What I Learned From Logging My Time For A Week

I’ve talked about Laura Vanderkam many times on the blog - she is a time management author, who interviews and gathers time log data from a variety of people.

Her message is to essentially prove to us that we have more time than we think.

I agree with her concept, but when my brain starts to feel overwhelmed, I’m always pretty adamant I’m too tight on time and can spin out over that.

After recently reading her book Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, I decided to follow her suggestion and keep a time log for a week. You can download her time log spreadsheet through her subscription form here.

I actually tracked my time almost 4 years ago to the day (you can time travel back and read that post here if you like).

And … yeah, I was worried about spending 2 ½ hours a day on the internet back in 2014 … let’s just say we’re closer to 5 hours now.

I’m going to blame maternity leave and will be working to reduce that for sure. Especially now the new iOS tells you how many times a day you pick up your phone (go and look in your settings - I was shocked!)

So, I tracked my time in 30 minute increments for a week (she also offers a 15 minute increment option but that was a little too intense for me), and here’s what I learned:

Tasks don’t take as long as I think they do

I noticed how little time things take in a number of ares of my life.

I am kinda hamstrung by baby nap times at the moment so once she goes to sleep, I’ll relax for ten minutes or so, then shower, put laundry on, etc.

What I noticed when I was logging my 30 minutes was… I was doing a lot in that 30 minutes.

Like all of those things! I thought I needed loads of time to get them done but in fact, I could relax, shower and put the laundry on and be back to a cup of coffee within half an hour.

Something I lament over is how long it takes to cook dinner - again, not that long… usually less than half an hour for most of my recipes.

And one more hilarious observation for the road…

I kind of loathe straightening my hair. Well guess what? It takes me 6 minutes to straighten my hair. I probably whinge in my mind for longer than 6 minutes about doing it! No longer…

I get enough sleep

Sadly I don’t get the 10+ hours I probably used to get on weekends pre-baby, but after filling up all those 30 minute cells with sleep overnight and into the morning, I am actually getting enough sleep. I get at least 6 hours and mostly 7.5 hours. So although

I feel within my rights to feel a bit tired day to day, it’s nothing to stress over.

I read a lot

I love having the Kindle app on my iPad (go and download some free Amazon sample chapters now!) but I never felt like I was reading enough.

Not only did I realise I read quite a lot (...like sometimes up to 2 hours a day) but tracking my time encouraged me to read more.

Writing ‘reading my phone’ in the 30 minute block wasn’t quite as inspiring as actually reading a book and logging that.

I exercise more than I think I do

I haven’t tracked my exercise in a long time so usually just decide day to day what I feel like doing.

Once I tracked my week as part of the challenge, I realised I was working out more than I thought and the variety was broader than I expected.

Baby and I go walking a lot but I also do a mix of weights, pilates, yoga and barre at home.

And again, my brain often spins out about exercise - telling me I don’t have the time. But once I realise it only takes one 30 minute slot in the spreadsheet (or maximum two) in the scheme of my day I can usually fit it in.

I unwind with TV and movies (when I say I don’t)

In this era of binge watching shows on Netflix/whatever streaming service you’re into, I am often left quiet in conversations as friends and coworkers discuss the latest trending series and how many episodes they powered through on the weekend.

I have a bit of a complex about spending too many hours watching TV so often don’t watch many shows.

When I tracked my time, I found I was watching something each day, usually in the evening, but again kinda decided on the spot.

I started a new series (Younger - 6 years late to the party), am still working through the latest season of The Handmaid’s Tale and watched an Amy Winehouse documentary.

So the story I was telling myself wasn’t so accurate - I am watching things that interest me each week.

Conclusion: (as Laura predicted) I have more time than I think!

Have you ever tracked your time? Is it something you would try?

I Worked Out Why You're 'Too Busy'

If you think back over the last week, how many times did you reply ‘good... busy’, when asked how you are? 

I hear it so often - from coworkers, friends, clients and, of course, I hear it come out of my own mouth too.

I genuinely feel busy - I have a job that keeps me busy, a social life, a side business, family, friends. The thing is I don’t want to feel bored and have nothing to do - I’m grateful for all in my life.

But I also don’t want to use ‘busy’ in a negative way or as an excuse.

This is unfortunately what I hear so often - not just I’m busy, but I’m ‘too busy'. That’s when alarm bells start ringing for me, and here’s why...

You are prioritising ‘busy work’

We’ve spoken a lot about the second shift here on the blog - the household labor women do after their paid job is done.

After all, if you look for it, there’s always something to do in your second shift.

Is your house clean? I bet you could take everything out of your kitchen cupboards and clean those out too (please don’t).

I really want you to think about the things you can let slide… I’ve had two examples of this in the last few days.

Firstly, I got back from my holiday to Hawaii and my general inclination is to unpack and put the washing on once I get in the door. Why? I just got back from holiday. Instead, I made myself a coffee, sat on the couch and watched a movie. The suitcase was still there the next day once I’d had a good sleep and eased back into home life a little more.

Now, once I got the washing on the next day, I heard the washing machine beep its last beep, just as I was in the middle of writing this post. My inclination? Jump up and go hang the washing out. Why? I’m in the middle of something more important to me and the washing will be there in an hour when I’m done.

If you’re not ready to let anything slide this week, at least observe when you might be doing this - either doing things you don’t care about, or interrupting yourself constantly to rush on to the next task.

You’re avoiding what you care about most

Ding, ding, ding! This is the clincher my friends and something I observe frequently.

For my brain it’s much easier to hang out laundry than it is to write a blog post.

Writing a post takes thought, effort, courage, working through fears.

Who wants to do that when I can just stand in the backyard, pegging t shirts on the clothesline?

So often we deprioritise the things that are important to us for the sake of being busy. And this can include self-care or relaxation.

For example, I noticed earlier in the year that my days were going like this - work all day, go to the gym, cook dinner, then sit down to work on my website…

Of course, I was too tired to work on my website by then and although the other tasks were still important to me, I was putting less important things ahead of my main goal.

I’ve seen this in many areas with clients - 'I have to look after my family so I don’t have time for exercise', 'I have to check my work emails in the evening after dinner, so I don’t have time to paint', 'I can’t sit on the couch when there are dirty dishes in the sink', and on and on.

The things that scare or challenge us are the things we push aside, but they are also usually the most rewarding.

What step can you take towards a scary goal this week, ahead of your busy work?

You’re letting your mind run the show

Have you ever noticed how you can do things on your to do list with pain or ease? Let me give you an example.

Some Sunday afternoons, I cook around three meals for lunches and dinners for the week ahead. I can do it one of two ways.

  1. I try and do it as quickly as possible, multi tasking across recipes, huffing and puffing around the kitchen, watching the clock, lamenting having to cook on a Sunday. I also notice I’m more likely to cut my finger with a knife when I’m in this type of mood. Sounds fun right?
  2. I put on a podcast, pour myself a drink, grab everything out that I need for the first recipe and methodically work through each step in a relaxed way. I admire my handiwork when everything is in tupperware containers and reward myself when I’m all done - with a bath, an episode of a great show or getting ready for dinner out with friends.

The crazy thing is it usually takes me the same amount of time to meal prep whether I choose option 1 or 2 and guess which one leaves me happier?

If you have chosen to do something, do you want it to be mentally painful or pain-free? Try it out this week and also have a read about segment intending for help focusing on the task at hand. 

Want to chat about this further? Book in for a complimentary 30 minute consult with me and we can look at your to do list and move you away from being ‘too busy’.

Are You Working A 'Second Shift' Each Day?

My love for author and time management researcher Laura Vanderkam runs deep. I’ve read her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think and I avidly follow her blog and any articles she writes that pop up on publications like Fast Company and the New York Times.

Laura has stacks more books you should check out and I have no doubt you’ll appreciate her mix of real data and realism. She doesn’t buy into people bemoaning they have no time but also doesn’t want us to fill every second with productivity - pleasure and creating memories are just as important.

The 'Second Shift'

I didn’t realise how long I’d been following Laura until I sat down to write this post. In 2009, Laura introduced me to the concept of the “second shift”:

“Back in 1990, sociologist Arlie Hochschild coined the phrase "second shift" to describe the household labor married women did once they came home from their paying jobs.”

I’m sure many of you can relate - you rush in the door from work with your to-do list for the evening already swirling in your mind - dinner, kids, housework, your side business - whatever it is, it’s crucially important and you’ve got to get going on it as soon as you get in the door.

I talked through this concept with one of my amazing coaching clients recently. Although this work can be seen as important and can make us feel positive about our homes and lives, if we’re running from one shift to the next, there’s not a lot of time for pleasure or down time or even some semblance of calm in our days.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure many of us collapse in a heap on the couch or in bed at the end of the night and call that ‘down time’, but how would it feel to enter the second shift feeling rejuvenated and with some fresh motivation?

My evening routine almost always includes rest when I get home and I’d like you to try this out too.

The Challenge

This week, when you get home from your day out or enter the evening in general, I want you to take 30 minutes to 1 hour between your shifts.

Do something that brings you pleasure - read a magazine in the backyard with a glass of wine, do some yoga stretches - whatever it is, do it just for you.

If you have a busy family life that doesn’t allow for much alone time, read stories to your kids, or watch them play in the backyard while you get that wine and magazine time in.

The world won’t end if things run a little bit later each evening and I’m sure the memory of these times will far outweigh the to-do list.

Let me know in the comments below - what will you do between your shifts this week? 

 

November Recap and December Intentions

A grey November morning with a surprise visitor...

A grey November morning with a surprise visitor...

Holy smokes, it truly is the end of 2016. Where is the hoverboard I was promised? 

I’m looking back on a productive but tumultuous year and participating in one of my favourite online programs - the Holiday Council with Molly Mahar from Stratejoy. More about that shortly.

November involved a busy time at work learning some new skills (I initially dreaded this but am now really enjoying it - who knew?), my first trip to a kinesiologist (would you be interested in hearing more? Let me know in the comments below) and, my personal favourite, some great catch ups and meaningful conversations with family and friends.

So let’s look back on my November intentions and set some final ones for the year.

Chill out

Uh, yeah, I did not succeed at this intention. My personal development tendencies are still going strong, however I did definitely cut back.

As I mentioned, I am doing the Holiday Council and have been chatting to the lovely Paige from Healthy Hits the Spot, however I’ve definitely reduced the number of self-help books and podcasts I’m dipping into.

Instead, I’m listening to more music (remember this song from Nelly? It's making me oddly happy at the moment) and more storytelling podcasts like Modern Love and Phoebe’s Fall. I’m also reading Helen Garner’s new book of essays, Everywhere I Look - her writing also makes me super happy. If you haven’t read her, I highly recommend.

December Intentions

Take stock

The Holiday Council is a 3 week program run through December, where you wrap up the year that was, and start planning for the year ahead.

My favourite parts of Holiday Council are:

  • the visualisation Molly does on one of the live calls where you go forward 12 months and see what your ‘future self’ is up to
  • the monthly planning of activities you want to complete throughout the next year
  • the quarterly review calls Molly does throughout the year - these are sometimes free so subscribe and keep an eye out!
  • choosing my word for the year - my word of 2016 was ‘Choice’ and I’m looking forward to choosing one for 2017.

Be present

Just like the year itself, the holiday period and the events that come with it will inevitably fly by.

I do love this time of year, so want to be present and enjoy the time I have with friends and family, in particular enjoying activities I don’t do as often throughout the rest of the year (swimming, water skiing, gorging on shortbread, peaches and nectarines).

Laura Vanderkam put it best in her ‘How to make time slow down’ newsletter from 2015:

“For the door does close, and eventually I will be looking back on all of this. Even happy moments bear in their shadows this melancholic reality. All moments are finite, the good, and the bad. All you can do is choose to deepen your experience of them.”

 

Three Steps to Overhaul Your Calendar Today

When you open up your calendar, whether it be at the start of the week or each morning, let me ask you - do you feel excited for the days ahead or do you feel a heavy sense of dread as you scan your appointments?

I know I’ve felt a mix of these emotions over the years. In general I was looking forward to the week, but sometimes there were appointments that brought a creeping sense of apathy or, in some cases, misery.

So how do we ensure we’re filling our limited, busy days with activities that energise and excite us?

Here are my three tips:

Accept you are in control

This is a major step to a calendar (and, let’s be honest, a life) that you love.

Accepting that we are in control of all of our choices can be challenging for some people.

You may not be loving your job but please remember you did choose to accept that job and you do choose to show up every day for it. You may be dreading the family dinner on Sunday night, but you accepted the invitation and no, you don’t ‘have to go’.

So when you survey your current calendar, bear in mind that you have created this life and you have chosen each and every appointment you see before you.

Wipe the slate clean

You may not have to get 100% literal here, but when you look at your calendar for the week ahead, imagine there were no appointments in there. Zero.

Just 168 hours that stretched ahead of you.

Each white space represents a chance for you to add activities of your choosing, within reason of career or family commitments (which again, remember, you've chosen).

Want to get up and write before work? Want to go on an hour walk at lunch? Want to book in to see your best friend every single Saturday afternoon? You can! Which leads me to...

Listen to your intuition

When adding activities in or choosing to scribble them out or delete them with one click, try doing a gut check over the next month.

Picture each activity in your mind and think, ‘Do I really want to do this?’... ‘Is this the best use of my time?’ … ‘Does it make me happy?’

This may not be black and white - for example, going to the dentist may not fill you with excitement, but maybe the thought of clean teeth and ticking it off your list for the year does. Maybe you want to prioritise spending time with your partner or good friends over house cleaning and errands this month.

And the overarching message?

Please don’t feel guilty for choosing what you want - no one else is doing to do that for you and we only get so many blocks of 168 hours in this lifetime.

I hope this helps you stuff it with moments that fill you with anticipation in the lead up and happiness in the aftermath.

How I Manage My Email Inbox

I’ve had lots of requests to write time management posts here on the blog, and one of the biggest ways I manage my time is by managing my email.

I’m not perfect.

I’ve suffered that sinking feeling when you leave a meeting, only to see you have 32 new emails that weren’t there an hour ago.

I’ve woken at 5am and thought ‘I’ll just take a quick peek at what happened overnight’ then lay awake anxious about the day ahead.

But it’s all a mind game. You are in control of your reaction to email and you are in control of how you manage it.

These tips may not be ground-breaking but they’ve served me well as I’ve navigated through what we all have to navigate - a busy work and personal life.

Compartmentalise your day

The quickest way for me to leave work without having achieved anything is to sit on my email all day. As soon as I reply to one, the next comes in and I’m jumping all over the place, all day long.

I don’t have strict rules as to when I check email but I do make sure once I’m working on a task that I don’t flick back to my email client out of habit and lose focus.

Lately I’ve been trying to work on projects in time blocks or Pomodoros (a la the Productivity Planner). I work on the tasks, but I may also review and reply to emails related to that project specifically. This saves me feeling overwhelmed by the number of emails awaiting my response.

Acknowledge receipt

I work mostly with clients but I think this tip applies to coworkers and family and friends too.

A quick email to say you’ve received their note and will get back to them soon / tomorrow / next week will:

  1. Make them feel heard and let them know you’re onto it.
  2. Make you feel better as you’re not staring at a stack of unanswered emails feeling guilty.

File file file

Get emails out of your inbox. It’s so satisfying to file emails as they are dealt with and to watch that inbox number shrink.

I used to try and keep my email inbox to around 20 emails but unfortunately these days it’s more like 50.

Either way, pick a number to work towards to avoid your inbox spiraling out of your control.

Unsubscribe

Ah, the sweet pleasure of unsubscribe.

As we all go down the rabbit hole of news sites, blogs, digital product offerings and so on, it’s easy to hand over your email address in order to receive a freebie, a newsletter or regular updates from a site.

But sure enough within a month you’re deleting those emails without reading them or wondering how the hell you’re receiving them in the first place.

I have a few that I love to receive (I'm looking at you Jess Lively, Laura Vanderkam and Paige Schmidt) but most of the others just end up annoying me or adding to the feeling of overwhelm.

For me, every time I take a holiday I go through my emails and unsubscribe from all the stuff I’m not reading. Try it now!

How do you manage email? What’s your favourite tip I’ve given?

 

Light Links: September (+ October Intentions!)

Hi lovely readers. I’m going to mix it up with this last post of the month.

Along with the regular Light Links, I’m also going to look forward to the next month and set some intentions (I love this word over ‘goals’ - thanks Jess Lively).

Then at the end of each month we’ll recap and see how I did. Sound good? Ok, let’s go...

October Intentions

Cut off technology at 10pm (and read hard copy books)

So my reminders plan was going along brilliantly, but since I finished my last hard copy book, I’ve been a little lost after 10pm and have either been reading on my Kindle app or (let’s be honest) perusing the internet again.

This month I’m going to pick some books to replace the internet habit and wind down before bed without a screen.

This time last year...

This time last year...

Enjoy the daylight

Spring has rushed into Melbourne and I’m noticing the longer days more than ever before. I think because our new house has lots of natural light, it’s more obvious than in previous years.

I’m planning on sitting on our balcony or in our courtyard with a glass of wine after work as often as possible in October. 

Revel in upcoming events

I have some exciting plans for October - things I booked in months ago that are now almost upon me. It’s my birthday, I’m going to Soulfest and I’m spending a biennial weekend away with all the women in my family. I really connected to Laura Vanderkam’s post on how to make time slow down. This month I want to enjoy the moments I’ve been anticipating for so long and remember Laura’s quote:

“For the door does close, and eventually I will look back on all of this. Even happy moments bear in their shadows this melancholic reality. All moments, good or bad, are finite. All you can do is deepen your experience of them.”

September’s Light Links

And for those who enjoy my favourite links of the month, here they are for September.

Some measures to help you get to your higher self

It is 100% worth getting organised Friday afternoon for the week ahead: 

A fascinating article on intuitive eating and the intrinsic need to control

Anyone else struggle with being an adult some days

And finally, don’t forget to let go of perfection.