A choice to change time

Sarah and I covered a lot of ground in the BOBW podcast yesterday where we interviewed Katherine Goldstein.

Reading over what I posted here, I realize I spent most of that real estate talking about her choice to move from NYC to North Carolina so she could self-fund her project and have the support of extended family in raising her son.

The reason I dwelt on that aspect is that I am fascinated by this idea of consciously making a huge lifestyle change in order to free up time. Goldstein moved to save money, but that’s really about freeing up time. When she didn’t need to bring in a certain income to support her family’s expense structure, she was able to spend her time on something she wanted to do.

Those of us who write time management literature tend to focus on small tweaks to people’s lives for a simple reason: these changes are doable.

Most people could improve their commutes by listening to podcasts and audiobooks. Some chunk of people might be able to negotiate to work from home 1-2 days per week. Someone dealing with a spouse’s job, children’s schools, and an uncertain home-selling market, on the other hand, would find it more challenging to move 30 minutes closer to work, even though that would save an hour a day. So that’s not generally the solution we’d focus on.

If someone told me that they wanted to write a novel, and needed to find time to write, my first response would not be “quit your job and use that time!”

I would talk about getting up an hour earlier a few mornings a week (“funded” by going to bed earlier instead of puttering/scrolling/watching TV), or going to the library for one evening a week, and asking for family support for a few hours on the weekend. A person doing this might find 5-7 hours per week to write. At a rate of 400 words/hour, you’d write 2400-2800 words per week, and potentially have a draft in 6 months.

And yet, there’s something to be said for making big changes.

Finding a new job that’s closer to home, or moving, can open up big chunks of time day after day. Moving to North Carolina from New York can open up space in a budget, as can moving closer to extended family (who can pool resources).

Sometimes quitting a miserable job is the right answer, particularly if you have a good plan for what you’ll pursue next. We only have so much time. Nibbling around the edges can do a lot. But sometimes people want more. And going for more is an option. Probably not the easiest one or lowest risk one. But it is definitely an option. Sometimes that’s what it means to, as Juliet would say, “choose well.”

Photo: If you follow me on Instagram (@lvanderkam) you might know where this was taken… 🙂

13 thoughts on “A choice to change time

  1. That’s what I would have focused on, too! I actually just did something slightly less drastic, but similar. I was doing around an hour commute to work in the morning (daycare drop off + driving) and things were just…hard. Our childcare options were EXTREMELY limited, and in 5 years of mothering, I’d had literally zero sitters outside of occasional generous grandparents for anything outside of normal daycare hours. After 6 months of unsuccessful searching for new childcare as our daycare was closing, we decided enough was enough. We sold our house (in a weekend, thankfully) and I now live 10 minutes from my job and we have a nanny. My husband’s commute is slightly longer, but with no childcare pick-up, the difference is nominal and he’s looking for a new gig anyway. I think everyone thought we were insane, but sometimes you just have to make a switch. Reading your books about time certainly helped get me to this decision! I have zero regrets.

    1. @Ashley – sometimes you do need a change! Congrats on the move (and the swift home sale!) and good luck to your husband as he searches for a new gig.

  2. We moved home and it really changed our lives. We were about 20-25 minutes from work by car (both parents work at the same place!) and we could drop our son to a fabulous preschool. Our apartment was gorgeous and immense, smack in the best part of town to have a mix of adult stuff (restaurants, fancy grocery stores, museums) and kids playground all walking distance. So why move? We moved to a house so close to work that we can WALK there in 25 minutes (biking takes 10 min because we use safe bike paths, we could do it in 7 by using the main road) at the same time that we got a spot at the work daycare (but anyway a few months later our son was in kindergarden at a school at walking distance from home). The main thing it changed is that we don’t have to leave at the same time. One can go get our son, the other can stay longer, even 30 minutes longer, and things get done. Its impossible to stay stuck in trafic on the way to daycare so we are never-ever worried about pick up time. This changed our lives. Our commute is now part of our “exercise” routine. We go back to the nice neighbourhood maybe once a month for an outing (we leave in a country where bringing kids to a nice restaurant is ok if you go for the first early service). Everything has changed for the better.

    1. @Nadia- excellent! Being able to walk and bike to work turns a commute into a highlight of a day. And given that it’s usually the low point of people’s days, this is a massive boost in happiness!

  3. I enjoyed the post and the focus on big life changes. I am currently weighing the option of accepting a position with my current company that would mean a move to a MORE expensive place to live and MORE time in the office. I currently work remote, from home, in a small town with a lower cost of living. Spending the next couple of weeks looking to identify if there are true benefits to accepting this “promotion”. Here’s to tuning-in to my inner “Juliet” to choose well.

    1. @Jammy- a lot to consider! It’s good to weigh the choices looking at all the factors, though there is a lot to be said about being excited about your job. If going to work is a pleasure…that makes life pretty awesome.

  4. It is nice to have options. I have recently decided I want to spend more time with my kids and also start writing more so I quit my job. We were not reliant on my salary (although it helped) so I had this option. I am grateful.

    1. @Claire – it is good to have options! One reason to build up savings in general — it allows you to make a wider range of choices. Good luck with the writing!

  5. Totally agree on the big change. Almost 2 years ago we moved from Seattle, which was getting super expensive and stressful – I remember staying up until midnight to sign up my kids for swim lessons as soon as registration opened, among other things. We now live in a rural-ish suburb of Sacramento and our new lifestyle is so much more laid back. Both my husband and I now work remotely, one kid goes to an amazing public language immersion school (similar to the one we were 50th on the waiting list for in Seattle) and our work flexibility means we can homeschool our older kid which meets her needs better than any of the local schools could. We now could live on one income if needed (dicey in Seattle), my kids spend a ton of time outdoors thanks to the much better weather, and we’re just a lot less stressed out about getting extracurriculars for the kids, or summer camp spots, etc. It’s just not as competitive out here. There are definitely disadvantages – good ramen and Nordstrom are a 25 minute drive, we have no Din Tai Fung restaurant, I’ve had to make friends completely from scratch, and our political views are the minority in our county. But overall we’d make this move again if we had to choose. I’m really glad we did it when our kids were younger, because that made it easier to take the plunge without worrying we’d be wrecking their social lives. (But kids are resilient.) In general, I believe there are very few decisions in life that can’t be fixed so it’s worth trying something new.

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