Were I not tracking my time, my story of yesterday would go like this: I did almost no real work. Instead, household administrative tasks ate my time. I addressed and stamped 20 kid thank you notes (I still have 6 to go, but the elementary school directory hasn’t come out yet, and these are kindergarten families, so last year’s isn’t helpful). I also spent gobs of time writing checks to the US Treasury and the PA Department of Revenue, and then addressing and stamping those envelopes. Add in repeated attempts to purchase a train ticket while Amtrak’s site was down and it sounds like a frustrating day.
I am tracking my time, though, and so looking over the day helps me keep these things in perspective. Yes, the administrative stuff did take time, but it was 2.5 hours, total. That’s not nothing, but it’s not the 10 hours it felt like, either. I also did a reasonable quantity of higher value work. I spent an hour writing fiction (that’s the speculative/skill-building component of the perfect 40 hour workweek) and I practiced my “Edison Talk” twice. I’m trying to become a better, more confident public speaker, and so time invested in building those skills is one of my top priorities.
I also spent a reasonable amount of time on higher-value personal matters. I chaperoned my kindergartner’s field trip. He was happy to see me, and snuggly too, holding my hand as we walked with his class. We went to a local nature preserve, where the colors were beautiful and the sky was perfectly blue. What a day to be outside!
I cooked family dinner and got my kids to eat chicken and rice (this counts as a victory in my house). I chatted with my 8-year-old in the car from swim practice, and for a few minutes before bed. I read my 4-year-old a story and we baked banana bread. I even came up with a new morning routine that is about making the most of my current sleep-deprived, baby-crawling-everywhere situation. He’s up around 5:30. I feed him, then make coffee, and take a mug and a book up to his room. His room is largely babyproofed, so I can let him crawl around and play independently while I read and caffeinate. It’s interrupted, but it’s also generally at least 40 minutes of found reading time before I hand him over to my husband so I can shower.
In other words, yes, the administrative tasks ate time, but they did not eat all my time. They felt like it because they were kind of unpleasant, but even then, perspective is helpful. How wonderful that so many families care enough about my kids to come to their parties! Writing large checks to the various tax authorities is painful but stems from earning a larger amount of money — not exactly a bad thing. I’m not sure what perspective to bring to the Amtrak situation, but at least they had a skeletal version of the site working this morning.
I am sure there are various ways to minimize administrative tasks. More efficient people than me probably figure out how to outsource them to personal assistants and the like. But keeping track of my time is forcing me to stop telling stories that aren’t really true. Sometimes tracking unpleasant activities is all that’s needed to see what they are, and what they aren’t.
In other news: I’m over at Fast Company writing about “How to craft a perfect, productive 40-hour workweek” — as part of their Most Productive People package (which is a fascinating series).
Photo: Spotted on the field trip…