Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Time Keeps Slipping

I had declared three goals to reach during the month of August, and completed two of them. I integrated a new routine into my daily activities: writing in my paper journal for at least fifteen minutes daily.

It's great to have a new habit that I am devoting time to. Practicing daily writing started out as a "Dude, Let's Try This!" experiment at beginning of August, and I feel very creative when I sit at my desk, open my journal, and start writing with a freshly-sharpened pencil gliding through the pages. The transformation of ideas from inside my head to a coherent story and narrative on paper, with hypnotic piano music emanating softly in the background and the faint scent of cedar from the pencil tinging the air, all coalesce into fifteen minutes of enjoyable activity. I feel a sense of verified creative accomplishment after my writing sessions.

However, the new writing habit is integrated into the fabric of my daily life at expense of other activities. Dedicating nearly two hours every week to writing means giving up something else for two hours a week. Most of the my routines are nearly immutable: my work hours are not going to get shorter, my 7.5 hours of sleep every night will still be accounted for, band rehearsals will still happen, and my after-work creative brainstorming and mastermind meetings with other co-conspirators will continue to take place. Life goes on, but something is being squeezed out in order to accommodate my writing habit.

There are several important activities that I have invested less time in recently. I have visited the gym less frequently this summer, I find myself skipping breakfast during hurried mornings, and I often neglect to pack lunch. These trends negatively impact my fitness, health, and financial goals: they are my current pigeons of discontent. Add to that the incomplete goal from last month.

I recently started reading Laura Vanderkam's 168 Hours and learned the importance of being aware of what I find important and essential in my daily activities. When I decide against spending time on tasks, I want to shift my thinking from "I don't have time for this," to "It's not a priority for me." But what constitutes things that are priorities for me? What are the things that sustain, energize, inspire, move, and otherwise make me feel alive? By spending more time engaged in these priorities, I sense a greater level of happiness and purpose. By spending time engaged in other activities, I feel that I'm taking time away from things that fuel me.

My challenge is to become more conscious about how I am spending my waking hours. I started tracking how I spend my time using the 168 hours spreadsheet. It seems tedious at first to break down what I am doing during the week. There are many questions about how I want to spend my time. How can I find time to be mindful during meals? How can I eliminate some of the repetitive tasks in my daily routines? What can be eliminated? What can be done in more efficient and lean manner? What things am I doing that adds no value to my raison d'ĂȘtre? Is being more mindful of how I spend my time worth the effort?

As I read more of 168 Hours and become comfortable asking myself these tough questions, I may experiment with incorporating routine changes and other tweaks. I don't have the answers right now but I am excited about the possibility of learning and changing.

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