If I’m going to be a writer, obviously I need to write. I was thinking a bit today about finding the time to write. In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the general topic of time management, which I am going to have to get my arms around if I’m ever going to have time either to write or even to work out what to do about my non-writerly career.
Yesterday, during the first part of the Product & Brand Management class, I became acutely aware that there were a few key lessons during the early part of the semester that I had missed because I had not had time to read the (100-ish page) documentation for an online simulation program we used in that class. It made me wonder again about how pressed for time I always feel, and during the break I did a very simple and quick time study.
It went like this: there are 24 hours in a day and 7 days a week, so there are 168 hours in a week. Then I thought about how many hours per week I spend doing different things each week. So, I’m at work a little over 9 hours a day for 5 days, so that’s about 46 hours spent at work. I spend about 11 hours commuting to and from work. Ideally, I would be asleep roughly 8 hours at night (an unrealistic assumption), so that’s 56 hours gone. My two classes take 3 hours each a week, so that’s 6 hours gone, and I probably spend at least two hours outside of class, if not more, studying or doing work related to class for each hour, so that’s a minimum of 12 additional hours per week. So far, then, I’ve spent more than 131 of the 168 available hours in the week, and I have 37 left. 37 hours to be spent with my family, at Church, going on dates with my wife, and other activities, including personal development and writing. It sounds like a lot… but that breaks down pretty quick.
We spend roughly 3 hours in church on Sundays, plus about 20 minutes getting there and back, and pad on another 10 minutes before and after for socializing, we’ll call that 4 hours weekly. I spend about 20 minutes each morning running (I try to do this six days a week though reality is I miss a few). That’s up to 2 hours a week. I spend about an hour each workday morning getting ready for work – showering & grooming, packing my bags, taking care of our dog, getting dressed, catching breakfast – plus usually around 15-ish minutes brushing teeth and getting ready for bed every night, and that’s another 7 hours gone. Now we’re down to 24 hours.
That’s one whole day left in the week to spend with my family, going on dates with my wife, personal development, reading, writing, and a few other essential things that we don’t like to think of as taking time but which do. So let’s say quality family time is a priority in my life, and I want to spend at least an hour and a half per day just doing some family things, plus maybe another 5 to 7 hours a week working around the house (doing the dishes, cleaning up the yard, fixing things, etc.). And let’s estimate another couple hours a week are lost to other essential activities. I’m now down to 4 hours a week. If I go on a date with my wife on top of regular family time, we can say that’s another 2 -3 hours. I now have one hour left for personal development, including reading and writing. The problem? That one hour is spread out over seven days in little 1 or 2 or maybe 5 or 10 minute increments. At this point, we’re dealing with the time between going to and from all the other major activities.
Granted, this is a really fast-and-loose analysis. Do I really spend an hour-and-a-half per day doing something with my wife and dog (and presumably, with our child when he or she arrives)? Right now, I can’t say that’s as realistic as I want it to be. There are definitely days when that really doesn’t happen at all. And I know many nights I don’t get 8 hours of sleep, and I don’t usually get an opportunity to make that up later. Sometimes I can do several of these activities at once. (I eat lunch while on the job, usually, and other activities overlap in a similar way.) On the flip side, some weeks I spend far more than 46 hours at work, other weeks an extra hour or two commuting because of unexpected traffic delays. Study time can fluctuate wildly with the number of cases and projects due in a week, or group work necessary.
To really get at the heart of where the time goes, I’d have to do a far more detailed time analysis, keeping a careful journal of how I spent my time over the course of a month or so. (That, of course, would take time to do.)
The fact is, it’s important to have our priorities in life. Those things come first. For me, that priority is my family. Right now that’s a wife and dog but soon enough it’s a wife and kid and dog. That family priority is at least part of the impetus behind why I am in school right now, and it’s the reason I work of course, but neither of those things can replace family time.
But writing… being a writer; that’s also important to me. The challenge is: even if, in theory, writing comes second in my life behind my family, the fact that family comes first necessitates ranking my career and school both above writing. Because of that, there’s not a lot of shuffling around I can do with my schedule.
For now, then, having time for writing means stealing 5 minutes here, 15 minutes there, when those little moments pop up, to at least get words on paper. In the near future, hopefully, I will be acquiring a new notebook that I can carry around and write in during those fleeting moments between things that are, for now, of a higher priority. With that little tool, I may be on my way to at least feeling like I’m writing something each week.
Aside from that, there’s this blog. Which, by the way, I’ve met and exceeded my committment for week 1 (this is 1k+ words, now). If I can keep up to the committment I’ve made of 250 words a week, minimum, I’ll at least be doing one little thing that’s rather necessary if I consider myself a writer: writing.