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
- 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
- Read all the books I want to read
- Read comics
- Plan a possible side hustle (oh yeah, I’m fickle)
- Watch TV
- Call friends
- Plan our future
- Play with the cats
- Listen to podcasts
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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?