When out for a walk, commuting to work, or knitting at home, I have been listening to audio books. My current listening material is the audio version of Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You Have More Time than You Think In her book, Vanderkam encourages us to track our time for at least a week in order to get a better idea of how we spend the majority of our time, and to point out any ‘time wasters.’ I have written previously about the idea of time tracking, but wanted to take a closer look at it again.
My goal is to maximize my time at home and be happier as I go about being the best mom and partner I can be. I stand behind research findings that state that our will powder is finite resource that depletes throughout the day after we have expended it on various task. This is precisely why I do my best to discern from among the many tasks on my list and choose the ones that most require my attention. For this reason, also, it is best to do our most important work in the morning. And yet, I also remind myself to conserve my energy for the evening in order to continue give it to those who matter most: my family. With that in mind, here is what I learned by tracking my time in the morning before work and in the evening:
- I am in a much better mood if, after I arrive at home, I have 10 times to eat dinner without speaking with anyone. Typically, when I walk through the door, I feel tired after the commute. On most days, I do not have 10 minutes to recharge before having to step into ‘mommy mode.’ However, on the days when I do have that luxury, I am a happier, more efficient mom.
- The more time I spend analyzing how tired I feel after work, the less I want to spend time on preparing dinner for the following day. For me, this is akin to decision fatigue. The more time I spend on thinking about how much I do not want to do something, the less energy or willpower I have to actually get up and tackle the task. The key is to get up and do it. If I can also have fun while preparing dinner, it’s a bonus.
- I can make mundane tasks more enjoyable by singing as I go through the motions, or challenging myself to move a bit quicker as I clean the toilet and wipe the counter in the powder room. This might not be a good mindfulness technique; nevertheless, it allows me to get things done when I feel tired but must get through a few core tasks.
- Often, there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we need to or want to accomplish. However, I can always compartmentalize my ‘to do’ list, then pick and choose from those categories. Under the ‘Cleaning’ category, for instance, I list the powder room; the upstairs bathroom; the basement bathroom; and general dusting of the surfaces. Mr. Wanderlust takes care of washing the floors and vacuuming the carpets. Given that I have those four tasks on my list under the subtitle ‘Cleaning,’ I break them down into 15-minute time slots throughout the week. Monday is for dusting. Tuesday is for cleaning the powder room. Wednesday is for the upstairs bathroom. You get the idea.
- Given that I have more energy in the morning, following my 5:30 a.m. workout, I squeeze in 15 minutes to quickly tidy the house in order to avoid having to do so in the evening. This also means that I do sometimes go to bed with the choice to ignore the mess until the morning, but I insist on having Wanderlust Juniors put away their games, toys, and books before the end of the day.
- My parents are currently staying with us on weekdays and my mom serves dinner to Wanderlust Juniors before Mr. Wanderlust and I arrive at home from work. Immediately after we return from work, we are off to karate practice. After that, Mr. Wanderlust and I have dinner while Wanderlust Juniors enjoy a snack. The key, at that point, is for me to avoid procrastinating about getting the boys to brush their teeth, shower, and choose their books for bedtime reading. It’s easy for me to distract myself and the boys with something that seems much more fun than brushing one’s teeth, showering, and reading books. Yet. I also know that if I stay with our schedule, not only will I have more enthusiasm to read to the boys, but I also will have more time to chat with Mr. Wanderlust or knit, read, or write after they have gone to bed and before my own bedtime approaches.
- Some nights, it’s more than okay to turn in early. I wasn’t feeling well earlier this week and went to bed at 9 p.m., immediately after Wanderlust Juniors. This means I did miss out on the opportunity to read or craft, but on that day, sleep was my top priority. In fact, it should be a top priority every day.
- I could fill my entire day with activities that I love to do. The majority of those days would involve hiking, spending time on the beach, reading, or crafting. Hobbies are classified as ‘Me Time’ and the list is a long one. On most days, it’s not realistic for me to fill my time with these activities. So, I choose the one to which I am most drawn on that day. Again, there may not be enough hours in the day for everything, but there are enough hours in the day for everything if we choose from among the several items in one category.
- Big time wasters for me are Googling — even if at times I do genuine research into yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, writing, literature, etc. — and social media. I have noticed that the only time I truly tend to ‘surf’ social media, scrolling through my newsfeed, is when I feel tired in the evenings. For that reason, I do my best to avoid technology in the evening. If I must use the computer for research or writing, I set that intention before flipping open my laptop, reminding myself to focus on the task at hand and not be swayed by something I might have suddenly remembered about what someone posted on Facebook.
I also have been tracking the time I spend on various tasks while at the office. Doing so has helped me to be more mindful of my approach to those various tasks, reminding me that I do my best work in the hours before noon, and that the more I procrastinate and analyze my procrastination, the less energy I have to jump into any task, including those about which I’m enthusiastic.
Have you tried to track your time at home, at work, or both? What were some of the most surprising lessons you learned as a result of logging your time? I invite you to leave a comment.
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