Saturday, July 8, 2023
For about a week now, I have been timing everything I do. I turn on my timer app when I start something and turn it off when I finish. There are categories of activities that I track. Client work. Housekeeping. Cooking. Writing. I have a category for every major thing I do in a day, plus some catch-alls for when I don’t want to lose my mind figuring out where to put my time.
I’ve quite literally been tracking every minute of my day from the time I get up to the time I go to sleep. Why? Because when I get to the end of the day and have no idea what I did, I can see very clearly what I did. Where I’m wasting time. What I’m doing too much of or not enough of.
I joke that I have OCD but I’m starting to wonder.
Ready for this? Here’s what I did today:
Four hours of TV, some of which was during meals but if I’m multi-tasking I track the primary thing. Eating is never the primary thing. It is always the Thing I Do While Doing Something Else. Like watching TV, or checking email, or writing this blog.
Two hours of preparing those meals.
A mere hour and a half of phone games and an hour and a half of puzzle.
Approximately one hour each of exercise, housekeeping, and organizing.
Zero hours of writing, or… ten minutes as of now.
And that’s how a Saturday goes.
Not a terrible way to spend a day, even though that was a lot of TV. I watched more hours of TV today than the rest of the week combined.
The other reason I started tracking my time is because there are quite a lot of un-gotten-to things on my mental and literal lists. Things like my puzzle. Or that one work thing I’ve put off for three months. And the closet I want to organize.
The problem isn’t always time.
I’ve been experiencing a lot of resistance to everything lately. I mean everything. I don’t want to cook. I don’t want to clean the house. I don’t want to work. I don’t want to go to the movies. I don’t want to do my puzzle. I don’t want to read.
I don’t know if it’s a motivation problem or an exhaustion problem or a burnout problem. Or just a mental thing that I need to snap out of.
On the flip side, I DO want to do… if not all, at least some of those things. In the recesses of my brain where, if I could only lift this blanket of lead from my existence, I do want to participate in my own life.
I do want to do my puzzle and there are a ton of books I want to read. I am even, as strange as it may sound, looking forward to organizing the closet.
Except I don’t want to.
This is the part where a few people I know would say, “You need therapy!”
So I saved myself three hundred bucks an hour and did some therapy on myself.
I took a look at how I’ve been spending my time and saw plenty of gaps where Things Could Be. Then Thursday night I made a list of some of those things to do on Friday. Believe me, it’s not that I lack for lists. Sometimes though, there are too many things on them and it’s like a thousand paper cuts every time I look at them. Before a minute, I’m bleeding out on the floor and getting nothing done.
So I picked maybe five things to do. A few must-dos and a few want-tos. And then I did them.
Not tomorrow. Not later. Did them.
This morning Ralph asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to go to the park for a walk. Then the universe heard me and the skies turned black and emptied their contents onto my plans. So I watched TV instead, until such time as I decided that if I wanted to do my puzzle, or wanted to read a book, or wanted to clean the closet, the time had to be NOW.
Not tomorrow. Not later.
The thing about tomorrow is that it never is. It’s only ever today. So I’m either going to do this thing today, now, or never. Potentially, never.
I took my puzzle out and found six whole pieces.
Midafternoon, Ralph asked if I wanted a mojito. The first thing that came out of my mouth was “later” and then I remembered that there is no later, and I said… actually, yes. I want a mojito. Now.
And a bit after that I thought about getting on the bike but didn’t really want to, so I did. Because the other option was to get on “later” and I suspect I would not have wanted to do it any more then. All that would have happened is that I would have spent three or four more hours THINKING about getting on the bike and taking up mental space.
And after that as I was deciding what to make for dinner, I remembered that I had a bag full of snap peas that I bought at the Farmers Market. I love snap peas. I especially love snap peas from the Farmers Market.
Every summer this one guy shows up for a few weeks with crates and crates full of gorgeous snap peas, green beans, zucchini, and baby red potatoes. Sometimes he has scallions as tall as I am. Sometimes fresh ginger. Sometimes tiny pickling cucumbers.
He is only ever there for a few weeks then gone for the rest of the year. And when he shows up, so do I.
He was there this year for the first time so I went home with potatoes, green beans and my favorite snap peas.
Then they sat in my refrigerator for two weeks. Because every time I thought of pulling the strings off and cooking them, I said later.
Later did not come for two weeks.
This afternoon as I stood there looking into my refrigerator for something to make for dinner, I thought about cooking the snap peas. And guess what I thought?
Except the word is now. So I took them out, peeled the strings and made a delightful dinner.
Here’s the ultimate question I’ve come up with: if I’m going to do something, why am I NOT going to do it?
If all I ever do is put it off until later, then either it’s not important and never needs to be done, or I must not want to do it in the first place. So why take up brain space with it? Either do it – now – or don’t do it at all.
I realize that I am a finite human and have no clones of which I am aware, sadly, because I’d make a few of them clean the shower and do the grocery shopping. So I can’t literally do everything now. But I can do something now.
The point is not to fill my time tracker with things and be doing something at all times. It is to look at how I spent a day and be satisfied with that. If I spent four hours of TV, it has to be four hours I wanted to watch. Not four hours that ended up passing from inertia, full of should-haves and could-haves.
This experiment has resulted in two two days of “now”. I’m going to keep tracking my time for a little while because if nothing else it’s interesting to see what the reality of my days is vs. the way it feels sometimes. Contrary to popular belief, I do not spend 96 hours a week cleaning the kitchen.
And with all that extra time I just found, there’s an awful lot I can do now. Right now.
Photo: a screen shot of this past week’s time tracking.