Thursday, October 21, 2010

My 24

After my most recent update post, I got a comment that sounded like many I have gotten before. "You do so much, I don't know how you do it," or "You have kids! How do you find the time to do all this stuff?"
I think this is a very interesting question, and I'll try to answer it.

There are 24 hours in a day. No matter who you are, no matter where you live, we all have the same amount of day at our discretion.

Personally, I am often thinking that I don't do nearly as much as I could. I spend too much time on the computer and I can dink around as well as anyone I know. On the days when I really put my mind to productivity I can do twice as much as on an average day. It is also only fair to inform you that, along with my Productive Days, I also have Lazy Days, wherein my accomplishments for the day are usually limited to making dinner, maybe a load of laundry, reading most of a book, and/or writing three blog posts.

I do NOT "multi-task." For one thing, there is no such thing--it's simply a matter of rapidly going from one task to another and then back again. The human mind CANNOT do multiple things at once [link] [link][link](see, science agrees with me). No, I do not do multiple things at once. I don't really "switchtask" either (going back and forth between two or three things--read the first link). But I do change activities throughout the day. I sort the laundry then put in a load to wash. Then I mix up the bread and set it to rise. Then I change a diaper. Then I move the laundry into the dryer and put in another load. Then I dink around on the computer for a while or read my book. Then I punch down the bread for another rising, and switch out the laundry again. Another diaper, put baby down for a nap, play with my toddler, do a little knitting... Really, there is nothing extraordinary about my days.

Mama always told us that "a change is as good as a rest" and I have certainly always found that to be true in my life. I don't need to take a break from getting things done, I just need to change activities regularly. Having small children facilitates this beautifully, as I am constantly being interrupted to feed someone or wash a bottom or attend to the latest little heartbreak or outbreak of contention.

We all have the same number of hours in a day, and we can only do one thing at a time. As Gandalf said, how much time we have "is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." [link] So how do I "do so much?" I simply try not to spend too many of those hours in waste. It is that simple.
  • I do best when I sleep around 8-9 hours a night, and I usually get at least 8. I got by just fine on 7 hours when I was in college, but I don't anymore. I consider getting enough sleep to be a very worthwhile use of my time.
  • I don't spent much time preening myself--a quick shower is about it (my morning 'put-myself-together' routine takes about 5 minutes if I don't shower, and 10-15 min if I do, and consists of putting on clothes and combing my hair, no makeup, no fancy stuff). For the sake of the math let's add in bathroom trips and so on, and call it about a half hour a day spent on personal hygiene time.
  • I spend a couple of hours a day online--I admit it's often more. I justify it as my "mental health/adult interaction" time, but I could cut it down and still be fine in those regards. I try to have a screen-free day every week or so.
  • I do not work outside the home, I suppose that allows me to do more within my home. But I do work from home sometimes (and besides, the people who have asked me how I "do so much" are often also stay-at-home moms).
  • I usually put a couple of hours a day into preparing meals. Sometimes more, but usually not less. Good food matters, not just for physical health, but the time and effort and slowness of home cooking is healthy on emotional and intellectual levels as well. It requires a level of consciousness about living which I feel is very important.
  • Another hour or so goes into chores--laundry, cleaning rooms, doing dishes, vacuuming, etc etc. Once a week or so I do some deeper cleaning and spend a couple of hours. About once a week I take a couple of hours to go grocery shopping.
  • I spend a couple of hours--even three--doing stuff specifically for my kids. Changing diapers, nursing, settling disputes, shuttling them around, helping with homework, or just playing with them... With a newborn of course it's more, but with a nurse-every-hour newborn I do a lot of nursing at the computer, or with a book in my hand; and often one of the kids helps me with cooking or cleaning, or I guide homework while making dinner, so things overlap. I think 3 hours is a fair estimate.
So of 24 hours in a day
.5--personal care
3--miscellaneous kid stuff
16.5 hours of the day consumed by my normal routine. That leaves me over 7 hours for doing all kinds of other things. Some days that gets sucked up by park trips or grocery shopping. Other days it gets sucked up by the computer. Some days it gets sucked into big projects (such as spring cleaning, or winterizing the house, or a sewing project, or a culinary endeavor, or building a website, or canning...), and other days I spend my time with a good book, or long shower, or with friends.

But we all have the same 24 hours in a day. I don't think my productivity is anything remarkable. And now I'm really curious--if you don't have the time to "do so much," then what are you doing with your 24? (If you blog about this, leave me your link please! I really do want to know!)


Sarah Familia said...

I don't know where my 24 go. I spend a good portion of them at Italian government offices lately, trying to disentangle myself from all the miles of red tape. I'd like to know what those guys do with THEIR 24. But at least now I know all your productivity secrets!

katejaxx said...

My 24 revolves around my very hands on 3 month old. Until about a week and a half ago he would only nap when held. I would make that my computer/reading time (basically "me" time. Sometimes on more difficult/fussy days it can take me 30-40 minutes to get him to even go to sleep. He also eats every 1-2 hours round the clock (more like 2 to 2 1/2 at night.)

He's my first child so I'm still learning to be productive while still giving him the attention he needs. I just remind myself on unproductive days that my son needs my attention now and that I can work to make tomorrow more productive. :)

Sprgtime said...

What I do with my time is almost identical to yours, but the big difference I see is that my (one) child occupies far more than 3 hours of my day.
We spend at least 2 hours a day outdoors in physical activity.
The last 2 hours of his day is spent eating dinner with me and then bedtime (bath/reading/pajamas/teeth/nursing) routine - wherein I get nothing done except that.

Although, I've recently started babysitting 2 other toddlers, and I've noticed mine is far more active than they are, but having them around makes my 1 easier to manage. I can actually get a little done while the 3 of them play together. Apparently I should have started watching other children a long time ago, it's just that until recently I didn't feel like I could handle more than my one kid.

BonnieKaye said...

I haven't not looked at blogs or Facebook for quite awhile now, but when I got on Facebook and saw your upcoming post on how you get so much done I was curious. Today my kid is actually taking a good nap (cross fingers) so I thought, after doing a bunch of church stuff) I could take a few minutes and read your post. Love it. Seriously, it made me feel good that you need 8-9 hours of sleep. I'm definitely happy with 9. This is getting long, but I think the key is to have a plan, at least for me. Of course, the plan doesn't always work, but if I don't have a plan I can't tell you what I did all day. K, that's all.

Mommy Bee said...

I didn't mean to suggest that I don't spend more than 3 hours a day with my kids! I meant that I only need about 3 hours to do stuff like diapers and feedings.
My kids are involved with me in a lot of other things--they cook with me, they play near me when I'm on the computer or sewing. They crawl in my lap when I'm knitting or reading. And definitely, when kids are small they take up more time than when they get bigger. And some kids are more clingy than others--Bear hardly left my arms/lap for 8 months. Eagle, on the other hand, was scootching around the floor on his own at 4 months and hardly wanted me for more than meals thereafter.
Every kid is different, but there is NOTHING wrong (and everything right!) about living in the present season, and taking care of your kids when and how they need you!

Sprgtime said...

Oh, no no, I was completely picturing you being with your kids for most of the day, as a SAHM.

It's just that... I can't (machine) sew unless my son is asleep. He won't stay away from it, he's too fascinated by the needle. I do cook with him, fold laundry with him, other chores with him "helping" but I often feel so severely handicapped at my ability to be efficient with time - because everything takes soooo much longer to do when he's around.
I guess the 3 hours part is the one that surprised me. In my son's first year - diapers and feedings alone took up probably 8 hours, at least. He soaked his diapers hourly, and fed hourly. As he got older, feedings were faster and less often, but yikes those first 6 months I did absolutely nothing but change/feed and do very basics like cooking and laundry.
Even now, potty trained and 2 years old, I spend more than 3 hours a day being able to do nothing more than being with him (like when we're outdoors for 2+ hours, or during our 2-hour-long bedtime routine, which I've been unable to shorten). That's 4 hours just those 2 items, and then he's got nearly hourly potty trips where he needs my assistance.
This time is fun, I know it will pass soon, but I also look forward to being able to actually get more done in a day where I can have something to show for it.

Mommy Bee said...

My Bear had a 1-2hr bedtime routine until he was almost 3. Then almost overnight he started just laying down by himself, 5-10 min of snuggles, and he goes to sleep on his own.
The time will come. :)

ashley said...

Where oh where do my 24 go? I just may have to post about this!

Thomasin said...

I love posts like this--the peek into another woman's daily routine. And one I can admire! When I was a SAHM (which was only the 12 weeks after my peanut was born. But which I think is in my future in the next 6 months--so excited!) I was a total wreck. I got nothing done. But I hope it was just the fact that I was a new mama, not the fact that I was terrible at homemaking. Maybe?

I don't get a lot done at home now, working 9 hours outside of the home, and it's very frustrating for me. The hours that I do spend at home aren't super productive and I think it's because I don't use that very clever idea of your mother's; I've been taking breaks when I get tired/overwhelmed/bored instead of switching to a new task. I really think that's a helpful idea. Thank you! :-)

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