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Weekend Assignment: Thief of Time

April 27, 2010

This week’s Weekend Assignment asked the question: what activities do you have to do that take up your time and prevent you from doing other important things that you’d rather be doing?

My gut, instinctual answer, of course, is: well yeah, my day job!  That’s not really fair, though.  It’s no secret that my current field is not the field I want to pursue for a long-term career, and I don’t mean that because I’d rather be able to write for a living.  Writing for a living is a great gig, if you can get it, but I have a realistic, pragmatic point-of-view on the matter.  Sure, I’d love to write for a living.  And I’m good at it, even if I can’t say that I’m great at it.  Written communication, in general, is one of my strongest skills – both in interpreting written communication and in crafting written communication.  (As evidence of this, I could point to my GMAT scores; I took the GMAT twice, because my GMAT math scores were not stellar and I knew I could do better.  But the first time I took the GMAT my verbal percentile score was already well into the high 90s.  I didn’t see much improvement on the retake, simply because when you’re already in the 99th percentile, there’s really no “up” left.  My written essay scores were similarly high both times.)

But being good at writing and making a career of it are two very, very different things.  Could I be successful at it?  That remains to be seen.  But in the mean time, I have a family to provide for.  And I take pride in my work, whatever it is that I put my effort into.  I take pride in adding value to the company I work for.  So for me, the problem is that more and more I find that Finance is not a field that is really “value-added” for most companies (unless it’s a Financial Firm, which is another story entirely), and that leaves me feeling dissatisfied when, at the end of the day, I can’t say I’ve done something that is truly meaningful or valuable for the firm.  If you’re not doing something that’s really useful to somebody, it starts to drag on you mentally.  That’s partly why I’m working on my MBA, and partly why I anticipate shifting careers in the future out of Finance and in a more marketing or stategically-oriented direction.  Those are skills and fields within a company where I can mentally trace a direct line between the tasks they perform and the value added to the firm.

So, that’s quite the aside, vis-a-vis the topic of the writing prompt.

So, a perfectly fair answer to the question is commuting.  Except for NPR, I hate my commute.  (And since I usually finish listening to Morning Edition at work, anyway, on my mp3 player, I really can’t say that’s a good part either.)  It’s an hour each way, so that’s 10 hours a week basically wasted that I could be doing something productive.  In fact, I’ve turned down a job offer for a job that was farther away, even though they paid more, in part because of the longer commute issue.  Giving up another 15 minutes each way every day is too great a price to pay when I’ve already paid so much.

What would I do with the extra time, if I had it?  Ideally, two things.  Of course, I’d want to spend time writing.  As it is, I don’t have much time for that at all.  If I could pencil in an hour a day each week, that would really boost my story-writing productivity.  The second thing is also an easy one.  Spending time with my family, especially to be more helpful around the house.  There so much around the house that needs to get done, and I never feel like I have enough time to do it all.  There’s the yard and garden, where neglect has caused weeds and things to run wild.  There’s the broken door jamb on the kitchen door.  There’s all these little things, and I feel like a slacker husband that I haven’t already done these things.

Here’s hoping you can find the time.  Happy writing.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2010 11:55 am

    Two of my time thieves are watching TV and the internet. There’s something mesmerizing about staring at glowing boxes. Time just slips away even if there’s nothing interesting really to watch and it’s just background noise. I don’t even watch that much of it but I know how much more productive I can be when it’s off. Oh, and I really have to force myself not to surf the internet or I’ll never get any writing done. Family time always gets it’s own priority though.

    • April 27, 2010 1:02 pm

      Watching TV would be a time-sink for me, except that our home is an almost TV-free home. We don’t even have Cable. My wife watches a few shows over the air, and if she has them on when I’m in the same room, I find myself pathetically mesmerized, even if it’s a program which I would otherwise naturally abhor. So, when the TV’s on, definitely a productivity swamp.

      I generally don’t consider my time on the internet wasted, these days, because I’m usually checking the blogs of other writers and aspiring writers (which I consider a useful activity), writing my own blog (also a useful activity, IMO), reading news (I’ve got to stay informed!) and brushing up on the latest developments in genre entertainment [i.e. the latest sci fi or fantasy movies, books, etc.] (hey, I’ve got to know what’s going on in the media to stay current and fresh in my writing, right?). Also, checking e-mail… which maybe is a tiny bit of wasted time, since most of the time there’s no new e-mail to check, so I just lost the few seconds it took to hit “refresh”.

      That said, there’s huge potential for time-wasting on the internet. (I have to be extra wary when I see someone link to anything on TV Tropes. I have looked up from that site and discovered I somehow lost an afternoon, a couple times before.)

      I agree about family, too. They hold their own special priority.

  2. April 28, 2010 9:49 am

    Stupid question, really, as I’m sure you’ve thought of it: why don’t you try writing during your commute? This coming from someone who has a 5min walk to work. But I do spend lots of time in buses taking my son to therapy, and usually have a small pad with me I can use to draft things or jot down ideas. That’s if my son is behaving himself, of course…
    Hope you end up with a job closer to home soon!

    • April 28, 2010 10:10 am

      [tongue-in-cheek] I live in the god-fearing and red-blooded Southern States, where we don’t believe in pinko-commie mass transit systems.[/tongue-in-cheek] Seriously though, where I currently work is well outside the range of a reliable transit system, and so my commute is entirely by car. When I took this job, it was located in an office tower in the city, and I did indeed take transit during that first month, but I never got in the groove of it or comfortable with it (it was the first time I was taking transit regularly, in my life, school buses excluded of course). Then they shifted my job to an office on the farther edge of the suburbs, and that was the end of that.

      • April 28, 2010 10:15 am

        Ah yes, America. I forget sometimes… Well I did say it was probably a stupid question 😉
        Hope something crops up soon to make this situation easier on you and your family!

      • April 28, 2010 10:24 am

        Thanks!

        I do sometimes envy you Europeans and your regular and reliable trains! I spent some time in Germany in my childhood (about 5 years) and I have fond, if foggy, memories of travling the countryside by train to get to this or that exciting destination. I can’t say whether my memory is an amalgamation of many train trips or just one train trip that was so exciting that it left a single indelible impression.

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