As most people I have hard time setting time for myself, be it for reading, learning something new, writing a blog post (since I’ve started I have been interrupted twice by Skype questions from my coworker, and I replied), or even for watching a movie. With years I got disciplined and made a few rules for myself that I try not to break.
- I set time for work. And even if I work from home I am not going to touch our dining table or sweep the floors. I literally forget that I am at home and do not stress out about that piece of cucumber on the floor, our lunch today or the guinea pig cage that desperately needs cleaning.
- I set time in my calendar with clear start and end time. For example, Tuesday from 8:30am to 2:30pm work on community building for the brand. I figured out that six hours is good enough time. And I do not schedule any meetings for these hours. I also do not answer calls that are not project related.
- I leave 30min slots between each large task or project, this allows me to walk around, breath through, and answer this urgent email from my mom or text a friend who is inviting us for dinner on Saturday. Generally speaking I lose these 30 minutes. However, losing them allows me to save chunks of 4 and 6 hours of uninterrupted time without feeling bad that I am not being responsive to my family and friends.
These three steps allowed me to concentrate on my work and to do a good job when it comes to business. However, I am still struggling to find time for my own growth.
For growth and “feeling good about my life” I need:
- To read in chunks of 1-3 hours
- Study (I am fan of Coursera courses)
- Write my thoughts (via email, blog, or just in a notepad)
And it has been challenging, because I never seem to find a solid block of time to do these things daily. It seems the reverse of my working scheme. I focus on something for 30 minutes and then lose 3-4 hours on just stuff, mostly small stuff (helping kids with homework, fixing dinner, finding my son’s lost sock, scraping magic putty from my daughter’s bedsheets – No, she did not put it there, my son did. And if you are interested, you can only get it off by scraping the putty with a butter knife from the wet and soaped sheet.)
Today a friend sent me two articles on time management and maker’s vs. manager’s schedules. Here they are:
Article about Google email about time management strategy
Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule by Paul Graham
After reading both I started to think how come I have such hard time finding chunks of time for myself when I am not working. And then I thought, what’s the purpose, I am going to be interrupted anyway. And this is it: we expect to be interrupted.
As a kid I grew up first in Russia and later in Spain. A girl, a woman, is always supposed to help at home. When my mom would be cooking I would be asked to help clean the counter or set the table. When she would be cleaning I would be asked to help water the plants. When the friends were at the table I was asked to serve the tea or bring something from the fridge. Those were not hard tasks at all, and most of the time I enjoyed doing them. However this daily routine set me for “I am going to be interrupted” mode. It made me not start anything that would require deep concentration and absentmindedness. On the other hand, my brother, who by the age of 10 was sitting long hours at his computer playing and then programming, was considered a lost case. He was hard to get hold of, everything would take him 30 min more, considering it got him 30 min to just get off his chair, and at the end he was asked much less than I was.
I grew up expected to jump off my sit and help right away. I think that most of the girls are raised this way. When it comes to simple household tasks girls are asked more than boys to help. And we grow up with the “schedule” where we can’t sit at home for 3 hours without being interrupted. Most of the time we will be asked to do something every 30 minutes if not more often. This sets us up for future manager’s schedule, but prevents us from working as makers. Those are my thoughts on why I find it so hard to set 2-3 hour chunks for myself every day to just read and learn.
I am raising two kids. One girl and one boy, and the truth being said, I ask my daughter to help more, exactly as I was asked to help more when I was 10. The simple reason is that my son would be so involved with his legos or books or whatever he is doing that it is hard to get his attention. I would need to repeat the same thing 5 times and to go fetch him, and then chase him, and then he will negotiate with me (in most cases unsuccessfully) trying to get more iPad time in exchange for help. My daughter would just come and help. And I chose the easy way.
Ok, as the next steps, I will set up some uninterrupted evening / night time for myself. And yes, I will have to do something with my kids’ schedules. In the past few days I had to leave them for a few hours at home by themselves, and each time I wrote for them a list of tasks they had to do before they could play iPads. Miraculously every time I got back home everything was done in the best possible way (I mean it! They literally cleaned what I asked them to clean). I think I can try this strategy for a bit and see if it works. This way they can do things at their own rhythm, and my daughter gets a chance to be a maker as well.