As I’ve been starting the Mosaic project, a number of potential time trackers have asked which weeks they should record. People want to record a “typical” week that shows life as they view it.
This is all well and good except…there are no typical weeks. The belief that there are typical and completely atypical weeks is what gets us in trouble when we think about how we spend our time.
For instance, maybe this week isn’t typical because you’ll take a half day to go to the dentist. But unless you will never go to the dentist or doctor again (or take your kids or other relatives), or you will never go to a parent-teacher conference, or come in late due to snow, or do half days before long weekends or vacations, or summer Fridays, or need to meet a plumber at your house, then this week is not completely “atypical.” In fact, what might be less typical is a week in which your work hours never get interrupted. If you know that work hours do get interrupted, then you can start to plan for this. One reason I tend to do some hours at night and on weekends is that my 8-5:30 work days do tend to get interrupted, generally at least once a week.
Or, another line I’ve heard from people: “This week isn’t typical because the kids are between sports right now” (or some similar reason that the week feels lighter) Again, some weeks are more on and some are more off, but one is not necessarily way more typical than another. If you’ve got 3 sports lasting 10 weeks, that’s 30 weeks out of 52. The 22 that don’t feature sports aren’t completely atypical, in that this is more than 40 percent of the year. If we decide to view our busiest weeks as typical, then we’ll believe life is busier than it often is.
The reasoning goes on. “This week wasn’t typical because I was really tired, so I slept more.” What we learn from this is that when you need sleep, you get it. That’s great! That means you may not be completely sleep deprived other weeks either. You’ll take a nap on Saturday instead of watching TV. You’re exhausted so you oversleep your alarm. You may not have meant it to happen, but unless it will never happen again, it isn’t atypical. This is how sleep hour totals wind up staying relatively constant on a weekly basis.
To be sure, some weeks are truly atypical. For instance, if you’re in the Bahamas over Christmas break, this vacation is — by design — out of the ordinary. On the other hand, I’ve noticed that I still do many of the things that I do during “typical” weeks on non-typical weeks, too. I tend to do a bit of work, though not 40 hours. I’ll work out. I’ll sleep. I’ll play with my kids. These atypical weeks may not look as completely different from typical weeks as I imagine.
What would define a “typical” week for you? Have you ever realized that something that feels atypical…wasn’t that unusual at all?