Where does all the time go?

I’ve made a start writing this on my day off. I’m working the weekend, so I have a mid week day off. It’s useful, as I usually book in all my appointments that can’t be done at the weekend. Not all that exciting maybe, but definitely necessary. I’m not quite sure how I used to organise my life before I had every second Thursday off. Mind you, in my pre-kids life there probably wasn’t quite so much organising needed.

So my question is, where does all the time go? I only work seven hours a day. Add in a lunch break, which I very efficiently make use of by catching up on sleep in my car, but I’m still finished for the day by 4.00. I only live a fifteen minute drive away(let’s not get in to the fact that I almost certainly should be running or cycling to work rather than wasting money on petrol). I get home, catch up with the kids and make tea. One night a week I take one boy to his chess club and the other boy and I hit Aldi to get the food shopping done. I have running club two nights a week and see the boyfriend two nights. At the weekend there’s Park Run and a long run on a Sunday morning. I also go swimming on a Sunday night just to round the weekend off nicely.

Now these are all things that I enjoy doing. Well, maybe not quite so much the Aldi shopping, but you know a girl has to eat. I’m really trying to focus on my running just now, so I’m definitely not prepared to give any of that up. As I’ve only been seeing the boyfriend for four months it would seem a bit churlish to start curtailing date night. Time with the kids is really important to me, and as  they’re both teenagers I feel like you just have to catch them at the right moment when they want to chat. It’s not something you can really schedule in advance. I feel like I’m constantly chasing my tail and getting nowhere fast.

Prioritising is clearly the key, but actually doing something about that is another matter. I’ve started using the calendar on my phone to keep track of how I’m using my time and scheduling in the time to do things that are important to me. I’m finding that I’m frequently moving tasks that I don’t want to do to the following week. The fact that they’re not getting done is making me think they’re probably not a huge priority for me just now. Some of them are things that I know are important (like backing up photos), but that don’t necessarily need to be done this very second. The stupid thing is that when I do get around to doing these jobs they invariably don’t take that long, and I feel an immense sense of relief that they’re no longer on my To Do list.

I’ve got a box of flat pack furniture in the hall just now which is mocking me. I meant to put it in my phone to do today, but I must have forgotten. I can’t tell you how happy I felt this morning when I realised it wasn’t on my list. The games we play with ourselves.

I’m trying to build some efficiency habits in to my life. I think the more things that I can do on automatic pilot without needing my brain involved in the decision making process, the easier life will be. I’m starting small. So with two teenage boys in the house the amount of food preparation and clearing up is immense. I try to delegate some of this work. Try being the operative word. They can both cook, and are happy enough to cook or bake snacks for themselves. The bulk of the evening meal preparation falls on me though. The numbers of plates, cups, glasses and pans that we get through in a day is quite astounding. So the dishwasher needs to go on every day. Whether that actually happened or not used to be a bit hit and miss. Now it’s a rule that I need to put the dishwasher on before I go to bed. It’s the kids’ job to empty it, and I fill it and stick it on before I go upstairs at night. I know I have to do it, so there’s no internal argument about how I’m too tired and will do it tomorrow.

I make a salad up every night for my lunch at work the next day. It used to be that I would be on the couch thinking about going to bed and would remember that I still had to go and make my lunch up. Now I make it whilst I’m making the tea. There’s always a bit of waiting around whilst you’re cooking, so that’s my salad making time. It sounds like such a small thing, but honestly the difference it has made is incredible. I need to think of other small changes like this that will make my life easier and keep my brain freed up for more interesting decision making processes. 

As far as my finances are concerned I’ve managed to automate most of what I’m doing at the moment. I have my budgeting spreadsheets set up for the year, so I just input the figures every time I spend anything. It’s a good incentive to not spend much as I don’t want to have get my ancient laptop out and wait a million years for it to load up. My mortgage overpayments come out automatically straight after pay day and deductions come straight off my salary before I see it for buying shares. The next job is for me to do some research on index trackers as I want to start investing in those when my I get my payrise in April. Perhaps I should task myself with the research now, so I’ll maybe have got it done by the spring.

I got rid of Facebook from my life just before Christmas. I was finding that I was spending an inordinate amount of time scrolling for no particular reason. I’m not saying I’ll never go back to it again, but for me it’s definitely a great way to carve out some extra free time for more useful activities. I prefer to read blogs and listen to podcasts, that way I feel as though I’m learning things rather than just faffing about. Although I do think there is a danger that you can read and listen to lots of different things that really inspire you, but if you don’t actually take any action then you’re not any further forward.

I find that work just seems to suck all the energy out of me. I get home absolutely drained and with not much energy to want to do much. That’s not quite true actually. The will is there, but the energy is sadly lacking. I know I don’t get enough sleep, and I am working on that, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get quite as much sleep as my body would like. It’s a balance isn’t it? There’s lots of things I want to do with my life, but there are finite resources in terms of time and energy. It’s trying to find the balance to get the things done that need to be done, and making the time for the things that will move you in the right direction for where you want your life to be.

I sometimes think I would be better off working part time like I used to do. My working week is 35 hours, but I used to just work 30. You don’t lose that much in terms of the money, and you don’t need to take a lunch break, so I could be finished for the day by 2.00. That would give me a couple of extra hours in the day to try and get some more things done. Maybe that would give me the opportunity to work on a side hustle. I love the idea of a portfolio career. Not being dependent on one employer for all your income seems really sensible to me. I love the idea of being financially independent, and not having to work for The Man is incredibly appealing to me. I can’t help feeling though that maybe the way to go is to keep some sort of fairly stable income from employment and try to build some side sources of income. I think I would enjoy my work a lot more if I didn’t feel quite so tethered to it and if it wasn’t draining me of all my energy.

So maybe that’s something that I want to try to work towards. If I could get myself in a position where I had developed some sort of a side hustle that brought me in enough that I could afford to reduce my hours at work. Realistically I will need/want to keep some sort of work going even when my pension kicks in at 60. I think that balance is really what I’m after. I am hoping that my dividend income will grow over the years to plug the shortfall in my pension. Whilst I’m waiting for that to happen though some additional income would allow me to hopefully get closer to FIRE and give me the confidence that I could earn enough income later in life to allow me to do what I want with my life.   

So I’ll keep plugging away trying to make better use of my time. I’m sure developing better habits is the way to go. Reducing the number of decisions I need to make in a day will allow me to make the right choices when it really counts. No doubt I’ll keep rescheduling things on my To Do list, but as long as I’m moving in the right direction I think I can probably live with that.

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