My 672-hour Challenge, part 2: Work

photo-340Sometimes we tell ourselves stories that aren’t true. Sometimes we tell ourselves stories that are true. I think the key to creating the life one wants is figuring out which scenario describes reality, and what one intends to do about it.

I’ve been dealing with this lately with work hours. One common narrative out there? “I’m overworked!” Time diary studies find that people tend to overestimate their work hours, especially as they drift a bit north of 40 hours/week.

I have the opposite feeling. I’ve had a feeling these past few weeks that I’m never working, or at least not as much as I should.

In time logs past, I’ve generally worked 49 hours/week. It’s like 50-plus hours/week is this barrier I can’t crest for long. I tend to nip right against it. So am I still there?

I decided to record my time for four weeks (April 20-May 17) to discover trends in my life. For my next book, I Know How She Does It (out on June 9! Have you ordered your copy yet?) I had well over a hundred women log their time for 7 days. You see a lot in 7 days, but you see even more in 28. I wanted to know what I’d discover.

What I discovered is that I’m not working 49 hours/week. My average over the four weeks was just over 43 hours/week. So in fact, my story was right (if the “never” part is histrionic). I am working less than in the past.

There are reasons. I gave birth in January. I’m still breastfeeding exclusively, with the time that takes to nurse or pump. I do tell myself that one reason I can work 43 hours/week now is that I have worked 49 hours/week so many times in the past. Past work creates opportunities.

I just want to be sure I seize them.

The numbers themselves were interesting. I’m not taking days off. Indeed, I never dipped below 6 hours on a weekday over those 4 weeks. But 6 hours isn’t 9-10. I might in theory aim to work 9-10, but I’d get interrupted, or interrupt myself with various family responsibilities or me-time activities. I did try to make up some time on weekends. Of the 8 weekend days, I did work on 6 of them, generally for at least an hour. I’m not working as much at night, though that is getting better as my baby’s sleep patterns become more predictable.* I have a goal for the summer of getting the baby in bed by 7:45 and the big kids by 8:30, giving me at least 90 minutes before I pass out.

The question is what I intend to do about my lower-than-my-work-limit hours. At the moment, I suspect the answer is “not much.” Four kids generate a reasonable amount of mom activity in terms of being expected at school events, doctor appointments, and the like. I could not do these things, but at the moment I’m trying to “have it all” in the sense of doing these things and working too. Given the volume of stuff (more on that tomorrow) it’s perhaps somewhat surprising that I’m hitting 40 hours. Maybe I should congratulate myself on that.

If the kid stuff is a given, I could try to be more efficient during the hours I work. Anyone can be more efficient, and that includes me, though I also want to make space for big picture thinking time, and networking, and those are things that are hard to do “efficiently.”

I could try to figure out ways to move me-time stuff outside of work hours. Last night I ran on the treadmill at 9 p.m. I probably should stop running errands during the workday, though it’s so nice to go to the grocery store solo (and cheaper! The kids inevitably demand stuff). We’re also trying to get the baby into a better eating schedule, ideally 4 times during the day, with one feeding being a pumped bottle. I think when I can depend on that, and depend on him going down at 7:45 at night, I’ll have more space for thinking and leaning in a bit deeper.

How are you feeling about your work hours these days?

*Ha. Last night was atrocious. Up from 3-5 with baby, before he finally conked out after repeatedly rolling over in his crib and then screaming to be returned to his back.

If you like my blog, you might also like my next book, I Know How She Does It. Pre-order by June 2 and you can join my book club with perks including an autographed book plate, advance excerpts, and access to two book club webinars around launch. Pre-orders are helpful to me because they show the bookselling community that there is interest in this book. Thanks for reading!

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