Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Spending time to save time

I like to be active.   In fact, I like to be so active that I'm a bit on the frantic side.  But I don't like to feel like my schedule owns me, . . . and last week, that's the way I was feeling.

I'd brought home work just about every night.  I'd brought home work the past several weekends.  And my nights and weekends were devoted to "catching up" and even (so I thought) "getting ahead".  But after the third weekend of "catching up/getting ahead", it was clear I was establishing a pattern, not creating an exception.

And so, I pulled out my trusty planner.  I stopped doing my "work".  I started making lists. I love making lists.  And I love creating schedules.

What does a bout of planning look like?

Round 1 of planning was doing a "Planner Meeting" with the family.  N-son has grown up seeing me and his dad synchronise calendars, and he has so wanted to be part of this that it's now his job to maintain the family calendar that hangs on the bulletin board.  When life gets hectic, it's easy to let communication lag, and I knew our family was in dire danger of double-booking ourselves for things.  So the family planning meeting came first.

Round 2 of planning was to anticipate events.  This phase included things as simple as deciding on a rough menu for the week.  A quick weekly menu can save a bunch of time:  for example, pulling meat out of the freezer and putting  it in the fridge  the night before a meal takes almost no time compared to defrosting it at the last minute (unless the "meat" happens to be bananas instead of kielbasa.  Whoops.)   Another example of anticipating events: in my home, now is the season for children's medical visits, and remembering to bring all the myriad forms along with me saves me time compared to mailing them and retrieving them later.

Round 3 of planning was to try to fix the problems that have been annoying me.  In this case, I decided to schedule "time with myself" each day -- to actually write that time into my planner each day.  In particular, since I'd been bringing home about an hour worth of email correspondence each night (and even more on the weekends), I decided to look to the future week and block out one hour each day to concentrate on email.

At this point, I realized my problem.  I've scheduled myself so intensely, I don't actually have time to catch up on correspondence during the day.   The reasons for my lack of e-time vary from day to day, so that each new day, I've been able to to fool myself into thinking "today is an exception".  But when I decided to plan into the future and I saw an entire week of . . . um . . . exceptional reasons, then I realized that the problem is really me.

Round 4 includes gently, but firmly, saying "no, thank you".  Or at least, "not now".  Because in the midst of all this planning and list-making, I got even more offers of cool things to do.  Life is full of cool things to do, things I want to say "yes" to.   But the weekend of planning sobered me up.  I can't do it all.

(You don't know how hard it is for me to write that last sentence, or how much I want to be Wonder Woman.  At least let me say:  I can't teach all my classes, chair the committee that's sucking up all my time, referee two math research papers, and still plan the Pirate Dinner.  Something has to walk the plank!  And it sha'nt be be the Pirate Dinner, matey!)

Calendars aren't classy.  Schedules aren't sexy.  Lists seldom inspire lust (unless they're in my husband's lap).   But I couldn't live the good life without them.

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