I have always felt like time is my enemy, a feeling that no doubt has a few different origins. First and foremost, I have a LOT of interests. There is so much in this world I would love to spend time doing. Even if I didn’t have work or other obligations, there is no way that I could pursue everything that interests me. Secondly, I am a “quality over quantity” type. I spend the extra time it takes to try to do great work, regardless of the task. If I were a cabinet maker, I wouldn’t want to be able to say that I have built 1000 kitchens; I would want to look back and say that I made 25 kitchens that were stunning and that opened up new possibilities about what kitchens could be. There are a lot of people on this planet—more than enough to do all of the work that needs to be done. We should have time to do things well.
This relationship I have with time is probably why I was so moved by Tim Ferris’ The Four-Hour Workweek, back when it came out in 2007. The book’s central assertion is that time can be, and needs to be, aggressively engineered in order for us to preserve time for whatever is most important to us. For me, this book opened up a lot of thinking about what time means and how to control it. The book gave me language to describe what I was experiencing: “time famine,” and gave me hope that I could beat it back.
I wish I could say that the book changed my life as much as it changed my way of thinking. I just couldn’t find as many levers as I had hoped and I couldn’t find the magic lifestyle business that I could set and forget while it financed my life. Other people had cracked the code. Wasn’t I smart enough? Hard-working enough?
For a while I felt a little self-conscious about all this, but eventually I started cutting myself some slack. I recount what I’ve delivered to my employer, what I’ve improved and built on my home, and what I’ve been able to experience and accomplish with my family through being an active parent and spouse. I’m sure I am near 100% presence at all three children’s activities. I’ve been present and happy. I wouldn’t change any of it. Ferris was thirty and single when he wrote his book. I was thirty-five with a family of five when I read it. Life has been quite full ever since.
As I write this, I am in between games at a weekend-long baseball tournament in a neighboring state. My son is on the treadmill in the fitness center, and I have a rare, hopefully 30 minutes, to try to get this done before my midnight deadline tonight. In fact, if I made a documentary about the writing of this post, it would be so broken up into so many different tiny chapters, it would be comical. Three minutes here. Eight more minutes there. Two more minutes here. Would have been twenty more minutes, there but was interrupted by a phone call about the car we are helping my son purchase from out of state. Several times I have gone back to this file to find that it was still open from when I last worked on it the night before or maybe three days prior. Such is the staccato rhythm of a crammed life.
Check out this sample schedule of a random day in the life:
- 4:30 AM Wake
- 5:15-6 AM Commute, Drop off Preston at swim practice.
- 6-8 AM Combo of Side Project (podcast prep or journal writing), Baseball commissioner duties, email catch up for work and personal, research car issue symptoms, grab a quick bowl of instant oatmeal, etc.)
- 8 AM – 4 PM Work Day
- 4:00 PM – 5 PM Commute to Baseball Game, maybe stopping for gas or other errand along way
- 5 PM – 6 PM Set Up for Scorekeeping Game, Catch up on Emails
- 6 PM – 8:30 PM Score Game
- 8:30-9PM Commute
- 9 PM Either eat dinner that was made by someone else, or cook quick dinner
- 10 PM Zombie Drool Time – Glass of Wine, TV
- 11 PM Beddy Bye
It’s not my fault. It is just life with career and family. Yes, I have made choices, just like anyone else, but making different ones would have required me to compromise on things I wasn’t willing to let go of. A writer friend of mine (one who has managed to publish a number of books) told me that the only way he was able to get his writing in was that his wife took care of all of the kids’ “activities” on weekends and evenings. I suppose that would have been a different way to go. I just couldn’t make that choice.
But, if it has felt at times like I am holding on to a moving freight train, lately I’m starting to look back and get glimpses of the caboose. My youngest child will be driving within the next 6-9 months and will be out of high school in three years. I realize my journey with him isn’t over at that point, and I’ll still be trying to figure out how to finish paying for his college education, but I suspect it will be a little easier to at least sit down and knock out a journal post.
Maybe the ideas that so moved me from Ferris’ work will be more realistic as I move into this next phase. Maybe crossing over fifty will have more similarities to my mid-twenties than I had expected. We shall see.