|Stuff that make me happy: Roo and Red, Travel, Financial Independence, and Passing It On|
Nowadays, I'm juggling "play and learn" with my little ones, a challenging full-time Finance role, and a thriving photography business, which I greatly enjoy. I travel whenever I can, make time to meet with friends, and organize gatherings. Recently, I've signed on for a 150++ hours Intensive Mandarin course. I love stories and images, and blog regularly (at least a couple of times a month). A few friends have asked me how I do it, and I respond back with "very little sleep and probably a lot of things falling through the gaps."
As I get more stretched for time, the idea of unknown time has nagged at me. How can I not be in complete control of where my time goes? I wanted the reassurance that what I'm 'investing' on now are aspects of my life that are truly important and meaningful. If I want to maximize my time, I need to actively choose what I do.
So I sought out to get a quantitative answer to the question: "Where does Time Go?"
This is a first step of many. But it is a very important step. Because you can't fix what you don't know.
One evening, I sat myself down and accounted for every half hour increment of the week in an excel sheet (complete with assumptions). I tagged them to specific tasks, and rolled them up into categories which were meaningful to me. It wasn't a straightforward exercise. Some weeks are drastically worse that others. But even if I simply assumed an "average" week, there were plenty of insights, and clear implications when my average week goes extraordinary.
Insight 1: The way I categorized things reveals my priorities. Simply grouped, I have Roo and Red (always ranked #1 in my priorities), Work which can be spliced out between Finance and Photography, Time for Me (which includes taking a bath, dressing up, coffee breaks, and Mandarin lessons), and of course, Sleep. At first glance, it doesn't look very far off from how I'd like things to be, except for more sleep, please. When I shared my "time map" to friends, they immediately asked "What about your husband?", to which I jokingly responded, "Oh, that usually doesn't take longer than 15 minutes." Yup. Instant red flag. "And what about friends and all that travelling that you do?" Another red flag.
I'm going to make sure there's dedicated time for people I care about, and my bucket list. Sometimes, when we're too focused on the everyday tasks, we forget to invest time into life goals, and important relationships which need to be nurtured.
While I'm happy with my 15% with the little ones, I do need to make sure I am giving them the quality of time by "unplugging." Being together does not necessarily mean attentiveness or engagement. There's always pressure to multi-task, but it's important to know when to juggle multiples, or when to focus on the people who need you to be fully present.
Insight 3: There are some things that NEED to be done, to enable one to do a reasonably good job on everything else. One of them is sleep. The other is to eat. Higher up in the hierarchy of needs is inspiration. I'm working on being mindful of my health and taking care of basic needs first. Irregular sleep and irregular meals does not make a happy (or healthy) Steph.
Awareness is a precursor to choice. Knowing the full picture empowers you to make informed decisions. It feels good even if you decide not to change anything, because it only means you've actively chosen what are important in your life.
I've shared the first three "tweaks" I'm choosing to make with my time. There are plenty more, and I'll likely be sharing updates on Project 168 once a month. I'm sharing this as an open invitation to to find out where your time goes, and think about the first three things you'd change...
It's been a mind-opening exercise, and a balanced, sustainable "time map" is still a work-in-progress. At the very least, now, whenever H suggestively asks if I have 5 minutes, I can empirically say, "Don't worry, I have 30."
This kicks off what will be an an ongoing introspective on Mindfulness, called Project 168: