“How do you find the time?”
I’ve been asked this question many times by many people. So I thought it was time(!) I thought about time. My time, to be specific.
What do I do with my time? Well, I work, I keep house, I run after Lil D, I write, I (try and) exercise, I read, I meet friends, …well, nothing extraordinary really.
I think it was my mom who first introduced the concept of time management to me. Whenever she set out to do something, she would also set a time limit. She always had her eye on the clock, and I guess some of it rubbed off on me, though (confession-time) I’m still woefully bad at reading the time on an analog watch. This time limit thing has really helped to curb my internet surfing.
I also learnt prioritizing from my mom. She had her priorities clear. First things first — always. I learnt to do that as well. I don’t sweat the small stuff, I don’t worry too much about my house being messy or not looking good, as long as the major things in life are being taken care of.
I am very bad at multi-tasking. I cannot handle more than two things (I think) at the same time. One of the lessons I learnt from a manager early in my career was to do one thing at a time and complete it, so that I could tick it off my list. That approach has worked very well for me. It also serves as a great morale-booster to see my list growing smaller and smaller.
I didn’t realize it, but I think I visualize quite a lot. Whether it’s my work or my writing or trying to cook something, I always run it through my head at least a few times before I actually begin. So it saves a lot of time when I start doing stuff.
I’m a speed reader and read quite fast. I’ve learnt typing (in the good old-fashioned way of going to a typing institute!) and can type quite fast. So both my reading and writing take lesser time.
I outsource stuff I don’t like to do. I have a cook because I really don’t like cooking. I should really thank DH for opening my eyes on the outsourcing bit. You know how feeling guilty is so ingrained in us — how can I even think of hiring a cook when it’s just three of us, can’t I even spend that much time, etc., etc. DH put it across as plain common sense, and voila! it was just that, nothing more, nothing less. Not cooking saves me a good two hours, plus the headache of constantly trying to figure out what to make. Strangely enough, I do cook for Lil D, and make our dinner on most days, but I don’t feel stressed; it comes easily because it is not a mandatory activity.
Our house works on a fairly scheduled day. School days, are by default, on a tight schedule. I get a large chunk of free time when Lil D is at school, and I try to pack in as much as possible within that time. I stop working when Lil D comes home, and give her my full attention. I spend some time with my friends in the evening. I try to wrap up everything by 9, so that Lil D is asleep by 9.30pm, and that frees up at least another 2.5-3 hours of time for me, during which I can wrap up the rest of my work day.
I have learnt to sleep less. Lil D has never troubled me in the nights, but when she was small, the only time I could work was when she was asleep, and nights gave me a large chunk of uninterrupted time. It worked well because it also overlapped US time, which was necessary for me. So my routine shifted, and I began sleeping at midnight. I could wake up a little later in the mornings because (a) the cook would do everything that was required for the morning, such as breakfast, and packing DH’s lunch, and (b) DH is an early riser, as is Lil D, and he would take care of her. I have continued that schedule (though I can’t sleep in late because of Lil D’s school) and if I really need to catch up on sleep, I take a quick nap during the day. I’ve really learnt to power-nap! Even ten minutes is enough to make me feel fresh. From a teenager who could sleep for 20 hours straight, to a mom who gets by on 5.5 hours of sleep, I’ve come a long way, haven’t I? 😀
I work from home. I guess this is the biggest factor in my being able to do all that I need to do. I can attend to other things while chewing on some knotty work problem. I don’t have to sit through endless, unproductive meetings. I can work whenever inspiration strikes me on a problem. I can work weekends if I have something urgent to attend to during the week. The flexibility with which I can operate is a huge factor in being able to accomplish what all that I want to complete. I can truly arrange my life around my work. I guess it’s the purely technical nature of my job that makes this possible — I have very little people interaction, which I am VERY grateful for! 🙂 I enjoy the problem-solving and the sense of accomplishment when I complete something.
I’ve learnt not to beat myself up on something when it isn’t coming naturally. Sometimes, when you are not in the right mental frame, working extra doesn’t really help. What you really need is a break. And I allow myself to take breaks, so that I can come back with a fresh perspective. Most often, this works wonders, and I am able to finish up the task in less than half the time it took originally. Meanwhile, I use the time to do something else. I have stopped beating myself up on my writing. I’ve told myself very clearly that it’s to be a source of joy, something that I really want to do, not something that I HAVE to do. And I will write whatever I want, when I want, and how I want, without any restrictions. I think that has brought me much peace, and now I am able to get back to writing without worrying too much or feeling very negative about it.
Well, that’s all I can think of regarding my time management skills. Honestly, I am still quite astonished when people ask me the question, because the image that I have of myself is that of a slow, placidly plodding turtle, not a quicksilver hare (that would be my sister! :D).
Guess slow and steady does win some races! 🙂
(Thanks Shruthi, for giving me something to write about!)