Saturday, January 20, 2018

My time is (not) your time

A while back, before the endless year of 2017, we were talking about keeping track of time (me and these happy few, this band of sisters on the blogroll) and productivity.  At the time Laura Vanderkam was making a splash by making excellent use of lots of money to hire help to do the work we do for free her "productivity journey" of logging every second of her day.

Gwinne asked in a recent post about how to find "high-energy time" for the work she needs to do.  That seems to me to be more the issue: not how to find time, because you can always get up at 4:30 a.m. or some outlandish thing to go to the gym, but how not to do a faceplant into your desk at 10 a.m. when you do so. Time is finite. Energy is finite. Put them together, as you must to do anything creative, and they seem to diminish in exponential proportions.

I was thinking of this recently because of something to do with an ongoing collaborative project and a document. Said document has been edited ad infinitum and back, but we had added something and needed to do a bit more. My collaborators are lovely, but the part we needed to edit was exacting stuff, requiring energy, logic, creative thought, and all those things I would usually save for writing. Add to this the fact that some in our group don't feel that they've done anything unless they've changed a word for its synonym (i.e., changes that don't make a difference).

So I clocked in and out in my little notebook. Time going over the sections to discuss: 2.75 hours. And then I mentioned it in my response, phrasing it positively as reminding ourselves of the work we're doing collaboratively and its importance.

Asked whether I would go over it again before our conversation, I said that I had the hour before the meeting to look at it. "Will that be enough?" they asked. "It will have to be," I said. "That's all the time I can allot to it."  The meeting went well, and we're still positive about the project.

What difference did it make to keep track of the time? Or to mention it?

It made me feel as though my time was not in a giant vat somewhere that people could dip into and out of as they needed to. I gave them a measure of it and let them know when it was enough. It still cut into my writing--after that, and class, I had no brainpower left--but I felt in control.

Pace Rudy Vallee, it's not so much that my time is or isn't your time (sometimes it is), but realizing that I can keep track and limit it makes a huge difference.


gwinne said...

Thanks for the link to my post!

Yup--I really couldn't agree with this more. I have very much resisted tracking my time because I already know in the big picture--really, down to the half hour--where my time goes. What might be helpful is finding out what happens in the two minutes here and there that add up over the course of the day (hello, Twitter!) but I feel like tracking that would probably take more time than it's worth. Maybe not....

I do need to find some strategies to find more of that good, productive time, if I have it in me. I know I did at various points in my life. Cutting sleep is not going to happen for me; I have too much PTSD from major insomniac days.

I am getting creative....I've been trying to schedule a meeting with student organization for two weeks and finally I told them if they were willing to meet me at my classroom (across campus from my office) we could talk for 20 minutes before I head out to get Tiny Boy. I can make the time to talk to them....just not the extra 30 minutes to walk to my office and then walk back to my car. Looking for more of these sorts of strategies...

Tiruncula said...

So much this. I resist tracking time for personal improvement, but since leaving academe I do lots of work in which I charge by the hour and track time spent on various tasks so as not to under-bill for time worked. It is *enormously* helpful and enlightening to do this, and it took years out of academe to really get used to properly valuing my time. Now even when I do other work that I don't bill hourly, I don't hesitate to say, "You can afford to pay me to do this (but not that)," or "They're not paying me enough to do (hours-filling busywork crap)."


xykademiqz said...

not how to find time, because you can always get up at 4:30 a.m. or some outlandish thing to go to the gym, but how not to do a faceplant into your desk at 10 a.m. when you do so. Time is finite. Energy is finite.

This is what irks me to no end -- why can't I just go-go-go? I feel like my whole life is a battle against the pull of my stupid body to sleep or eat or just slow down. I want to be able to never sleep and to always have boundless energy. Is that so much to ask?

hitaakademi said...
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undine said...

gwinne, that 20 minutes and having them come to meet you will be a huge savings of time. Like you, I know I spend time on Twitter & it's a time suck, but it's a mental break and as such is better than a "food now--I'm bored" break.

Tiruncula--Hooray for speaking up about being paid what you're worth and reclaiming your time! I read on Twitter the other day about a project manager that said to a consultant, "Let's put down triple your suggested fee so that you'll be paid what the men are being paid for doing this."

xykademizq--boundless energy, sure! If you figure it out, tell us the secret :).

Z said...

I told a colleague I could only spend an hour on something and as a result he is not speaking to me.