It is Friday morning. I am sitting at my desk. Already, I have edited one piece. I am taking half an hour to write and post this, and then I will edit and turn in two other pieces. There is snow on the ground. Two children are home from school (not because of the snow; there was a planned teacher in-service day). And yet I am working! It is quite a feeling.
Around last May I began an experiment of having four days of childcare coverage per week. It is a truth in a lot of productivity literature that if you limit your work hours, you will force yourself to achieve new heights of efficiency. I did become more efficient in some ways over the last 9 months. But I think there were some trade-offs that ultimately led me to end the experiment.
Evidence for efficiency: I did become better at using small bits of time. Rather than putting off writing a piece until one more source called me back, I would write it while waiting for the call and then stick his quotes in later. Limited work hours are good for fighting procrastination. I got better at forcing other people to accommodate my schedule.
However, there are trade-offs with all this. This is my second Friday with childcare coverage. I notice I am doing some things that I might not have done otherwise. I took time yesterday to go to Barnes & Noble to do some more research for a round-up of short, inspirational reads. Seeing what is getting published is something I know I should do as a writer. Yet it is always easier not to. When I was clawing for time, I did not. This week I did (I also noticed I appear to have a brisk business blurbing other books — fun!). I have scheduled a few exploratory calls and coffees. I practiced my speech extra times.
Perhaps most surprisingly, I feel like these last two weeks I have been more relaxed about doing kid stuff. I took my 6-year-old to an elementary school fundraiser at a trampoline park yesterday. If I knew I had no coverage on Friday, I would not have been willing to use childcare hours on a Thursday afternoon to do that. I would have been racing to get everything done. Margin makes for a more relaxed mom.
In other news: You can read another version of this story over at Verily, where my monthly 8760 column looks at what happens when you reduce work hours.
Photo: At the trampoline park