Life is a Balancing Act: Time

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I balance things in my life and it seems like everything in life can be boiled down to a balancing act.

You hear a lot about work life balance these days, which I think is misnamed.  It’s important to strike a balance between your work life and the rest of the things you want and need to do, but work is still part of your life.  A big part.  And there are a lot of other parts too.  Time with family and friends, time doing things you love, time alone, time taking care of yourself, pets, and others.  There’s a lot to balance.  So I wanted to take some time to look at how I balance things in my life right now.

I’m going to do this by hours since it’s a nice convenient metric.  I spend 40 hours a week at work, about 8-10 hours a week commuting to and from work, and if I’m being honest about 42 hours a week sleeping (I should really try harder to bring that up to 56).  That leaves 74-76 hours in the week.  I think if you can keep your work at work, and only spend 40 hours on it, then you’re doing reasonably well.  It’s only a bit more than a third of your waking time.  I have the advantage of a bus commute, so I don’t have to calculate those 8-10 hours as either part of the work time or lost time all together because I’m stuck in a car.

But the remaining hours of the week are just as much of a balancing act, if not more so.  How do you spend your time?  What obligations do you have to fulfil?  How do you balance your life outside of work?

These are all questions I’ve been asking myself lately.  Especially since it was Camp NaNoWriMo last month so I was actually tracking how much time I spent on my writing, and I’m doing a Get Your Words Out habit challenge this year, which means I’ve been doing that to an extent all year.  My Camp NaNo project for July was to write for about 30 minutes every single day, which I did.  It translated to about 17 hours, just under half of which I did on my morning bus to work.  Writing is important to me, and it’s something I’m passionate about and love doing, but it’s not all I do, and that 17 hours got me thinking about what I’m spending the rest of my time on.

Some of that 76 hours gets spent on things like my morning routine, taking showers, feeding and playing with the cats, and making breakfast/lunch/dinner.  I tend to do other things while I’m eating (like write, read, or watch something) so I don’t really need to account for that.  I know about how much time I spend on that kind of thing in a day, and it comes out to an average around 6.5-7 hours most weeks.  That leaves me with a little more than 52 hours to account for.  So what am I spending that time on and what do I want to be spending it on?

I have my weekly write-in on Sundays which probably overlaps some with my 17 hours of writing, but we’ll ignore that for the purposes of this thought exercise.  So that’s 4 hours every week.  I spend 8 hours every other week at D&D (I’m in two games now), and on the alternate week I spend 4 hours going to and being at another write-in.  All of this is important because social time with friends is important, and write-ins and D&D both serve that function for me.  We’ll average that 8-12 hours out to 10 hours a week to keep the math easier.

I’ve been doing pretty well the past few months getting some exercise time in on the weekends and keeping up with my sorting and getting rid of stuff goals, which probably takes about 4-8 hours a week depending on how productive I’m being and whether I have other commitments that weekend.  We’ll call that 6 hours.  And that leaves 32 hours to account for.  That’s a part time job, but I don’t think I’m spending my time on anything that productive at the moment.

That additional time includes the once monthly workshops that my NaNoWriMo region puts on.  It also includes time spent running errands and doing chores, but all that probably averages out to less than 10 hours a week, which still leaves me with 22 hours to account for.  I end up spending a lot of time on weeknight evenings watching TV with my husband.  This could be YouTube videos, anime, movies, or any number of other shows we enjoy together.  That probably accounts for about 12 hours a week, more on weeks I don’t have as many evening commitments.

So what do I do with that last 10 hours that’s my truly free, unscheduled, not normally filled time?  I’m going to look at that next week, in a related post that looks a bit more closely at self-reflection and how that’s important for balance in my life.  This week I’d like to keep thinking about time and balance and why that’s important.

Laying out how I spend time like this really puts things in perspective.  If the time I spend translates to the value I put on something or the value I get out of it, then my current balance looks something like this:

  • 4 parts work (so I can pay the bills)
  • 4 parts sleep (it’s important to be well rested)
  • 1 part writing time (because I love it)
  • 1 part time with friends (because social time is important even for introverts)
  • 1 part taking care of life’s little necessities (showers and grocery trips are important)
  • 1 part commute time (which translates to writing, reading, and relaxing for the most part)
  • ½ part exercise time (staying healthy and fit is definitely a priority)
  • ½ part sorting through boxes (the amount of stuff I own is starting to stress me out)
  • 1 part NaNoWriMo things (workshops, my ML duties, extra write-ins during Camp and November)
  • 1 part watching screens (in my defense some of it is educational)
  • 1 part everything else (this seems to mostly involve sewing and shopping for sewing lately)

That puts work time in perspective.  It’s only 4 of 16 parts of my week and I spend just as much time sleeping.  Paying bills is important so work should be a reasonably large chunk of my week, but it’s reassuring to see that it doesn’t overwhelm all the things that I choose to spend my time on.  This came out looked more balanced than I was expecting it to.  It must mean I’ve been doing better at prioritizing the things that matter to me.  Certainly better than I did before I got this job.

Next week I’ll talk a bit about that 1 part everything else, and self-reflection and how I think that plays into maintaining balance in my life.

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