Time management

Today has been a good day. With the kids back at school and the husband back at work I decided that I needed to try to use my time better. However much I may voice the desire, I cannot create more hours in the day, so I need to improve how I use those that are available.

You’ve heard this before right? I am great at starting each new week with positive plans; not so good at following through for more than a few days. Who knows if I will do any better this time, but I can try.

Over the weekend husband wanted to go walking. I am always happy to get out into the countryside so put aside Sunday for an enjoyable day away. Then I saw the walk that he was suggesting. Wiltshire is undulating and I can cope with that; husband wanted to drive into Wales to the beautiful Brecon Beacons, and his plan was to bag a few mountainous peaks. With my current level of fitness I knew that I would not be able to keep up.

Time was, not so long ago, when this would have been a fine way for me to spend a day. I suggested that husband took eldest son and, despite him offering to do something less strenuous instead, assured him that he should do the walk he wanted without me. I only have myself to blame that I am not capable of such exertions.

After this experience I am determined to do something that will ensure I need not miss out next time. This morning I took myself down to the gym and managed a tough workout followed by a swim. No doubt I will ache tomorrow but at least I have made a start. The challenge will be to keep going, and to eat more healthily alongside.

The older I get the longer it seems to take to feel the benefit of changes to diet and exercise. So much time and effort is needed to achieve what came easily in my younger years. However, I am not yet too old to get fit enough to climb a mountain. All I need is the continuing willpower to effect the change I desire.

Once again I come back to the issue of time, and hence my wish to manage my day better. I want to continue to enter each of the fiction challenges that I enjoy, but also to take part in favoured blog hops. I want to be reading the blogs I follow and leaving comments, something that I have been neglecting recently. I have so many books that I want to read and review I could lose days to this favourite pursuit. If I am to care for my house and family as they deserve then something is going to have to give, and I suspect it is going to have to be the hours that I currently devote to my writing.

Balance is good in life and I am sure that I can find a way to fit in what is truly important. When I see how much others manage to accomplish I realise that I can do better than I have been achieving recently. I do not plan on giving anything up entirely, merely changing how much time I devote to any one thing.

That is the theory, now I need to act. Day one has gone well; onwards and upwards.

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A typical week

Contributing to Perfection Pending‘s Blog Hop

Perfection Pending

Monday: I am up and ready to face a new week, not so much manic as stoic. This week I really will do better. I load the dishwasher, switch on the washing machine and leave my wonderful, labour saving devices to do their thing whilst I visit the gym. Perhaps on this day I will manage not to eat more than I know is good for me. By the time my kids return from school I am tired from dealing with the myriad of chores that the weekend produced. I am in no mood to prepare dinner. I get through this and an early night is in order.

Tuesday: I am resigned to the fact that yet another week did not start quite as well as I had hoped. I reassure myself that the week is young and I have time to sort this out. Once I have caught up with the housework, laundry, on line learning course, personal writing and chores that I couldn’t face yesterday, I am ready for that easy pasta dinner that my children have come to expect on this day. I settle to enjoy a glass of wine. Time to relax.

Wednesday: I plan to go to the gym again but may not make it. Perhaps I did not sleep so well, or have a task list to deal with. I will either make myself go and feel accomplished but weary, or stay home to tackle my backlog and then feel guilty that I am not looking after my health as I should. Neither offers personal satisfaction. This day of the week feels rushed and unsatisfactory. Not so much a failure as a lack of anything worthwhile.

Thursday: my day for meeting up with friends. If that fails to materialise then I go to the gym and somehow feel it is worthwhile. I have the time set aside rather than grabbed from other tasks and can enjoy the exercise. I may allow myself a little indulgence in the spa, and return home feeling relaxed. The rest of the day flows.

Friday: I am preparing for the weekend. I follow a timetable, a military operation that leaves me free to share the euphoria of my family as they end their working week. I am careful not to rain on their parade.

Saturday: I am fitting in with whatever plans have been actioned by others. Sometimes I am doing little more than cooking, dishes and laundry; other times I am required for taxi duty or activity preparation. Saturday evening is family time, if my husband can stay awake after his afternoon hockey match and the children are willing to join us.

Sunday: my day of rest. Apart from preparing dinner I may relax with a book or my writing. Even when my boys are working in the garden, I do not make demands of myself. On this day I indulge my desires. Guilt merges with bliss.

As a stay at home mom I have so much freedom to structure my week to suit myself, so why do I find that each day has a predictable routine? I have my aims, my goals; improve my fitness and therefore my health, keep on top of the essential tasks to ensure that personal pressure is minimised, work my brain as well as my body to allow for mental and spiritual growth.

I function best when I know what to expect, I do not like surprises. I do, however, need to guard against a dulling of the senses and complacency. Challenges that stretch make me feel good about myself, they reassure me that I am still capable of tackling the new.

For that is what the future is, always new, never predictable, always changing.

So long as others are not there to judge me I can push myself a little, try something different and feel accomplished. Perhaps the manic Mondays, or Tuesdays, or Wednesdays, are the ones that I will look back on and remember with more satisfaction.

It is the audience that I fear, the judgement more than the challenge. So long as I may remain invisible, whatever the outcome, I can gain from knowing in myself that I was stretched and made the grade. If my loved ones can share in my achievement, rather than smirk at it’s insignificance compared to what they are so easily capable of accomplishing, then it becomes all the more pleasing, but this is not necessary.

We each live our lives inside the cocoon of self. When other’s demands break through we must try to adapt and indulge without resentment. This can be so hard. I have never been the perfect daughter, partner, mother or friend but I have tried to be all these things and more.

Perhaps what I should be aiming for is simply to be a good person. I wonder what that even means.

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To read the other posts in this week’s Blog Hop, click on the link below

      

Time management

Yesterday my children returned to school and my husband returned to work after the half term break. Despite not doing a great deal of note I enjoyed this holiday. I am in a good place at the moment as regards personal space. I seem to have found a balance that suits me between supporting my family and doing things for myself. I am managing not to allow how I think others expect me to behave to push me in directions that make me feel uncomfortable.

As well as my reading and writing I visited the gym a few times, spent time in the garden with my hens and completed a few of the housework type jobs that demanded my attention loudly enough. I even managed a bit of sewing and baking over the course of the week. I am so not a domestic goddess but there were no disasters. I can reflect on the results of my efforts with some satisfaction.

The holiday ended with the start of NaNoWriMo. It is now Day 5 of this challenge and I am enjoying taking part far more than I expected to. Of course, I enjoy writing or I would not have chosen to sign up. So far though the task has been a real mood lifter. As I watch my word count climb I can feel my spirits rise with it. My family are allowing me the space and time requested and my story is flowing.

Yesterday I also started a distance learning psychology course with the University of Warwick. I spent a very enjoyable few hours completing some interesting and, at times, counter intuitive background reading before taking part in an experiment; my visual reaction times are embarrassingly slow! I then had to complete a short test which seemed to be aimed at ensuring I had understood the concepts discussed; so far so good.

I found the coursework fascinating; there was so much new information to take in and consider. The results of some of the studies discussed made me question a lot of aspects of the way I and many of my friends think. It would appear that we are not nearly as knowledgeable and reasoned as we may like to believe.

By the time I had worked my way through all my usual, mundane chores; cleaning, laundry, dishes, cooking; my day was gone. These personal challenges that I have taken on may be enjoyable and rewarding in themselves, but the issue in completing them seems likely to be finding the time to give them the attention they demand if the standards that I wish to achieve are to be maintained.

I struggle with lengthy goals. I don’t mean things that take years but rather things that take more than a few weeks. When I can see an end to a task I want to reach it as quickly as possible. I find it hard to pace myself and enjoy the journey.

When I was at school I would try to complete homework at the first opportunity after it was set. I found that I couldn’t relax knowing that there was work to be done; I couldn’t enjoy down time with the knowledge that I had tasks that still needed to be completed, even if not immediately.

In my final year at university I took part in a programme that allowed older students to mark first year student’s work. We were given model answers and a dozen or so papers each and would spend a few hours going through each submission, adding helpful comments and awarding marks. Most students completed this task over a week or so. I would try to sit down on the night I picked up the papers and complete the marking in one sitting. I would then return the papers to faculty the next day. I wanted to do the job and do it to a high standard, but I also wanted it done and out of the way. I would worry that something unforeseen may occur that would prevent me meeting the deadline and I would end up letting my tutors down.

These days I have a similar attitude to relaxation. I prefer to prepare meals that need to sit in the oven or bubble in a pot before serving rather than something that requires last minute attention. I worry that, if a meal is needed at a certain time and something goes wrong, then I will have failed; a child may be late to an appointment and it will be my fault. Once the prep has been done and all that is needed is for cooking time to elapse then I can relax. My job is done, I have completed all that can be expected of me.

I am noticing this attitude in the way that I am tackling NaNoWriMo. I catch myself thinking that, even though I am slowly getting ahead of my required, daily word count, that 50,000 word mark still seems so far away. I struggle with pacing myself, wanting to race to the end.

Sometimes it takes a concious effort not to do this with the books I read. I want to know what happens so rush to finish where I could derive more enjoyment from putting the story down and granting myself thinking time.

When jobs cannot be completed (there is no end to housework) I can procrastinate with the best of them, my ironing pile is testament to that. When a challenge takes too long to yield results (such as losing weight) then I struggle to find the motivation to continue beyond the initial determination. It is those goals that are within sight and attainable with just a bit more effort that I rush to complete.

Time management is an interesting concept. Am I a good time manager because I accomplish tasks quickly? I would consider my time better spent if I could pace myself. Efficiency and effectiveness are all very well but when we do something for pleasure, rushing it seems foolish. Yes I get a buzz out of the final accomplishment, but if it’s purpose is enjoyment why rush?

Perhaps one of my problems is that if I put something down for too long then there is a risk that it will be abandoned. There are books that I have not finished, a cross stitch project that I was deriving satisfaction from but has not been picked up in over a year. If I am to conclude a task then I need to internally schedule time for it and then stick with that. I like organisation and routine; the unexpected, including random surprises, stress me.

Perhaps the most important thing in good time management is learning what suits us as individuals and then working to fit that way of living into our days. I know that I need to have control over what I do and how I do it. I rail against being told what is best for me. When I am granted the freedom to follow a path of my choosing then I can work on improving how I accomplish tasks in a way that enhances my quality of life.

The author George R.R. Martin has stated that there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. For someone who likes her life to be so strictly under my control, planned out and organised, I am a little surprised to discover that my writing style is more like the gardener. I have no idea where my NaNoWriMo story is going to end up. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I am so eager to progress, that I may find out.

I created the graphic myself.