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Time: What We Do and Don’t Do with It

Abby Glassenberg‘s weekly newsletter is one of my favourites. She always makes me think, and she always points me to posts and articles that are informative and helpful.

In yesterday’s newsletter, Abby wrote a response to a question people ask her all the time, “Do you ever sleep?” Abby’s so prolific, and she’s so even-keeled about her work, that it seems like her situation-normal is something the rest of us might assume takes superhuman powers.

Here’s part of what Abby wrote in response:

I choose to work instead of choosing many other things. I don’t watch T.V. (I’ve never seen an episode of 30 Rock or House of Cards – in fact I just had to Google “most popular T.V. shows of 2015” to find out the names of those shows so I could write this) and I don’t read the newspaper. I don’t volunteer at my kids’ school – I’ve never been to a PTA meeting despite having kids in school now for 9 years. I don’t coach the soccer team or organize the Girl Scout troop.

So it might seem like I get so much done, but really I just get so much OF THIS done (and almost none of THAT).

She is focused, people.

It’s a level of focus I don’t have, but not in a bad way. Now that my kid is a couple months into proper school, I realize I allocate my time and energy differently than I’d anticipated I would. I’d thought that fewer work hours during the day would mean I’d be that much more focused on working whenever else I can – early mornings, evenings, etc. But that’s not how it’s turning out (and I’m not getting any less work done).

I have managed to become far more efficient at work. It took a couple of months, but I’ve established a good routine, and I’m back to getting work done at an acceptable clip.

I do watch television and read novels and stay on top of local and international news. This fall I started volunteering with a knitting group at a residence for people with mental illness, and I’ve recently been coordinating a donation drive for Carry the Future. I’m the website coordinator for the PAC (that’s what we call the PTA here) at my kid’s school.

The busier I am, the more I get done and the more satisfied I feel. The more I fill my tanks with input unrelated to my work (within reason), the more inspired I get to do good work. I need a tremendous amount of diversity in what I do in order to stay interested in each thing; the variety prevents me from burning out.

It’s neat to think about this. I so admire Abby’s laser focus, and her talking about it led me to think about my own need for lots of variety, and how having lots of balls in the air enables me to get good work done.

How do you navigate making choices about all the possible things you could do with the limited amount of time you have in a day?

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Vanessa

I get the same question about my crafting. When do I find time to knit, learn to draw, sew or read so many books? I don’t watch live TV, I don’t follow the news (mostly because I don’t like to be so infuriated all the time), I go to bed early so I can have more time to read, and I make the most of my downtime at doctor’s offices.

As Fred Rogers would often sing, “Let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting
While we’re waiting ’til something’s through.
You know it’s really all right;
In fact, it’s downright quite bright
To think of something to do
That’s specific for you.
Let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting.”

And yes, my family would start to sing that whenever we complained of boredom or not wanting to wait for something. I can’t wait to harass my new babe with that song too. :D

Louise

Don’t watch tv, check. Don’t read newspapers: well, I do follow the news online now and again. I use audio books when I can so I can knit more while I “read”. I do find this work thing get in the way of knitting, but I need to make peace with that. I have at least another 20 years of it ahead of me.

nikolena

I do watch TV…mostly Netflix…but often while I’m doing something else while doing so like exercising, filling orders, or other tasks that don’t take a lot of concentration. I mainly follow news through the radio…again while I’m doing something else like driving or running errands. I don’t really spend a lot of energy on keeping up with it because these days it’s mostly depressing or infuriating. I also love listening to podcasts while doing my administrative tasks like financials (my current favorites are Alex Blumberg’s Start Up, Reply All, The Thomas Jefferson Hour, Reveal, RadioLab, and This American Life). I make time to read every day…books, technology and art blogs, newsletters, etc. This year I had resolved to read about 36 books and got about 32 of them read so far. :) And my husband and I love to go to movies on a couple Saturday mornings a month. We eat breakfast, see a movie and then have lunch after. It’s a great way to spend some time together. Just writing all of that down, it seems like a lot of media to be consuming. But I’ve tried the no TV thing and it just doesn’t work for me. I’ve discovered I’m a lot more creative when I get a steady flow of input from other sources. Ideas, information, other people’s thoughts often trigger my own creativity, so I don’t see it all as a waste of time for me. I schedule time every day for creating and work that requires concentration and I make sure that it happens. Every week I review what happened the previous week and plan my tasks and schedule my concentration work for the week on my calendar. I’ve found that doing this weekly ensure that I get what I need to work on done…while… Read more »

trixietimez

Hmmm… I’m a bit confused. Am I supposed to be envious of Abby’s “laser focus?” when in fact it’s not laser focus as much as an unbalanced life. Never volunteered at her kid’s school? Never been to a PTA meeting? Even as a new step parent years ago, I loved the time I spent as a “room mom,” volunteer, youth sports coach, and community volunteer.. in addition to everyone else I did. Those are the things that made a difference in my step daughter’s life.

I don’t watch random TV, but as a newlywed, my DH and I watch some Psych on netflix when we need downtime. I really don’t watch much else, except the occasional HGTV show (it’s my industry.) My DH is a musician, so I take time to go to his gigs to support him. I don’t need to shut out every other aspect of my life to be “successful,” but I guess telling everyone that you aren’t involved at your kid’s school is someone else’s idea of success. Sounds like a pretty one-dimensional version of success for me. Again, it’s her choice. But I would never envy someone who eschews the other aspects of life in pursuit of “success.”

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