Notes on my week

photo-140Last Sunday, I posted that I was challenging myself to get up early to work every day this week (every weekday, that is). I succeeded in getting up at 6 a.m. for 5 days in a row. This morning I woke up a few minutes before my 6 a.m. alarm.

I’ve gotten a lot of tedious work done. I’ve been processing time logs for Mosaic and managed to get through 50 as of 8:30 a.m. while I’m writing this. Some are pretty easy. People have gone ahead and labeled things as “work” or “sleep” or “TV.” Others are tougher because people describe their lives in more detail, which means I sometimes have to make judgement calls. But I like these logs the best from the perspective of producing a book, since I need detail and narrative. One of my favorite examples of detail is a night time entry on a log where a mom set her alarm for 4 a.m. to check if the tooth fairy had come (if you get my drift). Then she had to keep setting it to try again, because the child kept stirring and thwarting attempts to see if the tooth fairy had left her present. Such things are tiles in the mosaic of life.

I have been logging my time this week too. One thing on my time log? This banana bread. Yum.

You’d think that getting up early to work might mean I’d work more hours, but I’m not sure this will wind up happening. I never seem to wind up with 5 full “normal” work days. Yesterday I budgeted in time for shopping with a friend, which I was excited to do. Then on the way back, I learned that families were, in fact, supposed to come to the foreign language club’s last meeting at the elementary school, because there was going to be a performance. I saw my 6-year-old deliver a few lines in Chinese, which was cool. It also consumed 90 minutes I’d planned to use for something else. But then I did manage to work after our sitter left for an hour or so, because my husband was home and decided to build this IKEA desk he bought, which the 4-year-old and 2-year-old wanted to help with. Then while he had a call at night, I worked too (on and off) because we put everyone in front of various shows. The disjointed nature of all this means that despite rising at 6, and doing work until 10, I only put in 8.75 hours.

Rising early is making me testier at my kids’ bedtime. As I’m waking up earlier, they seem to be going to bed later. This is not a good combination. We need a better routine at night.

I will probably do the early AM schedule a few days next week, as I’m trying to plow through most of the logs, and this seems like a good way to do it. I’m not sure I’ll make it a long term habit, but I have enjoyed working in the quiet, and getting things done before it feels like the rest of the world is starting the day.

In other news: Over at Fast Company, I’m writing about 7 Time Management Strategies From Some Brilliant Teenage Prodigies, and 10 Ways To Reward Yourself For Working So Hard (with ideas from comments here!).

Random thought from 2-year-old this AM: “Mommy, yogurt isn’t really for breakfast. It’s for Wednesdays.”

18 thoughts on “Notes on my week

  1. My experiment from last week when I was able to sleep in as long as I want is that I may work more hours when I wake up to an alarm, but I’m nowhere near as productive. And I make more mistakes. Bring back spring break!
    In other news, I’m adding an ATUS question to my take-home final now (an interaction involving gender, children, and housework). This dataset is pretty darn cool.

    1. @nicoleandmaggie — I so want to see the results your students come up with. Please! (well, the ones who get good grades on the take-home, that is)

  2. There was a phase where I was waking up most days at around 5 AM to workout. I found that I really didn’t get all that much more done because by the time 6 PM rolled around, I was already wiped out and hitting “wind-down” mode, and by 8:30 PM, it was pretty much “get ready for bed at 9:30” time. So, yes, basically the productive time had just shifted, rather than expanded. Also, getting up that early inevitably left me more tired most days because I wasn’t doing it every day and so my body never fully adjusted. The one advantage to getting up and working earlier is that it potentially combats the problem I have where I have NO DESIRE to work after dinner and kids bedtime at say 8:30-9:00, even though I’ll be up until 10:30-11:00. There is a huge barrier to activation to getting back to work. I would rather do laundry or putter (tidy, etc.) or read… when I can convince myself to dig into something, it usually goes okay once I’m started, but then sometimes I’ll work TOO LATE, and then have a hard time falling asleep since I’m buzzing. Before I did the family thing, it was easy to work all morning, afternoon, and night, because there was never a transition between the periods, and I could be immensely productive and easily get in 11-12 hour days. Now, when I get home at 5:30, do dinner and hanging out until 8:30-9:00, I do not want to go back to working after this. I can see the beauty of finding a middle ground. Starting the day earlier and winding down earlier, if only so that there can be a proper “shut down” of serious work by dinner time. (I am happy to answer a few e-mails before bed, but usually not thrilled about the prospect of a more serious mental task. Really what I think I need to do is work-related reading at night instead of personal reading, because I mostly consider that “fun” and relatively relaxing, but it will still contribute more to my productivity career-wise).

    1. @M – I think this is the key insight. We don’t get more productive time, but by getting up early, you can tackle your own priorities first during that productive time, instead of other people’s. So when people never get to work out (often have to work late, can’t leave during the day) getting up early to do it is key. Or if they don’t have space for the creative work they enjoy during their day job.

      In my case, I work for myself. I can exercise during the day. I’m the harsh task master driving the rough schedule right now. So it’s not about creating space for things I’m not doing. Which is why I probably won’t stick with it long term.

  3. I face the same challenge you describe with being “testy” at the children’s bed time. I have been waking up at 6:00am every day to get back in the routine of going to the gym. Probem is I have no energy left around 8:00pm when I need to spend a great deal of energy reading to the kids. I need to figure this out because I think they deserve a happier Mom.

    1. @Denise – I guess for me, as I think about this, I realize I’m having a hard time separating out the tiredness from the fact that I just have a lot of work to do. I want the kids to go to bed because there are things I still have to get to. Hopefully this will calm down when I’m no longer spending 20 hours/week counting Excel cells. Still probably have about 2 more weeks of that to go, though. Writing and editing is more energizing to me.

  4. This actually makes me feel better about the fact that I’m always exhausted and a bit testy around 8:30-9 each night (when I’m trying to get the kids to STAY in bed) and never being motivated to work in the evenings. Its because I always get up around 6 (or earlier). I guess those of you guys that have plenty of energy later in the evening just get your day started later…

    1. @Ana – managing energy is definitely another subject worth writing about. I found that I managed to salvage Tuesday (when I felt dead at 4 pm) by going to the library. Change of location helps. Good breaks (walks, workouts) might help too.

  5. Interesting observation about the time shift. I wonder how much has to do with whether one is naturally a morning person or not. Even if I “train myself” to wake up earlier and go to bed earlier, I still find myself slipping back into a later pattern, like it’s wired in somehow.

    A blog post I read ages ago suggested actually building in some kind of transition activity to get your head in the right place. For her, it was to stop writing, then do some gardening or a short walk before she had to switch to “mommy mode” when her kids got home from school. I thought that was pretty smart.

  6. I started this early morning shift along with Laura – woke up at six on three days and at five on one day. It is Saturday already and I was up at six. Of couse, today I’m not getting any WORK done yet. One main reason I can get up early is that it is summer out here for us. And it is HOT. 40 degrees C during the day. Last night it was 32 degrees C at ten. Even with the AC on for 12 hours, it is hard to sleep when it is so hot and when there is so much light. Summer is a good time to make natural transitions and that is what I’m trying to captalise on. In my case, I have a very clear goal – to finish my PhD (03 weeks to go). I am very tense because there is SO MUCH to do but with enough consistency I am hoping I can get it done. The morning hours simply help me get my work out of my way before the day can start throwing emergencies at me.

  7. If you have much more Excel work to do, you should consider hiring a contract programmer to write a program for you that does it. Or if it’s repetitive, can some of it be done by Visual Basic in Excel?

    Since I’ve returned to work part-time, I get up at 6 AM to be at work by 7 AM, then get out (2 days/week) at 11:30 AM. I seem to be more productive than most people; unfortunately it’s an hourly job so there is no financial benefit to doing a full-time job in part-time hours. 🙂

    1. @Twin Mom- I’ve thought about trying to automate it, but it would be a complicated program, because there’s not a whole lot of standardization in how people describe their lives. Some people write “sleep” in every cell they log for sleep, but some write “bed” or “crash” or “read/asleep” at 11 and then nothing until up the next morning. So I’d have to get the program to recognize all of that. Work is even more varied — and sometimes is judgment calls too. So “meet with Anne” after a commute and before lunch is most likely work (Anne is a colleague or client), but if there isn’t any other work on that day — and “meet with Anne at coffee shop” follows an entry on playing with your baby — then most likely Anne is a friend and it’s a personal meeting. If I really can’t tell, I go back to the person and check. So the program would have to remind me to go check! I thought about asking up front for people to standardize, but I so love the detail that I think it’s just a trade off. I could train another human being to do this. And I probably will use another human being to spot check me. I am checking some people’s work totals, at least, against billable totals for those who have them. Some stuff can’t be billed, but it gives me a sense if I’m completely off.

  8. I’ve got nothing profound to say, but I do want to say I love the yogurt comment.
    I had a similar comment from my 3 year old yesterday at bedtime (yes we need a better routine as well, although you always make me feel better about having a late-to-bed-boy). He was playing a game which involved us eating pretend carrots, broccoli and cherries and I said we could carry on in the morning. He said “but they’re not for breakfast, we have to eat them now…”

    1. @Nick – now you need to convince him that they could be for breakfast! I should eat veggies for breakfast. I’d probably be healthier that way 🙂

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