I (still) don’t need more time

but oh my gosh sometimes it feels like that could do the trick.

A bit of a continuation on this thought that I published 2 weeks back.

At the recommendation of Chris Guillebeau, I picked up a copy of 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam. Coming straight out of an implementation of the Getting Things Done methodology, I was already primed for the concept that we are never out of time, we just have our priorities wrong.

“Oh, but you don’t know my life.” I can already hear some of you saying.

No, I don’t know your life. But we have the same finite resource. And so did Bach, who — though leading a life devoid of email — somehow did all he did with 20 children.

I used to have the busy excuse. I thought I was pretty justified. At my peak busyness, I was working 32 hours per week, running Startup Hatch, and doing 6 subjects at uni. At another period, I was working full time and studying full time. Not to mention the 60 hour work weeks, bookended by weekends of recovery and punctuated with nights of no energy to do anything more than order in and sleep.

…one of the benefits of being overworked or starved for time is that out lets your off the hook for dealing with the burden of choice.

— Laura Vanderkam in 168 Hours

I wasn’t really choosing to work 60 hour work weeks. I felt trapped. I felt like there was no other option. I wasn’t choosing anything and that meant that life was handing me a 60 hour work week by default.

And if I had a half hour of spare time? It would waste.

If you’re not living the life you want in 72* waking, non job hours…why would bumping that up to 92 hours change anything?

— Laura Vanderkam in 168 Hours

*168 hours in a week minus 56 hours of sleep and 40 hours of /required/ full time work.

This came true for me in the last few months. I went from working full time to working 12–16 hours per week. The feeling of overwhelm and too busy didn’t go away, at first.

We don’t think about how we want to spend our time, and so we spend massive amounts of time on things…that give a slight amount of pleasure or feeling of accomplishment, but do little for our careers, our families, or our personal lives.

— Laura Vanderkam in 168 Hours

You’re never going to change the amount of time in a week. You’re also not going to pull yourself out of “too busy” unless you know what you /want/ to be spending your time on and that image is compelling enough to prioritise over anything else.

Remember last time you got sick? No one died. When you went on vacation? It didn’t all burn to the ground. When you had a moment of clarity and put all of your efforts into one needle-moving project with single-minded focus? It was a good thing.

Little by little, I have started to build my life around the important things. Not just conceptually, mind you. Every weekend, I sit and I map out my week and block off time to do the important things. I eat three meals. My average sleep per night is over 7 hours. I go to the gym and do strength training. I go to dance classes. I read. I write.

When I take on more work, I know the important things will stay. Because I’ll fight for them.

The irony of this post is that the book isn’t over. I didn’t finish it. I had to return it to the library because it was overdue. So I bought a copy and it has been sitting on my bookshelf in a de-prioritised position because the other library books are coming due soon too. I’m ok with this. It’s a journey. I’m just glad that I’m on it.

Everyone knows that one person who seems to have it all. They probably exercise, are an awesome partner, and seemingly multiply all of the efforts that they put into their work. They’re not magicians. Ask them. They probably just learned how to prioritise.

The world will adjust to new constraints, but you need to set them.