Margin

IMG_0289It 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

3 thoughts on “Margin

  1. Yep, I’m finding that trying to work with kids around (and no one else watching them) is just WAY too stressful for me. We had to pull our 3yo out of preschool 2 days a week because she refused to nap there (but napped at home for 2.5 hours!) but she has since given up her naps entirely, and the days she’s home are super hard to juggle now that hubby has a new job and I’m still trying to make up those hours somehow at a later time. I’d rather have my work times completely separate from my kid time – split shift is fine as long as i’m not trying to hang out with kids at the same time.

    So now that there are no naps at all, the 3yo will go back to preschool 5 days a week in 2 weeks. SO much easier.

  2. Nine months ago I switched jobs and negotiated 36 hour workweek with 10% salary reduction to help me better accommodate my part time teaching job. I’m finding that I get more done in 36 hours in this job, than I did in 40 hours in my previous job. The trick is that I work every day, 7 hours on MW, 8 hours TTh, and half day on Fridays and I usually go in for a few hours every other weekend. I seriously think I would be even more efficient working 6 hour days, although I concurrently increased my teaching hours so my total tally is still over 40 hours. And the fact that I’m there and have some time available every day means my hours can always be accommodated in some manner and the fact I’m not always there makes others treat them more efficiently instead of interrupting me all the time.

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