Finding Time: The Life Equation and the Three R’s

time-warp“There are not enough hours in the day.  Week.  Year!”

Like all writers (and lots of other people), I am constantly confronted with the fact that there does not seem to be enough time to get anything done.  At least, nothing we want to do.  Everything we must to do we find time for, of course.  But finding time for things like writing… Not always so easy.

So I decided to do some math.  My expectation was that by doing so, I’d reinforce the dismal idea that I don’t have enough time, and thus have plenty of excuses for not getting stuff done.  But, happily, that wasn’t necessarily the case.

Here’s what I did:

ACTIVITY HRS DAYS/WEEK HRS/WEEK
work 14 3.5 49
sleep 7 7 49
eat dinner 1 7 7
make dinner 1 3.5 3.5
family time – weekday 1.5 5 7.5
family time – weekend 5 2 10
military extra duties 1 1 1
 Total: 127

A little explanation on these broad generalizations for hours per day times days per week:

  • My work days are about 14 hours long.  I get up at 5:30am and get home at 7:30pm.  (Assuming I’m on day shifts, but it’s about the same on nights, just flip am/pm.)  The shift is supposedly 12 hours, but in reality it works out closer to 13, plus I’m including getting ready, eating breakfast, etc.  Basically, time dedicated on a work day to my work day.  I work, on average, 3.5 days out of 7 per week.  (Maybe 3 on, 4 off; or 5 on, 2 off, whatever.)
  • I probably sleep an average of 6-7 hours a night.  I was generous and said 7.
  • Eating dinner: about an hour.  If I have to also make dinner (and sometimes, even after a 14 hour day, I come home and find it’s up to me to make that happen), another hour.
  • Rough estimates on “family time,” meaning just spending time with my son, wife, etc.
  • Currently, my extra military duty time–meaning time outside of my 14 hour day; meaning, my time off–is actually pretty low.  This is partially because I make the choice to allow my career to suffer so that my family and personal time do not.  (Because you don’t get promoted for being good at your job.  That’s not enough.)  It’s also lower because I no longer have to stand the 24-hour duty day every month, due to recent policy changes at work.  But this hour is also estimated for me being on days right now.  When I’m on night shifts, this goes way up.  (Because everything extra that you have to do, you do when everyone else is at work.  And that’s not at 3am on a Saturday night.)

So this is estimating the general, everyday stuff that must get done.  There are 168 hours in a week (24×7).  As per the chart, then, my “mando-time” (mandatory) is 127 hours per week.  168-127 = 41.  So this leaves 41 hours per week.

That’s where I stopped and thought, “That can’t be right!”  How could I possibly have so much extra time on my hands?  I certainly don’t feel like I have 41 hours of free time every week!

So, because the math didn’t support the pessimistic outlook I had on life, as I had expected it to, I differentiated a bit.  I broke it down to work days and off days.

work day non-work
14 working 1 eating
1 eating 1 making
1 making 4 family
1 family 8 sleeping
7 sleeping 14  TOTAL
24  TOTAL

That’s a little more accurate for me.  The family time may vary, especially if we take a day trip to go do something.  But, generally speaking:

  • On a work day, I should not try to make myself feel guilty for not getting anything else done.  Assuming I want to sleep, eat dinner, and see my loved ones in the same day, there’s no time for anything else.
  • On a non-working day, I should feel guilty for not getting something productive done!  Generally, if it’s a weekday that I have off and everyone else is at work or school, I have lots of time to myself.  Better make it count!  And even on a weekend, unless we are doing something specific, I can find a few hours to do what I want to do.  (I generally wake up early and leave the house to write, so it’s done and out of the way and nothing else can threaten that allotted time slot.)

Now, to go onto the next step, I shall set myself up for some optimistic expectations.  What are the priorities for making the best use of that time?  For me, it’s the Three R’s, redefined a bit:

  • The first is wRiting.  I literally have more than 30 books in mind right now and come up with new ideas all the time!  And they aren’t going to write themselves!
  • Reading is essential, and I don’t do nearly enough of it.  Again, because of time constraints.  Anything I can’t do everyday is hard to turn into a habit or routine.  And I can’t do anything everyday.  Other than eat, apparently, which leads me to the third R…
  • ‘Rithmatic is the saying, but that’ll be my code word for woRking out; or, more likely, swimming laps.  I get fired from my job if I can’t fit into my uniform, and it seems some evil elves have been gradually replacing mine with smaller and smaller duplicates.  At 40 years of age, overworked, sleep deprived, and having other priorities, its difficult to motivate myself to the gym or pool on a regular basis.  It also doesn’t help that my go-to activity is to sit on my butt even more in front of a computer to tell stories. But if I tell myself that on my days off, I have 3 Rs to accomplish, it’ll make it more likely that I get there.

Of course, this simplified rant doesn’t cover all of life.  There are more things to do, unexpected outcomes, and never enough time, however much you may plan.  I’d like to blog more, too, and not just about what damn book is on sale.  I know that makes me out to be a mercenary bastard, and I hate it.  I have so much more to say!  But… blogging requires a time slot.

And time is that most precious of commodities.  You can’t make more time.  It runs at a constant speed, like sand from the hourglass, and once it’s gone you never get it back.  Money you can make more of.  You can get a second job, but that costs more time.

And that’s the main reason I don’t put in the extra time at work needed to advance my military career.  My son is 6 now and growing older at that same, constant rate.  If I spend his childhood at the office, I might gain more money, but I’ll lose more time.  And he’ll never be 6 again, or 7, 8, 9…  Maybe I get to a nice, fat retirement one day, but I’ll miss my son growing up.  Time is worth more to me than money.  Time lost cannot be bought back, no matter how much money you have.

And speaking of time, I’ve spent enough on this blog post.  Unfortunately, I have to ration out such a valuable resource, and my lunch hour is nearly up.

In conclusion, well…  I expected to conclude that, “There’s just not enough time in the day,” and “This might be making a living, but it’s no way to live!”  And I can still say those things, but to my own surprise I discovered that there is time.  I’m just not making the best use of it.  I can always use more, but if I squander what I have, it’s my own damn fault!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s