Here We Go Again—My Overwhelm Post for 2018

Here we are again—I’ve written about feeling overwhelmed before, and it appears that I didn’t learn my lesson back then, so it’s time for a revisit. It’s probably worth noting that I’ve been awake since 3am while I’m writing this, so my emotions are a little fragile.

I have been back at work for less than a month, and I’m already feeling overwhelmed with the lack of time I have to do what I want. It’s a huge shock to my system to have gone from 2 weeks of essentially doing nothing, to going back to being out of the house for twelve hours a day, 5 days a week. I honestly wish I hadn’t had the time off, because it makes going back all that much harder. Of course, given the choice I wouldn’t have taken the time off; unfortunately work shuts down over the Christmas period.

What Do I Want To Do?

This feeling is partially (mostly?) due to partaking in a lot of activities because I want to do them. Of course, they are all now competing for my time. Below is a list of what I want enough time to do:

  • Write blog posts
  • Read blogs
  • Comment on blogs
  • Tweet
  • Roleplay/Dungeons & Dragons
  • Organise our trip to England
  • Think about/plan a move to Orange
  • Have a relative over for dinner once a week
  • Help a different relative
  • Exercise
  • Read all the books I want to read
  • Read comics
  • Plan a possible side hustle (oh yeah, I’m fickle)
  • Volunteer
  • Watch TV
  • Call friends
  • Socialise
  • Plan our future
  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Housework
  • Play with the cats
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Work

I’ve calmed down a little after writing that. No wonder I feel overwhelmed. I’m trying to do every single one of these things almost each day! I need to prioritise.

Pathfinder, DnD 5e & Star Trek RPGs
Roleplaying is a high priority for how I spend my time. This is just a smidgen of the rules systems we play with.

24 hours x 7 days a week = 168 hours

There’s some irony here, because over the Christmas break I picked up a copy of Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours. That’s covered under my list item of not having enough time to read!

Essential Activities

Work 8:00-16:30: Although these are my scheduled hours, the actual time from leaving my house to returning home is 6:30-17:30 (on a good day) = 11 hours.

Sleep 21:00-5:00: I’m not too bad at this schedule. I might turn the light off a little later because I’m reading, but I’m usually so tired I can only read for 5 minutes anyway = 8 hours.

Work = 11 hours x 5 days = 55 hours
Sleep = 8 hours x 7 days = 56 hours
Time remaining = 57 hours

First surprise—that’s a pretty solid 33% breakdown, isn’t it? Looking at it, I think that’s fair. Actually, given human history, that’s more than fair.

Priority Level 1

Roleplaying: every Friday night. Dedicating this time isn’t just about the activity; it’s regular socialising with a group of friends that I’ve known for 2 decades or longer. I actually give up a little sleep for this (whereas my normal attitude is to guard my sleep zealously) = 6 hours.

Cooking/Eating: This is in priority instead of essential because there are ways to reduce the time it takes. Of course, in extreme circumstances, that would cost money—if I wanted to pay someone to cook, for example. I need to do a time study on this, but if I add up all activities associated with it (meal planning 30 min, grocery shopping 1 hour, cooking 4.5 hours, eating 1 hour, cleaning 2 hours), it’s roughly = 9 hours.

Writing blog posts: This is a bit of a tricky one, because I write some of them while I’m doing other things, such as travelling on the train to work. Even so, there are elements I can only complete at home. Again, I’d need to track my time, but I’d estimate anywhere from 2 – 5 dedicated hours a week, depending on how much research I need to do, graphs I want to produce, and images I want to include = 3 hours average.

Roleplaying = 6 hours
Cooking/Eating = 9 hours
Writing blog posts = 3 hours
Time remaining = 39 hours

Google Maps screenshot of places we want to visit in the UK.
These are the places we want to visit – not necessarily in this order!

Priority Level 2

Visitors for Dinner: Having a relative over for dinner once a week isn’t an imposition by any stretch. But if it’s been a busy week, or I get home late for work, or I have done another activity during the week, I resent the requirement to be “on” and social, or the loss of hours to write my next post. This is a classic introvert issue, but it’s not every week that I feel like this = 3 hours.

Volunteering: I do some volunteer VA work and occasional proofreading. I really enjoy this; it ebbs and flows, but for the most part only takes an hour or two a week. I’d almost put this up into Priority Level 1, but if I’m feeling overwhelmed I need to be ruthless = 2 hours

Social life/calling friends: This is meeting friends, going out, going for motorbike rides and so on. Similar to having dinner above, as long as it is kept to manageable levels, it’s fantastic. If we are going out all weekend over multiple weekends, it’s generally not so much = 6 hours

Exercise: I stopped exercising at the end of last year, but it is on my list of priorities. I need to make time for it again = 0 hours

Having a relative over for dinner once a week = 3 hours
Volunteering = 2 hours
Social life/Calling friends = 6 hours
Exercise = 0 hours
Time remaining = 28 hours

Lowest Priority

That surprises me. I’ve still got 28 hours a week to do all the activities below. That averages 4 hours a day. With 15 activities listed, I should be able to do each of them for just under 2 hours a week. Either I’m estimating my time incorrectly, or I’m not using the time I have efficiently.

Of course, it’s not really 4 hours per calendar day, because the weekend skews the calculation. I also need to take account of transition time—no one can move directly between activities without either downtime, or time needed to get your head into a new space.

I guessstimate that I spend the following time on each activity:

  • Read blogs = 5 hours
  • Watch TV = 4 hours
  • Housework = 4 hours
  • Help a different relative = 2 hours
  • Comment on blogs = 2 hours
  • Tweet/Twitter = 1 hour
  • Plan our future = 1 hour
  • Play with the cats = 1 hour
  • Plan a possible side hustle = 1 hour
  • Read books = 1 hour (but I wish it were more)
  • Read comics = 1 hour (but I wish it were more)
  • Organise our trip to England = nothing outside of the dinner we are having with our relative, but it should be at least 2 hours a week.
  • Listen to podcasts = nothing because I only ever do this while I’m performing another activity.
  • Think about/plan a move to Orange = nothing.
List of comics I have to read.
Comics from Humble Bundle. Do you see a theme?

So I Do Have Plenty of Hours…

The activities above total 23 hours. That leaves me with 5 hours unaccounted for, which I think would probably add up to transition times, chatting with Mr. ETT, or miscellaneous activities I haven’t considered. I can say that I’m definitely filling up my time. I don’t think I’m filling up my time efficiently, though. This could be what’s causing me to resent work and the time it takes from my days.

Essentials = work and sleep are time-bound. I have no choice as to when I perform them.
Priority Level 1 = roleplaying and cooking/eating are also time-bound. I do have a choice regarding when I write blog posts. An estimate of 3 hours a week means I should schedule it in, and do that for a total of three uninterrupted hours. Perhaps if I can tick off that I’ve completed these sessions, I will get more done and do it more efficiently.
Priority Level 2 = all these are flexible, but I’ll schedule them in.

Maybe if I complete all of my scheduled, prioritised activities, I can reshape my mindset to see the rest as a bonus, and rejoice when I get to do one. Alternatively, I could be wildly under- or over-estimating the amount of time it takes me to do these things, so as painful as it may be, I’ve decided to do a time study.

As I said, I already feel a little better just listing everything I want to do (this is what blogging can do for you). I’m not yet certain how long I will track for, but eventually I’ll publish the results of my time study, and see how close my estimates were.

I’m curious – have you ever done a study, or tracked how you spend your time?

13 thoughts on “Here We Go Again—My Overwhelm Post for 2018

  1. I think this is a great idea! I feel the exact same way – overwhelmed with options and a desire to do it all. I took a different approach by structuring my time. I started waking up an hour earlier in the morning (I also go to bed at 9 and wake up at 5 am) and devote that hour just to writing. I also started using the Any.do task/calendar tracker, which keeps me productive like crazy! I love my paper planner, but I’ve pretty much moved on to exclusively this app.

    • Check out the Any.do Assistant! Crazy stuff. Having that solid hour is wonderful; I think I’ll have to get tough with myself and mimic you.

      I’ve tried a few apps and to-do list makers, but I find I usually come back to my Apple Notes. I didn’t even stick with Habitica, and hello? Roleplayer here. Notes is completely unsophisticated, but it works for me. I find I go back to paper when I’m really stressed, because I like being able to use rainbow coloured pens and gorgeous stationery to physically cross tasks off!

  2. Can’t say I’ve actively tracked my time, but I definitely have a set priority list. I also explore ways in which to maximise my time. Such as having the thermomix has meant cutting down on time spent cooking. Cooking bigger meals that I freeze and then eat later is also a time saver since it means I only cook that meal once instead of twice. I run a tight to-do list as much as possible to make sure that I am getting through what is the most important, and not trying to do everything at once when things can be of a lower priority / done later in the week. All these help me keep sane and not feel overwhelmed!

    • “I run a tight to-do list as much as possible…” I think this is the key. What I’m finding is that I have so much floating around in my head that when I do get some spare time, I end up wasting it because I just can’t pick something. Being lazy, the easiest choice often wins – TV! You’ve given me some ideas to consider, thanks Pia.

  3. Great note! Taking action is much better than taking notes and doing nothing with it! Why not you set your routine with a combination of one higher priority work with one low priority work? If you do like this, then you will do justification with each of your work and also you can enjoy your work a lot.

    • Elfriede, you have picked up on something else – when I do too many things, I’m not doing them justice. By only spending small amounts of time here and there, I’m not getting to concentrate properly on any one of them. I should definitely set aside time to focus on my high priority activities. Thanks for pointing that out!

  4. Wow, I’ve actually never seen a detailed breakdown of time spent before. Pretty interesting. I like your priority layers. At the end of the day, we’re all prioritising every day, whether we think about it or not.

    Towards the end of work I started becoming upset at all the stuff I wanted to do (especially learning) but bloody work was getting in the way.

    Never done the time-tracking myself, but do tend to get very frustrated when realising I’ve been less than productive. On the plus-side, I’m usually ruthless at cutting things that are less important if need be. Same principle probably carried over from our spending.

    Really hope you find some extra time out of this! Perhaps work down the hierarchy each day depending on where you are/what’s available, kinda like you suggested.

    • Good point about the daily prioritising, I’ll mull over that more in my follow-up post.

      This is the thing – I’m feeling this way now, but I still have a solid 10 years (or more) of work left. That’s why I need to deal with it. Working for a decade is reality, and I can’t spend it miserable or constantly wanting more. I have a plan to begin looking for part-time work in 2019, which would suit me perfectly. Completing this exercise will make sure I don’t waste all of the new-found time!

      As for a detailed breakdown? This is being recorded in my tracker right now as “07:40-*Blog comments”. I’ll put in the end time when I finish, then record my next activity.

  5. Sorry to read that you’ve been feeling overwhelmed Mrs ETT but no wonder, as that’s a heck of a mighty ‘to do’ list!

    My hours leaving for work and returning are the same as yours ie 11 but I average 6.5 hours sleep so I have a bit more spare time to play with

    I’ve never really tracked my time to the hour however – I suspect that these days, my sparetime will be taken up by gym/tv/reading books/matched betting/blogging (including writing, reading, commenting)/reading online news articles/socialising/pc gaming.

    I know for a fact that I end up doing more of the above than some other priority stuff I need to do, eg sorting out my paperwork, doing housework etc.

    Anyway, good luck with the prioritised list and perhaps I’ll catch you and Mr ETT when you come to visit Manchester! 🙂

    • My to-do list is all entirely self-imposed, and I am grateful for that. I can’t imagine how much worse it would be to feel like this because I was working two jobs just to make ends meet.

      I shouldn’t be surprised, but so many people have the same hours devoted to work each day that I don’t think we should talk about the 8 hour work day any more. It’s really the 11 hour work day, but we just don’t realise it outside of “Your Money or Your Life.” That was the first time I’d come across the idea that you have to include all your ‘getting ready’ and ‘travelling’ time to your work time.

      I absolutely prioritise the fun stuff over the house stuff, until the state of the house stresses me so much we go on a cleaning rampage. I’m trying to stay on top of it more this year so we are not so erratic.

      Love to catch up in Manchester! We have a lot of rellies there, which is why it is the focus of our trip. I just realised that I didn’t plan my 2018 alcohol ban particularly well. All of those English pubs!

    • Welcome, Little Miss Fire! I love lists too, but it’s a bit crazy that we let them cause us stress, isn’t it? I’ve checked out your blog, I enjoy the graphics that you are creating to illustrate them. It’s (another) thing that I’d like to have a go at but haven’t made time for!

      FIRE is long, and slow, and sometimes you will go backwards. The most important thing is to just keep going. Try again the next month, and the next month, and the next. This is what will get you there, and what will see you far ahead of the average person… eventually.

  6. This has been open to read on my tabs for 3 weeks…I’ve been too busy to read it 😉
    I find the best way to be productive is to plan it all. If I have a spare hour and I don’t actively have an activity then it easily gets wasted (usually down the rabbit hole of social media browsing).
    Looking forward to the follow up post to see how you went with feel less overwhelmed.

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