A Timely Update

PictureI wrote last week about the author Laura Vanderkam and her ideas on time management. She has a three-part series of short e-books that offer great ideas. I’d already read “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast,” and when I went onto her site last week I noticed this one, which I bought for about $3 through Audible.com. (I’m an Audible member and pay a monthly membership fee of $12.95–something like that–but since these short books are only about $3 it’s not worth it for me to buy them with my credits,, so I just bought it directly.) I also bought “What the Most Successful People Do at Work,” also for around $3. And then I realized that I needed to listen to her book 168 Hours: Why You Have More Time Than You Think, which I did buy with an Audible credit. (My Audible credits are stacking up, so I need to use them.) The link to her website above will give you ordering info on all of her books.

But if you’re not up for all of this material, I’d encourage you to at least get this one. Why? Because of its focus on choice. I’m all about intentionality! You may think,’Yeah, but weekends are for relaxing, for sitting around in your pajamas reading the paper.’ The speaker at the Bible Study Fellowship conference I attended a couple of weekends ago said that she liked to stay in her pajamas until noon on Saturdays. Which is, like, absolutely and totally great. I’m glad she does that.

But you know what? When I do that, it’s not really intentional. I’m sitting there at 10:30 at the kitchen table, in my bathrobe, with “Car Talk” on the radio, reading stuff on my computer, but I often don’t enjoy that time because I have this nagging thought in the back of my mind about what I should be doing, or what I would rather be doing. I haven’t chosen to do what I’m doing but have instead sort of drifted into it. (This subject has come up before on this blog.) If, on the other hand, I said to myself on Saturdays, ‘I’m not getting dressed until 11:00,’ then I’d enjoy sitting there more because I’d have chosen to do it.

Anyway, enough about my Saturday-morning angst. Vanderkam starts out her book with an extended example drawn from the life of Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and would-be Presidential candidate, who now leads an incredibly busy life as a speaker and commentator. How does he stay sane? He has a Sabbath-like plan for his weekends. (Most people know that Huckabee is a Christian; a regular part of his weekend is church attendance.) It sounds kind of weird to have a relaxation plan, doesn’t it? Otherwise, though, you can end up on Sunday evening just feeling kind of blah and totally unready to face the workweek. I found myself this past weekend feeling much more choice-oriented about how I spent my time and therefore much happier about it.

Which brings me back to Toggl, the app I wrote about last week. Who knows how long I’ll actually stick with using it, but so far I really, really like it. I did spend a little time here and there setting up my “projects,” which include the following (in no particular order):

1. Bible (which would include church, working on my BSF material and contacting the women in my group)
2. Personal care (all that showering, shampooing, toothbrushing, blow-drying stuff)
3. Cherry Creek Chorale (writing posts, practicing music at home, attending rehearsals)
4. Cooking and Eating (this includes meal prep, eating at home or at a restaurant alone, or a meal with Jim & Gideon)
5. Entertaining (I should probably make a distinction here between food prep for a family or solitary meal and prep for a company meal–I don’t want to make things too complicated, but I do spend way more time on a compny meal than one for “just” us.)
6. Reading
7. Leisure and Creativity (Activities other than reading, I guess. I may change this a bit.)
8. Housework and Errands
9. Off the Clock (I’m aiming for that to start at around 9:30, meaning that I’m in bed, reading or listening to a podcast, ready to turn off the light at 10:00.)

You can assign a different color to each project, which is fun, and if you choose the setting to group same activities it will do so. You end up with a readout of amount spent on each project, not a minute-by-minute account, which I like. There’s some falling through the cracks, of course, and you have to remember to change the project when you go on to a different activity or it just stays on the same one. So yesterday, for instance, I forgot to change the category when I left church to drive over to the restaurant where we were having lunch, so all that driving time counted as “church.” And while my timer says that I’ve spent an hour and 20 minutes on this post, that time includes letting in cats, buying the Vanderkam books, and a quick kitchen cleanup that I didn’t want to bother entering. Keep the main thing the main thing, as they say. My overall activity has been writing this post, and I haven’t allowed myself to see what Jonah Goldberg has to say today. (Although I did have to bop over to National Review to put in that link.)

I’m sure there’ll be a couple more categories–when spring hits, I’ll add “gardening” as a separate one, probably, or I may just put it as an activity under #7. The big thing is that I not drive myself crazy with this, or I’ll end up dropping it. Right now, though, after less than a week of use, I’m already seeing some real benefits. At one point during the weekend I sat down to watch “This Old House” or some such, and then there was a show coming on after that, but I didn’t want to have to put a whole hour of TV watching on the clock, so I got up and did something else. It’s just a tool, and, as I always say, tools are no good unless you use them. As an Obliger I need all the outside nudges I can get, though, and Toggl seems to be filing that role for now.

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