One of the most gratifying parts of writing self-help books is that I hear from people who’ve made big life changes — or had massive productivity boosts — as a result. Occasionally I read these emails and think “wow, I should read my own books.”
Because, you see, my 168 hours could use a tune-up right now. I know there are big life goals I’d like to accomplish, and while I hope I have many years ahead of me, it has not escaped my notice that there are fewer years now than there were in years past. In that space after a big project is kind of done (see All the Money in the World) I often feel like I’m spinning my wheels with these non-renewable hours.
A few thoughts for my own time makeover:
I need to get more serious about exercise. I’ve been running for stress relief, but I don’t push myself or go very far. I was good about using the weight set in the basement for the first two months…then I let it go. The baby is almost 6 months old. It’s time to be back to my old weight.
I want to write morning pages. Blogs are kind of like “morning pages,” Julia Cameron’s phrase for writing three pages of unedited words to get yourself thinking. They’re self-directed, and regular, but I am still writing for an audience, indulgent as you all are. I should crank up the volume of sheer practice writing.
I want to enjoy and be mindful of family time. Now that it’s light out after dinner and warmer, it will be possible to be outside more in the evenings. Last night the kids and I hung out on the back porch for a while, enjoying the early spring air. But it’s easy after a day of work to just put on the cartoons for them.
I want to take good vacations. Travel is full of peak experiences. I realized the other day that I had not been on an airplane in a year. Given what other years of my life have looked like, this seems incredible. But it’s true. I was paging through a catalog of trips sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History, and I realized there were all kinds of things I’d like to do, like travel the old Silk Road, see China, etc. I do realize that this may get easier later in life. Since I had my kids relatively young, they’ll be out of the house by the time I’m in my early 50s, which is when I intend to make up for the travel I didn’t do in my 20s. I’ll likely have more disposable cash in my 50s than I did after college. But nothing in life is guaranteed, and I’d also like to travel with my kids some too. So I plan to work on this.
Of course, as I ponder my own advice for making my hours more productive, I also remember something else I always say: being busy does not mean one is doing anything of importance. If I spent three months doing nothing else professionally except pondering my next book idea, and at the end of those three months I had a fabulously marketable one, that would be a good use of time. But in the midst of those three months it would look like I was doing nothing. I could schedule 6 conference calls a day and look quite busy — jumping from one to the next and arguing that I just can’t take my baby to her next doctor’s appointment because can’t you see I have all these calls! — but if I didn’t need to speak to those people for my life goals, the first scenario would be much more productive.
I’m also realizing that I should let myself enjoy productivity dividends from other decisions. This week, I enrolled Jasper in kindergarten. Since we moved to suburban PA and into a good school district, this involved making an appointment with the district headquarters, and bringing in his birth certificate and evidence of immunization. If we still lived in NYC, I would have spent hours applying to different schools. At the end of all this busy bustling about, my son would be enrolled in kindergarten somewhere decent. Just as he is now. So since the outcome is the same, with fewer hours, I shouldn’t feel bad that I don’t feel like I did that much this week. I did play hide and seek outside on a lovely spring afternoon, which was time well spent.
Have you ever mistook busyness for getting things done? What would you change about how you spend your time now?
photo courtesy flickr user JarZe