be well-rested, you have to prioritize sleep. If you, like me, get happy from watching drama series set in the 1960s, you can totally allocate time for watching “Call the Midwife”.  It turns out we have more time than we think.

 

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