This past week has been really busy. Actually things have seemed rather busy for a while now. It is at the point that the piles of 'to be done when I get the chance' on my desk have dates at the bottom of the pile that would be way past due if they were cartons of milk. Some of it if it were packaged cheese. At least I am not at the dried bean stage.
I started to think last night as I was setting the alarm and preparing for bed about what the options were for a strategy to reduce the problem going forward. First I thought, “I am really tired, but maybe getting up earlier will give me time when I am fresh”, unfortunately past experience has taught me that though I do get up earlier if I have, say, a 5 am class to teach, if the work is not actually scheduled in I am more likely to hit snooze. It is kind of like when one says to oneself “Starting tomorrow I will begin a healthy eating plan (i.e. a diet, though that word is out of fashion) and then one gets up groggily and pours coffee and grabs a slice of white bread (not to say a pop tart) and then says “oops, well, I'll have to start tomorrow”, and eats everything in sight because, well, starting tomorrow one will not be eating any of it. That is one of the problems with the whole all or nothing plan. Occasionally it works, often it collapses and makes things worse. And trying to begin anything first thing in the morning is, I think, usually a bit hard anyway. So I decided, yes, occasionally getting up earlier is a good idea, but I should let it be a naturally occurring thing, if I can manage a few extra minutes in the morning I will use it to get a healthier breakfast into everyone.
Then, of course, the natural thought is, if I need more time, and it is hard to get moving in the morning, how about if I stay up later? Again, unfortunately, my self knowledge was a bit problematic. Most of the time in the evening I am very tired and find focus hard. When I was in college I often stayed up late reading Thomas Mann and Fyodor Dostoevsky (two of my favorite authors of the time), but in my fifties my clock has shifted. Folding laundry; not a problem. Doing the accounts, or writing.... well, I tend to sit looking at the screen, maybe checking facebook, or getting distracted by a story someone posted, and by the time I have to admit it is a question of diminishing returns it is pretty late, and if I had just gone to bed earlier I might have made option one happen. The other general problem with staying up late is I have seen some reports (sorry I do not have the citation) that one tends to eat more calories if one stays up late. That was certainly true when I was in college. I was particularly fond of ice cream and steamed broccoli (not at the same time). So, again, I think I am best leaving this as an open possibility for nights I do not have to be up super early the next day, and/or there is something particular needing to be finished on a tight deadline.
If, therefore, (as the logicians say) I cannot easily add to the total available minutes for 'doing things', can I be more efficient with the minutes I have? This is certainly a possibility. It takes a little discipline and self knowledge, but can be tackled in easy chunks. If I need to watch a training video it is easy enough to schedule it for a big pile of laundry to fold. If I have errands it is easy enough to map them out and do them on one day, with a list organized in a geographic line out of town and back in. If I have ink cartridges to take to the office store, and batteries to take to town recycling, it is easy to store them in the car for when I drive by. A lot of this can be done with an online to do list. Actually, I already do a lot of this, but a review of where I am with everything might lead to some efficiency. Of course, the mistake here is to delete all down time. If I remember correctly in the children's book “A Secret Garden” the older boy's mother said 'the two worst things for children are to always have their own way, or to never have it' (do not remember the whole quote), but down time is like that. Take none and you will eventually loose all of your energy and productivity, take too much, and it will be the same (you know I am going to say it... we are back to Aristotle)
Another option is to decrease the minutes of required work. There are a few methods for this. First I could outsource. This works best if you do the math ….. can you hire someone who will do a much better job, and/or will charge less than you would be able to make in the same amount of time so you do not have to work more hours to pay for the work? I no longer steam clean the rugs. It is an annual job (we have asthma and allergies in the house, so this is a priority), so the cost is not incurred too often, but for me to do it takes significantly more work than the wonderful gentleman I have found who comes in with his backpack. I take shirts to the laundry because they do a better, quicker job pressing than I do. I do not hire a housecleaner anymore though, because the cost is high for a recurring expense. Right now I really want someone to repair my lawn mower, as I have been struggling for hours with it. The mowing I do not mind, but repair takes too much time for me, as I am not experienced or naturally gifted with this. A lot of us do this with food.... we cook less from scratch and buy more premade. This is something that has to be really well planned. I do not see most families baking bread weekly, or soaking beans overnight several times a week, and making sofrito and hummus, or pickling their own vegetables, and so on. All of these things are good to do, but we need to pick and choose.... and if we buy premade read the labels very carefully. It can be done, but the cost to health of buying pre packaged junk may outweigh any extra minutes we get in any case.
Another way to decrease the required work is to rewrite that to do list. Shift the standards on how much or how often, or how thoroughly something needs to be done: Wash bed linens every week? Or every second or third week? Move the furniture when you run the swifter? Write the blog every week?.....
Actually, the blog is kind of like dessert for me. Well, actually all of my teaching, of which writing is a part. I am very fortunate to have work that I truly love. I would be on the mat twice the number of hours I am now, but I have to balance it with the daily work of life, the needs of my family and household. I have to remember that I left full time teaching to practice the karma yoga of raising a family, and that job is not done yet. It is balancing all these threads, these competing demands on our time that takes a little strategy. And some logical thinking. One of the best classes I took in college (and one of the ones that at the time gave me the greatest despair) was symbolic logic. Though yoga teaches us to open our hearts and to connect the heart and mind if we ONLY practice bhakti (heart opening) we do a disservice to our mind. Jnana balances bhakti. Logic and the ability to organize conceptually are tools as important to develop as emotional resilience or strong muscles.