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Balance v.0.3.4b

December 3, 2008

There are 168 hours in a week.  What, you didn’t know that?  That’s OK, I just learned it a few years ago.  Oh yeah, the data was tucked into some crease in my cranium, but the cold hard realization didn’t really hit me until I was half-way through grad school.  So, I forgive you if you haven’t realized it yet either – I’m actually quite understanding that way.

Like I said, it wasn’t that long ago that I was in grad school.  I’ve always found that I’m a better student if I have a part-time job to keep me busy and remove any temptation to procrastinate.  However, this all snowballed on me very quickly.  I was a full-time student, working about 20 hours a week managing a small network, expending another 20 hours a week on my graduate project, and, because I was a fool, I allowed myself to be elected as the student-body president.

I didn’t really step back and face this until I had to drop a class.  I stood back and took a hard look at my life.  I suddently realized that I was only sleeping about five hours per night and I had virtually no social life.  When I tallied my “normal” hours in a spreadsheet, I realized that I was putting in 110 scheduled hours!  This was insane – and helped me to realize that this only left me 58 hours to sleep, chill, socialize, and take care of the unexpected.

Of course, once one is committed to a certain schedule, extricating oneself from said schedule is much more difficult.  I had two motivators though: first, I had just started dating a beautiful woman with whom I am now married; and second, I was constantly exhausted and frequently sick.

In his book“First Things First” Stephen Covey tells a great analogy that helps us figure out our priorities (read it here).  We have to put in the “big rocks first.”  If you don’t put in those high priority tasks first, you’ll never find room for them.  So what are your high priority values, tasks, or needs?

When I sit down and think about it, I realize that my family, my spiritual, emotional, and physica health, and my career are all important.  But, in what order?  Here’s what I discovered:

  • Start with 168 hours in the week (I think most of us can agree, this is pretty inflexible)
  • Subtract 8 hrs/day for sleep, that’s 56 hrs. (whether you actually sleep that much now is mostly irrelevant, if you want to stay healthy, you need to schedule this much time)
  • Subtract another 21 hours (3/day x7) for obtaining, preparing, and eating food (plus some extra time for personal grooming and other personal tasks)
  • I personally take at least an hour a day for spiritual health, meditation, and prayer, so I subtract another 7 hours (some may use this time to workout, read, yoga, etc, but it’s safe to say that 7 hrs/week is not unreasonable for personal health)
  • This leaves 84 hours (168-84) for work, family, play, and other extra-curricular activities.

In the past, I’ve often tried to squeeze the big rocks in last.  This is why I lacked sleep and probably why I was well over 40 before I found and married the woman of my dreams.  If I work 50 hours a week, which is pretty normal, this only gives me 34 hours for family, commuting, socializing (online, or off), volunteering (about 10 hours/week for me), and other special activities.

    Throw in a couple of unplanned events, or work-related meetings or inservices, and there aren’t a lot of extra hours in one’s day.  This is why I try to build margins into my schedule.  If I schedule every existing hour, something has to give when it all doesn’t come together as planned.

    As it stands right now, some of you are probably saying things like:

    What!? You only work 50 hrs a week?”  “Sleep?  Sleep is for wimps!  You can sleep when you die!”  “An hour to eat?  Man, I’m lucky if I get to eat a burger while driving to my next appointment!” et cetera.

    I know, I know – me too actually.  But what we’re talking about here is a plan.  If you don’t have a plan to sit down and eat, you never will.  If you haven’t scheduled in family time, you never will have it.  If you don’t have a plan to get a good night’s rest, you never will.

    I don’t claim to have this all worked out, but at least I have a plan – and very, very high on my list, is my family.  The above plan only gives me about 2 hours a day with them, but being an introvert, I need much of that time for myself, to reharge.  So, to compensate, I end up sacrificing sleep – which has been proven to not work out very well.

    What is your plan?

    1. December 3, 2008 10:14 pm

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this important subject. And thanks, Gary, for the reminder to re-examine my priorities.

      — Is only 2 hrs/day adequate amount of time for a top priority? (Only time and eternity will tell…)

      “We claim progress, not perfection.”


    2. December 3, 2008 10:18 pm

      I have two points, one frivolous and one less so.

      First, I like the alternate ending of the rocks in the bucket story. Substitute your beverage of choice.

      Second, I’ve recently found that I can combine activities. For example, I take Melissa to piano lessons and then go to Insomnia and relax for nearly an hour. Sounds great for me, but Jamison’s home alone for that time. This week I took Jamison, had my relaxing time with a black forest mocha while I played Sequence with Jamison. Everyone had a good time (except maybe Melissa at piano lessons). Another example: I take Meisa on walks in the morning and the evening. It’s reasonable exercise, time to clear my head, and eliminates messes on the floor. Last night I took Jamison with me. I still got my exercise and avoided the messes on the floor. I also got some more time with Jamison. My relaxing time came later.

      You might find that you can combine some of your prioirty items, too. Can you include your family in some of your volunteering time, your food prep and eating time, exercise time, prayer time, etc? Maybe you can overlap eating with socializing (like organizing a tweetup).

      Good luck, this isn’t easy.


    3. December 3, 2008 10:50 pm

      @Terre – exactly, I’ve been contemplating rewriting the “conclusion” all evening – you read my mind. The kicker here is, one can’t save best for last, but this is what we tend to do, isn’t it? I’m trying to figure out how I can “schedule” family first, then other priorities. I think I kind of have to work backwards on this one.

      @Blogan, I was waiting for someone to bring this up! Being a logical sort of guy, I’ve laid this out all clean and precisely, but in reality, it doesn’t always work that way. (Great alternative ending BTW!)

      I took my Darling Daughter to some meetings a few weeks ago, after a couple of weeks of insistence. She now understands the trauma a 3 y.o. can feel in one of those “boring” meetings. But this week, Monday and today, she “really, really, really” wanted to go with me. Tonight as we lay on the couch I told her when she is about five, she can probably go with me more.

      There are definitely times of overlap, meals, tonight’s time with the preschoolers, etc – but some of it is still messy, and being an introvert, my time at Starbucks today wouldn’t have been the same with someone else there.

      PS: Monday’s #WestSideTweetup was very refreshing for my soul.


    4. December 4, 2008 11:41 am

      I agree with @blogan — combining is good. In fact, the philosophy of truly living your whole life (or at least a significant portion thereof) together is quite appealing to me — having everyone involved in a family business, for example, rather than having to separate job and home life.


    5. December 5, 2008 6:55 am

      Overlapping & combining is good, for some stuff. Meals, church, recreation, etc. However, if that’s how I build my schedule to start with, it is very easy to rely on that as the only time with my family.

      Like I said, if I’m to put in the big rocks first, I need to schedule my family time first. What I’ve discovered is that quality time only comes after quantity time. To have quality time, not just with the family as a whole, but with individual members, I need time – and sometimes that needs to be just chillin on the couch, doing nothing.

      Lately, my Darling Daughter has been taking me by the hand into her room. She turns to The Wife and says, “We’re going to be having a little ‘Daddy Time.'”

      How can I possibly combine that with something else?


    6. December 5, 2008 11:37 am

      “Darling daughter, now we’re going to learn how to blog and use Twitter. Next, we’ll have Daddy teach Barbie some yoga.” 😉


    7. December 5, 2008 10:52 pm

      Wow, over the past few days I’ve been listing the various roles, responsibilities, tasks, and expectations for my current professional position. If I did everything, with quality, that is expected of me, I would need to put in almost 100 hours a week.

      No wonder I’m feeling pressure and no wonder some people are unhappy. I’m only working about 1/2 of that.


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