Thursday, January 06, 2011

168 Hours

Over the weekend, I read 168 Hours, by Laura Vanderkam. You should read it, too.

Laura's thesis is that we all have more time than we think. If you start with the premise that there are 168 hours in a week (there are), and that you sleep for 56 of them (you should) and you work for another 40, you still have a whole bunch of hours left for other things.

It's an innovating and exciting way of looking at your week. And in particular, when you start thinking about blocks of time, you realize where you are being inefficient and how you could, perhaps, tweak your schedule to get more from your time. It's not necessarily about working faster -- although that can happen -- so much as it is about making sure that the time you commit to working isn't spent, say, on Facebook. Or sweeping the floor.

My own days have been severely fragmented lately. I've been homeschooling the girls for their secular subjects. A month ago, my day looked like this:

6am: up and shower
6:30: coffee, email, work
8am: tell girls to start working. spend next 90 minutes alternating between "work" and helping girls, invariably becoming frustrated and tense.
9:40: drive girls to school for Judaic studies.
10am: return home, work.
11:50: pick up girls from school.
12:15: home, eat lunch
1pm: attempt to work, but constantly stop what I am doing to help the girls. OR ignore my work and sit down and teach girls. OR ignore girls and do my work and yell at them to leave me alone.
2:15: J. arrives home, yell at him to leave girls alone while they study.
3:30: D. arrives home, attempt homework, yell at other children.

You can see that this was, perhaps, not the best schedule. I would allow that there might be some room for improvement.

On Sunday night, I sat down and wrote up a schedule for Monday. On Monday morning, after I started my own work at 6:30 and crossed several important items off my list by 8, I sat down with the girls to talk to them. I explained that I need blocks of time for me and blocks of time for them. That it's not fair to them or to me to try to do everything at once. They understood immediately. We looked at their schedules for the week and figured out which courses they would need my help to complete, and which they could do on their own. Then I blocked time for the classes I needed to teach them. It was awesome.

I like figuring out what I want to spend my time on this week, and then slotting it in. Yes, it requires follow-through. But if the result is that I get to blog -- and not feel guilty about it -- then that's a good thing.

Here's a look at how my day went yesterday:

6am: Up and shower
6:30: coffee and status report for client
7am: email questions to sources for article
7:30: email
8am: schoolwork with S.
9:40: NANNY takes girls to school (this is HUGE. Giving myself this block of time back is such a no-brainer, but it took me forever to think of it.)
9:40: Work on pieces for client
11:50: submit pieces to client and pick up girls
12:15: lunch
1pm: schoolwork with S.
2pm: prep for client status call
2:30: downtime -- blogs/email
3pm: status call with client

See the difference? Small, but measurable. And sanity-saving.

I am still working on how to handle J and D in the afternoon, but one step at a time. Being able to focus on my own work at set times makes me much less tense in the later afternoon, and I can more easily shut the laptop and walk away from it.

Since Monday morning, I've crossed items off my list that have been there for MONTHS. It's a nice feeling. I like being in control of my time and my life. I'll let you know how it works out in the coming weeks and months.


Mara said...

Wow, very very inspiring. I am putting the book on my library list. Your description of your day is all too familiar (especially now that I'm blogging.)

You know, we have been considering HSing the boys in the fall. Lots of reasons. But today, as I was driving A to school it dawned on me that I spend an average of 90-100 minutes a day just driving kids back and forth from school. What a humungo waste of time! HS would "find" me almost 2 hours a day.

I just ordered a weekly planner from Amazon, broken down into quarter of an hour slots. I clearly must have realized that I was going to need to plan some blocks.

Thanks for sharing!

WriterGrrl said...

Oh, Mara, this made me laugh so much, because my original decision to HS, back in L.A., back in the day, was prompted in large part by the thought of driving my daughters to two different schools with different drop-off/pickup times. I saw my day turning into one long car ride -- in L.A. traffic.

I love HS.

Natalie said...

Thanks for the suggestion and sharing the impact of the change; as a mom of three struggling with the balance of work and home - dreaming of one day having a nanny or housekeeper to help -- this is a powerful reminder of how much time we do have and waste....Hope you continue to progress and see better use of your time!!! I haven't written to you in forever - but would love to share one day by email how N almost six is doing with Sotos -- seems like yesterday that we all had infants crying out over the Sotos email group as to what lay ahead???!!! Anyhow - have a great day!!!