Counting Time

Never seem to have enough? Looking for some more? Kali Anthony talks about counting time. It might surprise you just how much you have!

A couple of years ago I was listening to a radio interview of a woman, Laura Vanderkam, who spent a year documenting each half hour of her day. Laura Vanderkam is a time management expert. She started this documentation project, to work out where her time was being spent, since she as a working mother and didn't think she had much time to spare. Her theory? That she had more time than she believed.

It intrigued me. During my day job, I record on a time sheet so each day is broken down into six minute units. It was something I was familiar with in a work context, however not in a personal one. Whilst I liked the idea of looking for more time, I didn't do anything about it. It only became a pressing issue, when I realised I needed to schedule more time for writing, something I'm serious and passionate about.

I wrote a few months ago about changing the time I did my writing from evenings, to early mornings. This was an effective use of the start to my day. However it seemed my time was still disorganised. I remember thinking I had time once (okay, before kids, stop laughing) so where to find some more? Sure, I was now writing to a routine, but what about exercise and all the other things a human needs to keep them healthy and motivated to keep creating? I wondered if documenting my day, might show me where my time was going.

In researching Laura Vanderkam I came across her marvellous TED talk, which I can highly recommend (it has led me to question what I do every day and how I spend my time). In it, Laura Vanderkam discusses the concept of time. She says we can't make more, but that time will stretch to accomodate what we put into it, "We don't build the lives we want by saving time. We build the lives we want and time saves itself."

This is something she discovered in preparing for her book, I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time, where she asked women to document what they did every day for a week.

Laura Vanderkam talks about one woman interviewed, with a family and her own business, whose water heater broke and flooded the basement. It took seven hours to arrange for the damage to be fixed and the water heater to be repaired. She says if this woman was asked at the beginning of the week to find seven free hours, she would have said she didn't have it. The woman found the time, because what she had to do was a priority.

This led Laura Vanderkam to postulate that what you do with your time is a choice. If we want to do something we need to, "Treat our priorities like the equivalent of that broken water heater."

With this in mind I took the plunge and documented what it did each day, for a week. Here is a snapshopt of my typical work day, Monday through Thursday:

4.45 to 6.20: Write

6.20 to 6.50: Cup of tea, makeup and hair etc

6.50 to 7.15: Cook and eat breakfast

7.15 to 7.40: Teeth/lipstick/dress/gently encourage kids (shout) to finish getting ready for school

7.40 to 8.25: Drive to work/park/walk to work

8.25 to 1.30: Work

1.30 to 2.30: Lunch/eating at desk/working whilst eating/doing PHS/social media/read news

2.30 to 5.10: Work

5.10 to 5.20: Walk to car

5.20 to 6.05: Drive home/pick up kids from care

6.05 to 6.40: Prepare dinner/help with homework/pull my hair out/make lunches/listen to radio

6.40 to 7.30: Eat dinner/talk to family

7.30 to 8.10: Finish lunches/homework/run baths for kids/get kids ready for bed

8.10 to 8.35: Tuck kids in/check for school notes and stuff/talk to husband

8.35 to 8.55: Shower/get ready for bed

8.55 to 9.30: Bed/reading book/social media

9.30 to 4.45: Lights out/sleep

What I learned (surprisingly) is that I don't look at social media as much as I thought I did UNLESS I'm procrastinating, which is when my face is stuck in my phone. And Fridays were when I procrasitnated, because that's the day I didn't work. A day when I theoretically had from 8.40 when I dropped the kids at school to 2.30 when I left to pick them up, to write. But I didn't. I spent a good portion of my free time worrying/ruminating/thinking about writing and looking at my phone.

Strangely, when I thought about my Fridays they alway felt really busy. Turns out they were a procrastinator's paradise.

Weekends were different again (and their own kind of crazy). They were taken up with chores around the house and some well deserved down time (mainly reading) and family time. Still, not much if any writing was being done.

So what did I do with this wealth of information about how I spent my days? I realised that what made me feel so busy and frantic was really my four days at work. Friday, Saturday and Sunday weren't quite as mad, but those four work days coloured my perception of how much time I had available for the whole week.

I also needed more exercise time, constantly believing I had none on the days that I worked. During the working week I scheduled a twenty minute walk with the dog (she's a greyhound, that's enough for her) between 8.10 and 8.35 pm, to add to the twenty minutes walking to and from my car before and after work. Exercise sorted! As a huge bonus I also felt way better for getting up and getting moving.

The biggest change came on Fridays, when I realised that I could get stuck in to writing early after the kids left. This allowed time later in the day to do some chores so I could free up the weekend when the whole family were home, to allow us some quality family time.

I learned after counting time, that I did have a little to spare, or time that I could use more efficiently. I still think life is crazy, but working out what I did, has left me with a sense of being more organised which is a great thing. Maybe it could work for you too...

Kali is a writer of happy endings and failed domestic goddess. She will work for coffee, wine and chocolate! For more information follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Do you know where your time goes? Have a hankering to find out? What do you choose to do with your time? Tell us here or on Social Media using the hashtag #countingtime, we'd love to hear from you!

#KaliAnthony #MakingSpace #CountingTime #LauraVanderkam #TEDtalk #timemanagement #exercise #IKnowHowSheDoesIt #homework #efficiency

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