June 10, 2024

Time blocking - productivity hack or normal babylife? Plus a review of my last 168 hours.

This morning I enjoyed a 45 minute workout at a friend's house.  Here's how the morning went:

4:30 Nurse twins
5:30 Back to sleep
6:15 Awake, kids awake, Audrey awake
7:00 Breakfast
8:00 Get kids ready for school, get bike ready, tidy up breakfast
8:45 Leave for school with big kid, then cycle to friend's house
9:30 Workout at friends house!
10:15 Cycle back from friends house
10:45 Nurse twins

I would say my husband and I put in 100% effort from 4:30am to 11:00am for me to enjoy a 45 minute workout with a friend.

While on my bike ride I thought a bit about Cal Newport and the concept of Time Block Planning.  I personally love time blocking, I remember as a kid I used to make half hourly schedules of my time and was always amazed how much more time I had when I made a detailed plan.  Usually this detailed plan revolved around getting my homework done in time to watch certain TV shows.  [Probably Sister Sister or Full House?]

I find it somewhat funny that the idea of time blocking, through the lens of "productivity gurus", is new and exciting.  

There's a whole time block planner for purchase!  

I'm not sure time blocking is that new... I think perhaps it's just newly applied to the productivity sphere.  Almost every mother has had to live a life of time blocking.  I don't need a calendar to tell me what's happening next week.  I can tell you now:

4:30 Nurse twins
7:00 Family breakfast
10:30 Nurse twins
11:30 Twins (and Rachel) lunch
3:00 Nurse twins
5:30 Family dinner
6:30 Nurse Twins

And that's without school runs (9am and 3:30pm, or 8am and 5pm depending on the day).  And without baby naps (current put downs around 9am and 1pm).  

If the goal of time blocking is to give every minute a job, then small children and babies are particularly adept at structuring my day!

I am not trying to dismiss Cal Newport - I adore so much of his writings and obviously Digital Minimalism was a life changing book for me.  But I still can't shake the feeling that the Productivity world may be adopting and coopting lived experience and packaging it for consumption as something new and exciting.  

I am really looking forward to The Plan - the Kendra Adachi / Lazy genius book coming out in the fall.  I think there's a huge gap in the productivity sphere for women authors.  I've also started listening to 4,000 Weeks again on Audio, and thinking about how one of the major points in Oliver Burkeman's work and Laura Vanderkam's work is that it's not exactly important how we spend every hour or every minute, but it's vitally important how we *feel* about how we spend our hours.

Right now, my hours feel very... hard.  My days feel very kid-busy and me-light.  I looked over my time log from last week and calculated that of my 168 hours, I spent 91 hours engaged in direct childcare & family responsibilities. [My husband's total is also high.  We are not in a scenario where I am default parenting and my husband is playing golf... we just have a lot of small children right now] 

I spent 53 hours sleeping - mostly due to my 8pm bedtime.

In the remaining 24 hours I spent 2 hours doing active exercise (1 run and 1 trip to the gym] and 1 hour getting a pedicure.  I spent 7 hours reading!  And I spent 5 hours tidying.  So while I feel like I mostly do endless babies... there was some not babies.  Although the time log doesn't show it, I'm sure I also showered.  And clearly I wrote a blog post or two.

I don't have any profound end to this meandering post, except to say I am super honoured that Elisabeth over at OptimisticMusings invited me to her blog today for a guest post.  For all the typos and tangents here, Elisabeth is a blogger inspiration with her interesting, thoughtful, and spellchecked posts on incredibly varied and fascinating topics.  Thank you Elisabeth!

How do you feel about your time right now?  Do you "time block plan"?  Does thinking of time in hours and weeks feel weird to you?

13 comments:

  1. I know it's a typo, but "Cycle back from fiends house" made me think that visit was a lot more exciting than it probably was!!

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    1. I cycle much faster when escaping from fiends.

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  2. I recently listened to 168 Hours and it has given me a lot to think about. When I reflect on my time, outside of parenting obligations, it's a lot of reacting rather than planning and I have yet to figure out how to address that. The idea of time blocking seems so hard to me! What if you aren't done with whatever you're doing in the 30-60 minutes you allotted for it?!

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    1. In classic "time block" you just move that block to a new space on your calendar and leave a few blocks open. But also, I think time blocking works better for people who have a lot more control of their days.

      I really liked 168 hours and it's definitely had a profound impact on how I see my time, but I also remember that what works for other people may not be what I want or how I want to live. And that's totally cool too.

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  3. Yay for the workout and also...I HAVE THOUGHTS!

    "So while I feel like I mostly do endless babies... there was some not babies. Although the time log doesn't show it, I'm sure I also showered. And clearly I wrote a blog post or two."

    I do appreciate that time management experts point out that we over-emphasize our working time (be that paid work or time we spend taking care of children) and don't always appreciate just how much time we get to spend on leisure - which for the purposes of this comment I'll equate to me-time.

    BUT...I think that different personalities register it differently. You're tidying up...from kids; so sure you managed to get 5 hours but they were unlikely consecutive - so no flow state - and they were likely at least occasionally unpleasant because you're tidying up kid messes. And, if you hadn't had kids you probably would have only needed 1 hour of tidying. You're likely thinking - at least occasionally - while you read of kid-related things. So I think that sure, most people (thinking especially of mothers in this context) DO have leisure time but that leisure time can often be "contaminated" (that word sounds horrible but I couldn't think of a better word right now) by bleed-over from homemaking responsibilities. For example, on Saturday I got a chance to be on my bed with a book. I read, on paper, for over an hour. But I was also interrupted by children needing something several times. I got through part of my book but it did not feel like leisure/me-time.

    In other news - thanks so much for being on my blog today! What a fun guest post <3

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    1. Ahh as always Elisabeth so on point! And yes, I do definitely struggle with the non-consecutive hours. I bet I could fit in a lot more sport if I did a workout 5 minutes at a time, but I would enjoy that workout a lot less! And I think that "contaminated" is the right word.

      I know it's such a tricky balance between "the stories we tell ourselves" and "just how things are". And mental load is such an all encompassing ruiner of me-time that it's so hard to seperate out leisure from not!

      On the other hand, when I'm in work I do a lot of personal tasks, so I think I'm feeling extra hard done when i don't get to spend my work (maternity) getting much personal done.

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    2. Ahh as always Elisabeth so on point! And yes, I do definitely struggle with the non-consecutive hours. I bet I could fit in a lot more sport if I did a workout 5 minutes at a time, but I would enjoy that workout a lot less! And I think that "contaminated" is the right word.

      I know it's such a tricky balance between "the stories we tell ourselves" and "just how things are". And mental load is such an all encompassing ruiner of me-time that it's so hard to seperate out leisure from not!

      On the other hand, when I'm in work I do a lot of personal tasks, so I think I'm feeling extra hard done when i don't get to spend my work (maternity) getting much personal done.

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  4. First, tours hours ARE hard, in addition to feeling that way - you are doing a LOT virtually constantly in a (currently) endless cycle. Second, this quote struck me like a DING DING DING:

    "But I still can't shake the feeling that the Productivity world may be adopting and coopting lived experience and packaging it for consumption as something new and exciting."

    YES. That is precisely what is happening. Powerful people are extracting and monetizing something less powerful people have always known and done. Capitalism! -rachel, obviously =P

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    1. "Your" hours. Oops

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    2. I wish we could sit and have a mega chat about mega things someday. Too bad I became a legit feminist so long after we lived together! I miss your newsletter thoughts. I miss all your thoughts!

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  5. I also find it so strange whenever "time blocking" is mentioned as a revolutionary productivity hack. But then, my work is very scheduled, so I've always had to allocate tasks to chunks of time - Every day I get a schedule handed to me and it says when I have to be in rehearsal and when I have have a meal break. So of course if I'm to get anything else done, I know where in my day it will have to fit. It's so true that family/kid (specifically) obligations sort of force time blocking to happen - there are immovable objects. I think as kids grow older some of these immovable objects become less so, thankfully. I'm not in rehearsal right now so my time is a little more fluid and unaccounted for than I would like, though.
    I am tickled that you forgot to note showering on your log. I am always leaving "shower" off my when I time track. I don't know why... Is it the nature of the activity? Is it that I often squeeze showering in when I can and try to do it as quickly as possible. Maybe if showering were a more luxurious experience for me, I would remember to put it on my time log. Also "puttering" gets a lot of ink in my time log - and that always drives me mad - like WTF is "puttering"? Well it means I can't remember what I did, but it probably something that needed doing - but did it really need doing if I can't remember it?

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    1. I used to organize trips for professional sports teams and included daily itenaries which covered every hour. I totally agree that it's not really "novel" at all.

      Thanks for the reminder that this is just a small moment in time, nursing is the ultimate time block for me. Or maybe nap schedules (once I get there).

      I should start tracking showers, or at least noting them. Becuase I do take long showers! I think I only log showers if it was a long nice shower, when it's a quick clean shower I don't note it down.

      Oh and yeah, I have "misc house" which is puttering. But I like puttering. I assume it's when i spend my time putting things where they belong in the house. It's basically walking... but indoors.

      That's. a very good point though "did it really need doing if I can't remember it"! I should think of that before I do something... because there's always "stuff" to do.

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  6. I agree with you that time blocking is probably not new, it's just been repackaged. Most people, parents especially, run on a time block schedule without even knowing it half of the time. I always think about time in hours, days, weeks and month and that's just a necessity of modern life. We don't rise with the sun, we rise with the alarm clock (or crying babies) .

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