Time tracking challenge: Day 2

My pessimism about the night was spot on. I went to bed at 10:30. The baby started wailing around 3:45. I tried to let it go for a while, but he just got wound up (this happens with most attempts at crying-it-out). I went and gave him a bottle, which he sucked down. I tried to put him down, but after 20 more minutes of wailing, I went back in and gave him another bottle. He still was not thrilled, but after some rocking, I got him back down. I was back in bed around 5:15. I slept until 7:15, got up, showered, and ate my breakfast alone (!). The baby started fussing a few minutes before 8, and I went to get him and everyone else at 8 when our nanny got here. It is nice that the baby will sleep in after a middle-of-the-night mishap, but I would have preferred to sleep straight through 10:30-6:30, and to have taken those 90 minutes on the other side.

I helped with breakfast and answered blog comments until 8:30, when I brought the boys to the bus stop. Then it was back in to work revising my Fast Company essay on “The Second Shift” until 10:30 when I submitted it. I answered emails, and got ready for the interviews and phone calls I had starting at 11:30.

Lunch was noon, with the 4-year-old and baby. I closed out the holiday card address file after, making sure I had all the addresses from cards we received for next year. Then I wrote a Fortune piece from 1-2, and had phone calls and podcasts from 2-3:40. I did a trial run of a time use survey I’m working on with Redbook, then made tea and nursed the baby, who’d woken up from his nap. Next call was 4:30. Finished a bit before 5 and puttered around mostly until the piano teacher got here 5:15, thus kicking me out of my office (that’s where the keyboard is). I got changed and went for another quick run on the treadmill. I changed back, wrote in my journal, and started dinner at 5:50 (scrambled eggs and lox + fruit and veggies for kids, leftover chili for me). The kids and I ate at 6:15 when piano was done. We finished 6:35, and quick whipped up some banana bread. While that was in the oven, I opened the birthday present for the baby from one of my sisters-in-law and discovered it was tub toys. Genius! Bath time was much more pleasant (other than some obstinacy from the 4-year-old on getting out).

I got the baby in his jammies at 7:30, nursed him and gave him a bottle. He was down 7:50, in time to get the banana bread out of the oven. I cleaned up the kitchen while it cooled, and we had snacks/dessert at 8. Then the boys took their showers. I read a story to my daughter, then helped the boys with some writing they’re doing (they’re writing in their own journals and making their own books). I am down here posting around 9. I have one more phone call in 15 minutes, then I plan to read and go down by 10:30 or so.

In observing my day, I see a few things. First, when I think it through, I really am good at matching the right work to the right time. I write in the morning, start my calls at 11:30 (that’s what I give people when they want “morning”), then do more calls and publicity type stuff (podcasts, etc.) in the afternoon. I was able to crank out a second article in the afternoon today, though that’s not always a given. When I’m on the phone I seem to snack less. Snacking is a function of procrastinating writing!

Between the banana bread and the bath toys, the evening went pretty well. I’m not thrilled with solo 4-kid evenings, but I make the most of it. I turned my phone off completely for 1.75 hours, which may not sound like much, but allowed me to be more focused. Then I turned it back on while nursing the baby and read right-wing news sites in an attempt to understand the whole Donald Trump thing. I’m still working on it, really.

Do you have no-go times for your phone during the day or evening?

In other news: I’ll be on Facebook (my author page) talking time tracking at 2:30 eastern tomorrow, January 13.

30 thoughts on “Time tracking challenge: Day 2

  1. Laura – I’m really enjoying these peeks into your days. Thanks for sharing them! I have to say that your evenings sound exhausting. I guess mine are as well if I were to write them down in paragraph form 🙂 Somehow, when you’re living it, you just get through somehow.

    On an only somewhat related note, I hope you won’t mind if I provide some unsolicited baby sleep advice. Have you considered putting the little guy down earlier? I know it hasn’t been the case with your other kids, but generally speaking, an earlier bedtime in babies/toddlers results in less night waking. It will also make wrangling the other 3 kids into bed a lot easier. And when I say earlier, I mean like 6:30 pm earlier. Honestly, it works like a charm for me – maybe worth a shot??? Good luck with it, whatever you decide to do!

    1. @Rinna- sometimes exhausting, but yes, just sort of life I suppose!
      Sometimes we put the little guy to bed earlier. I’m generally aiming for getting him his bottle around 7 so he’d be down 7:30, but on the nights it’s been earlier (with a shorter or earlier nap, for instance, so he’s clearly tired by 6:30) there hasn’t been any difference in waking. I am not opposed to the usual sleep advice with babies, I just haven’t found it to work with my kids! But the good news is he did sleep through the night last night (Hallelujah!) Now I just need to encourage him not to break the chain…

  2. I too find this oddly fascinating, though I have no idea how you do all this with four kids. I have no kids, so it boggles my mind. This month I get a break from my usual monthly newsletter, my anchor client, because the Jan/Feb issue was combined. It’s nice to get that break, and I took advantage by accepting more writing assignments, so I have a few weeks of whirlwind phone interviews and writing, but I’m enjoying the topics. I was supposed to have an appointment at my house today at 9 am but the person never showed and I waited, then called, then fumed. Anyway, that wasted an hour, unfortunately. Then I had a great phone interview and did some editing and some emails. I had to take a break at 1:15 pm to take my cat to the vet, not getting back until 2:45 pm, at which point I was starving. So I ate a quick McDonald’s lunch (of which I’m not proud, but with a cat in the car, I was only going through a drive-through, not inside somewhere). My BFF called from 3-4 pm, which is a rarity, so that was a great use of time. I puttered around on social media for the next few hours, then took a nap from 6-7 pm. I had back-to-back interviews, so I was on the phone from 7-9 pm. Then, I watched and live-tweeted the State of the Union before doing some more random social media. It’s 11 pm and bed time!

    1. @Melanie – I think, as Rinna says, that we just kind of muddle through. We can make ourselves busy no matter what the life situation. I am quite proud of how organized I am with everything this week on the writing front, but I think that’s partly about knowing my logs will be public! So I’m more mindful about planning it out. I probably should do that more regularly!

  3. Not sure if I’ll make it through the time challenge! Sick kid at home. Mastitis looming (for the 9th time). My day tomorrow will consist of watching the sick kid while doing all the at-home remedies to avoid a 10-day course of antibiotics (worked for 6 of my previous 8 bouts of mastitis!).

    1. @Katy- oh dear, so sorry to hear about all the illness! But “take care of sick kid” is a very legitimate thing to write on a log. Think of it as recording your life as it is now, so you can show your kid later all you did…

  4. Well I very nearly gave up the challenge because my Tuesday was such a disaster!!! I spent the whole day working at home because I was expecting the boiler repair man (to look at a fault on our one month old, very expensive boiler). Found it very difficult to concentrate in the morning because I was expecting him to arrive any minute so was completely unproductive (I did get quite a lot of laundry done though!). He eventually arrived mid-afternoon and found the fault (it’s been incorrectly installed!!). I then spent the rest of the afternoon on the phone to the installers, my husband and my parents. Had a cry, put on my big girl knickers and went to pick the toddler up from nursery. Today is another day and I have a lot of work to do!!

    1. @Gemma- I hate days like that! Maybe it helps to tell yourself that you’re so productive that an off-day doesn’t matter. But I know I always wish that I’d known it wouldn’t be productive ahead of time, so I’d treat it more like a vacation (as much as possible while waiting for a boiler repair person).

  5. A fragmented day for me with teaching prep and what felt like a lot of dashing about. I think because I haven’t had big blocks of time and haven’t managed to sit down and map out what I need to do this week, I haven’t been using my time super well. Have two niggling pieces of writing to finish, one today and one tomorrow and then hopefully can get a bit more stuck in to real work.

    I’ve managed to book all my teaching related stuff onto one day which will hopefully help (which means 5 classroom hours in 5 different classrooms but ho-hey!) Going to try and designate a few hours each weekend for the prep work rather than letting it into my week.

  6. Just have to say I can totally relate to the baby wake-ups. My 18 month old still wakes up at night despite our best efforts. None of the sleep advice has worked for her either. And she pukes if left to cry which just makes everything even more unpleasant. My productivity is 100% related to how much she is up the night before. Just wanted to say, I’m there too. And I totally get it. Hopefully your good sleeping nights continue!

    1. @Amy – thanks! I’m hoping so as well, because yes, my productivity is very related to how much I’m sleeping. Fortunately my life is such that I can often make it up, but I am so looking forward to regular, uninterrupted sleep being a more common feature of my life.

  7. I’ve been tracking my time for the past few days, too. What I’m probably most surprised at is how well I manage my time! A few things I need to work on is managing the late afternoon slump at my office (where my brain is tired and I shut down) and figuring out what to do during those short, random bits of time where I have “nothing” to do.

    1. @CNM – I think those are close to universal problems. Planned breaks are good – a quick walk outside, that sort of thing. Also, planning lower-attention work for the mid-late afternoon time. Emails, routine meetings. Even if you’re tired you’ll probably go to a routine meeting that’s on your calendar, whereas you won’t start thinking about some big thorny project. That’s better suited for morning.

      And yes, bits of time! I should do another “bits of time for bits of joy” list one of these days.

    1. @Julia – hmm… not sure I really bounce back. But one of the great things about regular childcare hours is that I know those are available to me. So my ability to work is not predicated on whether he goes to bed at the right time. Of course, if he’s up too much, I have no energy, and I will nap if necessary.

  8. I don’t know if you want to get into the weeds of this with the mommy war nonsense that tends to arise, but I’m interested to see that you are bottlefeeding and nursing and I’m curious about how you are handling the logistics of baby feeding (with pumping and all that) at the moment. I’m expecting #3 and have made myself a little crazy with nursing and pumping for my other two, just wondering about how other folks handle the logistics.

    1. @Tory – if you search past posts, type in “Moo” and you’ll see one about my breastfeeding adventures. The short version for now is that I nursed exclusively first 5 months, then introduced cereal, then over the past 3 months or so began doing bottles before bed in an attempt to get him to sleep more. I still nurse usually 2-3 times per day but more for comforting him than anything else at this point. We may go another month or two this way. It’s not too onerous.

  9. This is a bit of an odd week for me, as Mon, Tues, and Thurs are all full-day training workshops for me, so I’m not doing my usual “work.”
    On the personal front, I am sleeping well, am on track to meet my exercise goals for the week, and have made time to spend with my husband.
    As always, after only 2.5 days, I am distraught about the hour of each day that is spent mindlessly surfing the web. I want to break that habit, but find that it helps me to chill out after a day at work. Any suggested substitutions?

    1. @Maggie – I guess the question is whether the mindless surfing is causing you grief or not. Is there something else fun you’d like to do more of in life? If it’s reading, try to have good books around – they can be not-so-intellectual. But if you just like surfing the web, maybe try to have a few slightly-more-enlightening sites you visit to elevate this hour (if you feel like you’re wasting it). Or make a list of other relaxing things: chat with a friend, meet your husband for a drink, etc.

  10. I have a quick question, Laura: how to you suggest we should categorize our time? I’ve been tracking really specifically the past few days, but I get the sense from your post that your categories are fewer (and more manageable) like: childcare, sleep, writing, phone calls. Did you have a post about this a few years back? I have a niggling feeling that I read one once. I am going to be FASCINATED to read my time log when it’s done this week!

    1. @Anne- I do make certain compromises in order to keep time-tracking from becoming too onerous. So yes, “hangout w/kids” is a frequent entry. I’m not going to write the particulars of every game we played, or whether I did a wee bit of clean-up while watching them or what have you. And a lot of entries just say “work.” Some weeks I’ve tried to be more detailed to analyze this but I don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good. Even knowing roughly how many hours you spend in broad categories is helpful.

      1. Thanks, Laura! I don’t know how you’re able to moderate all of these comments, but I greatly appreciate that you do–and that you answered my question. I’m trying to make my categories more like yours now.

  11. I’m noticing a lot of wasted time in my days; specifically time that I turn to social media when I’m feeling overwhelmed or tired. I’ve always been a procrastinator, but this really highlights that tendency. Also, this challenge has put my disengagement with my current job in stark relief. I’ve been unhappy in this job for a long time, but this is a fact that is hard to ignore as I look at my time-log so far. I don’t see a way of leaving my job anytime soon, but this is a kick-in-the-butt to get started on my next career adventure.

    1. @Anna – yup, a time log can show disengagement. I’m sorry to hear it, but if it pushes you to embark on your next adventure, it will be totally worth it. Good luck – you deserve to be doing a job that’s challenging and rewarding.

  12. I admire you! I have a 6 and 3 year and that’s a handful and my wife is a stay at home mom. How do you do it working and with 4 kids? (Rhetorical question!) I applaud and admire you!

    1. @Kate – it makes sense that some kids wind up with crying (and need rocking) and some release tension by crying (and need to be left alone). Kids are different! I always feel with sleep advice that any given method works for some parents, and then they become evangelical about it. Often, the people it doesn’t work for assume they did it wrong. But honestly…kids are different. I see this so clearly since I have 4. They’re different, and I didn’t parent particularly differently for any of them.

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