29 March 2010

stealing a march


It seems that March has stolen a march on me.  Here we are in the last few days and I haven't got round  to recording progress on the plot, discoveries and outings for ages.  I shouldn't be surprised really because I have found time quite slippery since I stopped working.  I thought I would get much more done, but it turns out that everyday errands, take me much more time than when I fitted them in around the working day.  Journeys to work, ostensibly crowded with people, actually provided the time to observe or think about what I needed to do during the day; the journey home provided a space to relax.  Even without rushing, I used to be able to make breakfast, prepare a packed lunch, put on the bread and get the washing on the line before I went to work.  Now it can take me two hours.

This bending of time perplexed me so much that I began to record what I did in 15 minute blocks - nothing like a good bit of evidence gathering before making policy changes.  I found first that too much time was spent "tidying".  Things I would have ignored (because I could not see them when I was out of the house) bothered me, so, for example, there was a lot of moving piles of laundry around the house instead of piling it all up in the airing cupboard out of sight and emptying it only when there was no room to stuff any more in.  There was also a certain amount of organising my time around the radio - oh, I'll just wait until the end of this programme - instead of getting on.  Listen Again has sorted that out.  I also registered with the telephone preference service to put a stop to the endless marketing calls I was getting from people who were just doing their job, but driving me nuts.

After these fairly simply changes, I had to face up too to a complete lapse of managerial competence. The mental list of things I did want to do was too long and in parallel with that, I underestimated the amount of time that stuff would take.  It's not as if I didn't know this already after years working, I just somehow imagined that because I had more time, time would actually last longer.  I had either forgotten how to prioritise or, perhaps more to the point, had no priorities because I thought I didn't want or need them any more.  This was meant to be a time when I could spend more time doing what I wanted, but instead was turning into a time when I didn't know what I wanted.  So I have reinstated a written to do list adopting the rules, especially rule 2, in this Oliver Burkeman article.  I am an avid reader of Mr B. His short articles must have saved me years of reading works on self improvement.  Heaven help me, I have even started writing shopping lists and adopting a haphazard kind of meal planning. (And thanks to Felix for such inspiring and entertaining posts on her own imaginative meal planning and productivity)

None of this means that I have become a super efficient automaton.  However, without replacing the structure of employment by a rigid timetable,  I now feel a little more in control of time.  I was interested in listening to Sarah Maitland tonight to hear her talk about living a patterned, rather than a disciplined (for her, spiritual) life.   I doubt it's what she had in mind, but cutting ruthlessly, snipping bits, a bit of ease here and there, going against the grain now and then, getting time to fit you where you can.  There might be something in it.

11 comments:

Lila said...

Well I do hope blog posts feature prominently on these lists, because I enjoy reading them!

JoannaD said...

This is SO well put. I have had very similar experiences at different times of my life and I wish I'd put this effort into working out what was going on - I'm sure I would have accomplished more. And I agree with Lila - make sure 'blogging' appears regularly on your lists!

knit nurse said...

Thanks for the link, very enlightening and I like the suggestions. I always make to-do lists and always put something really easy at the top (if you are stuck, add 'make list') so that I can cross it off within minutes of writing the list. I know it sounds silly but it helps me feel like I'm achieving something.
You are totally right that having more time can feel like less - and that you do spend it doing things you would normally ignore. Since going to a 4-day week I've suffered the same problem and have to force myself to keep my extra day off 'special' otherwise I just end up doing chores and tidying, which was not really the motivation for going part time!

Rattling On said...

I have lists on everything! I do actually check them all and cross off the things that have been sorted.
I long for the school holidays so I'll have time to relax, then usually spend the whole time doing boring jobs. I then go back to work resentful that I didn't have enough 'spare' time. All my own fault!

Gerry Snape said...

The trouble with time is that it never tells you what is around the corner! I have hardly stepped foot in my greenhouse as one of those "lifes uncertainties" has arisen over the last 7 weeks. But no doubt the time will stretch somewhere and I will fulfill all of those lists that I have made in the cold months.Thankyou for the great post.

60 going on 16 said...

Your experiences reflect so many of my own when I retired from the old day job (even though, in my case, this had largely consisted of going upstairs to my office and writing or editing all day ie no commuting). Oh, all the things I was going to do when time became my friend . . .

As you say, it doesn't quite work out like that, even though I now have a very different (but still home-based) working life that, theoretically at least, should give me much more time for all manner of things that take my fancy. Not to mention chores.

I've always been useless with lists, even though I realise, logically, that they make sense. My daughter has spent years trying to get me to embrace the Joy of Lists, so perhaps I should give Mr B a go. Thank you for the link and for, yet again, making the everyday seem, somehow, less so.

Liz said...

List writing is something that I enthusiastically embrace every so often. I usually abandon the activity when I find myself adding something I have managed to complete during the day which wasn't actually on the list, just so that I can tick something. Daft or what.

SueB said...

Thanks for the reminder of Oliver B's list. Mine have been getting out of hand. Back to basics...

Felix said...

What a lovely post and how true; time does bend according to our schedules and available 'free time.'

Someone asked me the other day how the hell I find time to blog with all the stuff I have on and the truth is that I knit and blog more when I am superbly busy than at other points. This is because, as you say, the day is compartmentalised and structured, so no time is wasted and the pauses between activity can be devoted to planning and sorting out the next task.

Thanks for mentioning my numbers posts! I have been enjoying writing them.

I very much like the idea of a patterned life, and the idea of treating hours like fabric - so they fit better.

purejuice said...

thank you very much for the maitland link. silence as well as a patterned life is of great interest to me, as is how a feminist life is lived 40 years on.
i'm also dying to know what the menu on your mudchute lunch was -- the menu on their website is inaccessible.
happy easter!!!
here in NM thousands of penitentes walk to the humble church in tiny chimayo, many of them carrying life size crosses, on good friday. we're not in kansas any more.

colleen said...

Vegetarians please avert your eyes.

PJ - Three of us had the beef hotpot with red cabbage, spinach and mashed potato. The beef comes from the moiled cattle raised on the farm. It was very good indeed though I did have to avoid the eyes of the young calf later. My son had the all day breakfast for lunch. Yes, us limeys and baked beans ( as you know). Mudchute Kitchen does make their own though.

Glad you appreciated the Maitland link. I'm interested in her silent life.