Monday: Time and insights

If you’re tracking your time this week, how did Monday go?

Mine was decent. It started too early — 5:30 a.m. up with the baby. This came after a midnight to 1 p.m. scream-fest. So, not a great night. I fed the baby and got him to doze again for a bit, meaning I got 15 more minutes of sleep, but by 6:30 we were up for good. I declared it a night, brought him downstairs and made and drank coffee while he played (and while the 5-year-old, who left his room exactly when allowed to at 7 a.m., watched YouTube videos).

Everyone else started stirring or were nudged up between 7:30 and 8. I got dressed in my running clothes and was out the door at 8 when G (nanny) showed up. I have signed up for the Another Mother Runner’s Many Happy Miles club, and today’s workout was hills. I’m not planning to do all the workouts, but this gave me the idea to run on a trail to a nearby wooded hill and run up and down four times. I was home by 8:40 to make sure the big kids got logged on to virtual school, and to eat my breakfast (eggs, sausage, blueberries).

The morning — 9 a.m. to noon — was mostly work (blogging, sending in my Before Breakfast line-up, writing a Medium column, doing a prep call for an upcoming speech) with one 30 minute block devoted to what I’m calling my daily rituals. This year, I’m reading one chapter of War and Peace per day. I’m also writing 100 words in my “free writing file” per day. And I’m doing *something* related to strength work. All of these take very little time. War and Peace has 361 extremely short chapters. That might take 10 minutes. Writing 100 words can take 5 minutes or less. Same with doing a handful of half-hearted kettle bell swings. But…the point is to just do them, every day. Four days into the year, so far so good!

At noon, I made my lunch (leftover salad with leftover steak) and fixed the big kids mac and cheese. Often, the 11-year-old makes this for his siblings but something happened and I wound up doing it. Oh well.

After lunch, I fed the baby and got him ready to go to his 1-year pediatrician appointment. I had planned to do this (I’m the one who made the appointment) but my husband freed up the time and took him instead. So I unexpectedly had extra time to get ahead on work, which was good, because I found out that I need to take my daughter to an evaluation on Wednesday afternoon. Time is given, time is taketh away. He’s a healthy boy, and still hovering around the 90th percentile for weight.

Around 3, I stopped working and took all the Nerf guns that were in the minivan trunk out and put them into hiding. They’d been there for the 11-year-old’s previous play date, but the 5-year-old kept getting into them. Sneaking them all in was quite the operation. Then I took the 11-year-old to meet a friend at a nearby park (masked, outdoors). We stayed about 40 minutes because…outdoors. Kind of cold. I came home, attempted to sort out something with the home renovation, and signed the 9-year-old onto Zoom for her piano lesson. This was using my laptop, so I scrolled a bit and read People magazine (the annual Half Their Size edition always gets me….) The 11-year-old had his alto sax lesson immediately after, also on Zoom. I helped my daughter get ready and then we drove to her 6:15 p.m. karate class (also all masked, and classes with limited capacity to keep distances).

At this point, I realized I’d made a strategic error. The alto sax lesson was still ongoing, and since it was on my laptop, I couldn’t take the laptop and work during karate. I should have used the iPad for the Zoom lessons. Oh well. In any case, I sat in the car (parents can watch through the windows but again…cold) and listened to a podcast. And scrolled. Sigh. Eventually I braved the cold and watched my daughter learn to use a kali stick. I did not know what this was until I got the note that she needed it today. Fortunately it was in the closet with some of her other karate stuff. While hunting for it, I learned that somebody really needs to clean out the mudroom closet.

She and I drove home at 7 p.m., at which point I heated up my dinner (from a Sunbasket meal kit! The others ate around 6/6:30 while we were gone) and got the 13-year-old signed on to his online tutoring session (Varsity Tutors, another past podcast sponsor). I got about 3 bites in when the baby pretty much melted down. So I took him upstairs, nursed him, rocked him, and put him in his crib, at which point he was down.

(Will he stay down? Who knows! Tonight I get to sleep in the guest room and my husband is on duty.)

I finished eating and then my daughter and I finished bag #2 (of about 6 trillion) in her Lego Friends amusement park set. That took about 8:10-8:45. Then I got the 5-year-old and brought him up for bed and stories. He announced he desperately needed a set of thermal imaging goggles for his upcoming birthday. I thought this sounded like an interesting idea, until I looked online and found out that the entry level versions are like $500. Now I am trying to figure out an alternative.

In any case, it is 9:30 now and I hope to go to bed soon.

I had a few insights today. First, a program that someone else designs can help you think up new ideas. I would not have thought to do my new running route this morning without the instruction to go find a hill, but it was lovely to run in the woods in the cold, misty, slightly wet morning. Since I was a bit groggy from being up at 5:30 a.m., the run was like an extra cup of coffee.

Second, I really need to think through “sideline time” — the time spent at kid activities. There was really no reason to surrender my device for music lessons when we had other devices at home. That said, maybe I wouldn’t have worked anyway. After all, I have books on my kindle app and I certainly could have read during that time I was sitting in the car, but…I didn’t. Sleep deprivation is rough.

I hope you had a wonderful first Monday back from the holidays! If you learned anything from tracking your time, I’d love to hear it.

Photo: The winter woods have their own sort of beauty. More challenging to see than a June rose garden, but beauty nonetheless. 

15 thoughts on “Monday: Time and insights

  1. I learned that I spend a lot of time dealing with food: from buying groceries, to preparing it for snacks and meals, eating it (as a family), and cleaning up afterwards. Even if I take into consideration that yesterday was “atypical” because I had to do a big shop, it was a lot! If this pattern continues throughout the week, I really need to find a way to reduce the time spent on food-related activities and/or make it do double duty for me.

    1. @Ana – yep! Reduce it or at least make it fun (like listening to a podcast or Face Timing a friend while cooking…)

    2. This is my life too! I’ve cut my grocery shopping to two weeks or less, but it does take more time (though not twice as much!) I’ve thought a lot about this over the years and here are some things I’ve adopted: Batch cook as much possible! I make kid lunches two at a time, prepare my lunch for the week all at once, and when I have a pot or appliance out, I try to think if there is anything else I can make before washing, like cooking some chicken in my instant pot after cooking hard boiled eggs. I started doing a 6 week meal rotation and that has taken a lot of the thinking out of the process. My goal for 2021 is to come up with some quick and easy but healthful (contain veggies) meals. I tend to make things more elaborate than they need to be! Nice sandwiches for dinner is OK. Good Luck!

      1. @Kristin- sandwiches for dinner are totally OK. So are bagged salad with a quick protein on top. Eggs + veggies makes a meal. Soup from a box + bread from bakery + salad is also lovely. No need to overthink any of this!

  2. I learned the first day back at work after nearly 2 weeks off AND the day after a nasty bout of gastroenteritis (Covid negative) you will get the bare minimum done and go to bed with a Real Simple magazine at 8:30…and that’s okay.

  3. Hello Laura,
    I really enjoyed to get a peak into your day with so many details. Please share more days like this during tis week.
    I learned that I am not the only one sleeping in the guest room. I call them my “spa nights” and they really save me to keep on going through the week.

    1. @Alba – happy to share! And yes, the guest room is a total necessity some nights. I got enough sleep last night which was great.

  4. I realized that since I was time tracking I stayed off the phone for scrolling! What an accountability partner that excel can be… at least for day 1. I also did the split shift of hopping back on my computer after the baby went down. Not that I ended early, but I had to handle some of our own personal admin stuff during the day so it was all day computer work, but normally I would have just said, I worked allll day and half the evening. This must be why we all think we work more than we probably really do. I made a note to batch some of the more simple personal admin tasks for Friday afternoon since Before Breakfast tells me that is a pretty good time slot! Thanks Laura for being my online mentor!

    1. @Nicole – happy to be an online mentor. And yes, I think half the benefit of time tracking is accountability…

  5. I’m doing The Big Read/War and Peace too, after reading about it here. I’m surprised by how readable it is, and the one-chapter-a-day pace has been forcing me to think much more deeply about the material.

    1. @Elisa – it is totally readable! I don’t know why Tolstoy gets lumped in with “hard” authors like James Joyce. It’s just that they both write long books. Tolstoy loves his readers. And I’m also finding that the one chapter a day (and no more!) pace is really nice because I don’t feel any pressure to read more. I think I kind of raced through it the first time I read the book because it seemed so big and I had so much ground to cover.

  6. I like the idea of the “free writing file” that you add to just a bit each day. I’m curious if you use it to write short, unrelated pieces or are stringing them together into something longer?

    I use morning pages (from the book The Artist’s Way) as a means to try to get my thoughts flowing. My time tracking from yesterday showed a lot of busy work, but not much deep work. I’ll be attempting to rein that in more today!

    1. @Kara – it’s just at least 100 words of whatever I’m thinking about. Sometimes description. Sometimes a thought. An idea for a story. There is zero structure to it whatsoever. It’s just to get in the habit of writing more.

  7. It’s a bit meta, but my goal right now is to complete a round of fundraising for https://mana.ai , an app that is made for making this time tracking challenge easier! I didn’t receive the Emails earlier this week for the challenge, but it’s actually good for this particular post, since yesterday I got distracted pretty hard with the political situation in the US. Thankfully I was able to timebox my time with everything to 1hr, enough to understand the key events and be able to speak to them intelligently, but not getting lost in what I’m sure would have been a dark rat hole. All agreed with both @nicole and @laura that accountability is one of the key benefits of time mindfulness, I hate having to see those numbers at the end of the week and realize that I got lost from what I’d intended to do!

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