How Do I Spend My Time?

Perhaps the most frequent question I’m asked is how on earth do I find the time to do all of the stuff that I do in a given day? I thought the best way to illustrate this would be to give an outline of a typical day so you can see what I do during that time.

4:15 AM I wake up. This is usually followed by a bit of stretching, a cold glass of water, a multivitamin, and a splash of water on the face. I usually try to eat something healthy for breakfast here, and do a quick puzzle.
4:30 AM I settle in for a writing and research session. This usually lasts for two hours.
6:30 AM I take a quick shower if I didn’t take one the night before, and start getting the children ready for daycare.
7:15 AM I drop the kids off at daycare. I’m usually either listening to NPR or an audiobook on my commute, and I use a small voice recorder to record thoughts and ideas.
7:30 AM I arrive at work and begin my typical work day. This day usually contains a half-hour long interlude in the middle, where I either eat with coworkers or answer my personal email.
4:00 PM I leave work. If needed, I run personal errands right after work – a stop at the grocery store or the library, for example.
4:30 PM I arrive home and meditate/pray/stretch for fifteen minutes or so.
4:45 PM I settle in for another hour of writing and research and perhaps some email answering as well. I might also start supper during this, if something needs to bake in the oven for a while or something.
5:45 PM Family arrives home – my wife picks the children up from daycare. I’m devoted to them for a few hours.
8:00 PM I usually write some more starting about now as my children are in bed.
9:00 PM I engage in personal activities: spending time with my wife, cleaning, reading for pleasure.
10:15 PM Bedtime!

Weekends are usually more relaxed. I usually spend half of Saturday and half of Sunday locked in my office writing, with the rest of the time devoted to personal activities, like cleaning up the house, doing family things, etc.

In a few weeks, I hope to transition to something more like this:

4:30 AM I wake up. This is usually followed by a bit of stretching, a cold glass of water, a multivitamin, and a splash of water on the face. I usually try to eat something healthy for breakfast here, and do a quick puzzle, then a half an hour to an hour devoted to exercise.
5:30 AM I take a quick shower.
5:45 AM I do a morning email session to get any communication out of the way, and sketch out my writing for the day.
6:30 AM Children wake up. Depending on the day, I’ll either get them ready for daycare or start going through our normal day routine – we’re not sure how many days of which I’ll be doing quite yet. We’ll focus on the former.
7:15 AM The morning will consist of a research and writing session.
12:30 PM I break for lunch and do my prayer/meditation/stretching, then spend the afternoon hitting the grindstone again. At the end, say at 2:45 or so, I do a second email session.
3:30 PM I stop and do household chores until the family gets home – cleaning, cooking, etc.
5:30 PM Family arrives home – my wife picks the children up from daycare. I’m devoted to them for a few hours.
8:00 PM I engage in personal activities: spending time with my wife, cleaning, reading for pleasure.
10:00 PM Bedtime!

Ideally, this leaves weekends completely free.

The Principles

Obviously, my days for the last year or so have been really packed to the gills. There’s not much time at all for rest and relaxation in that schedule, and there have been many times where I’ve chosen to work or to write over other things. Here are the guiding principles that really made all of this work.

This doesn’t work without passion. If I wasn’t passionate about my main job, my writing, and my family, this would have never worked. I would have found reasons to let something down. If you’re going to try to effectively juggle so many activities at once, make sure they all fill you with passion.

Some sacrifices are needed to bring success. Because I was engaged with so much, I had to often abandon things that I wanted to do, like spend weekends with family or engage in leisure activities. This meant that I had to be willing to make some very hard choices, and I had to keep personally motivated at all times to keep it up.

Free time is valuable. Of course, giving myself very little free time meant that it was quite valuable to me. I always wanted to maximize the value of it – but, surprisingly, that didn’t mean going out and doing expensive things. It meant simply seeking out the things that made me feel the most fulfilled over the long haul. Instead of golfing, for example, I’d take the kids to the park.

“Winding down” time isn’t as necessary as you think it is. I used to think that a “winding down” period after work, where I’d do something completely mindless for an hour, was essential to my life. What I found was that I felt substantially better if I didn’t do that. Instead, now I just stretch and meditate for a few minutes after my work is done and I find I feel substantially better than I ever did “winding down” by watching television or something.

Try different things until you find what fits you. Not every schedule works well for everyone. For a while, I experimented with writing sessions in the middle of the night, which worked well over the short term but left me zombie-like after a while. Eventually, I came to find my current schedule made everything reasonably manageable for me, but I didn’t just get there on the first shot – I tried all sorts of things before I found that sweet spot.

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