Life balance. That’s something many of us are striving for, nowadays. I’m no exception – it has been on my wish-list for the last 15 years, at least… And now, finally, I think I’m starting to get on track.
The reason why I’ve never been successful before, I think, is that I’m a time-optimist and I love learning new things. Not a good combination if you want to have some kind of balance in life. And the way I have been living is with periods of activity, more and more activities and then periods of full stop and no activities at all for a while (when my fatigue syndrome kicked in). I like to think of myself as a fast learner, but this has taken me years to learn: there isn’t time in a day to do all the things I want to do.
This spring, I started thinking about time-management, not for the first time. I had finally accepted that I’m not going to work full time again, probably never. I’ve accepted our societies view that 8 hours a day, 5 days a week is the norm all of my adult life, even though I’ve been on sick-leave for various portions of that work-week for the last 10 years. I realised that the way of working that I’m doing now (4 hours/day, 5 days/week almost three years going) is most likely the way I will be continuing to work for the rest of my working life. But what then should I do with my time? 20 hours a week “extra”, I should be doing something worthwhile, right?
But I had been working like this for 2 years already, what was I actually doing with my time? That was a good question. Reading a lot, about happiness research, about simple living, about minimalism, about frugality. And telling my friends in our happiness group all about it. Reading fiction, binge-watching TV-shows… But not 20 hours a week, I didn’t think… or was I? I do know that without knowing what the reality is, you can’t change it in a meaningful way. Just like you can’t make a realistic budget without first checking up on your actual finances, I needed to know where I was spending my time if I wanted to spend it better.
So I started to look for a way to keep track of my time. Since my cell phone is usually very close by, I checked out apps at Play Store (Googles, since i have an android-phone). And stumbled upon something even better, although I didn’t realise it at first: Goalist.
This app is a combination of todo-list, timetracker, goalkeeper and a lot of other things. It allowed me to do exactly what I first wanted: to note down what I was doing during the day so that I got a record of what I had actually been doing. After a while, I started to use it as a planner. I put in the time I needed for sleep, work, a little excercise, housework – the things I need to do. And then filled up with things I wanted to do. And something very interesting happened: as I adjusted the tasks to the time they actually took, I realised that everything took way longer than I thought it would. Every single task. So I had to prolong them. And then the app adjusted the time for the following tasks in the same day, and there wasn’t enough time for them, and so I had to move them to the next day. And then when I wanted to add the next task the app kindly announced: “Your day is full. You need to either shorten or remove another task in order to put this in.” What? But I had a lot of stuff still on my want-to-do list! And so I removed something, or moved it on to the next day. And the next day the same thing happened. And again, and again…
And finally it got through to me. I was aiming to do much more than possible. My day has only 24 hours, and I need time to sleep, cook and eat, rest, move my body as well as all the things that interest me on a more intellectual level. And my days were full, with only working 20 hours a week my days were already filled. No wonder I’ve had relapses into fatigue syndrome, I’ve been trying to do something impossible – that’s bound to make you exhausted.
So I realised that just as I needed to clear away the excess of things in my home to live a simpler life, I also need to clear away the excess of things to do with my time. More about this in later posts!