Seven days, twenty-four hours. That is 168 hours. That’s what each of us has every week to use as we choose, and for many, there are others who have provided a “schedule” already filled in, at least partially.
When I accepted a one-year contract to be head/CEO of a school in a year of leadership transition, I said I was glad to be working half time, 6 to 6. Some looked puzzled, most got it and realized that “schedule” did not include occasional evenings and weekends. Half-time in that scenario would be 12-hour days.
When I quit working full-time in 2012 and had, and still have, the luxury of working part-time, the realization was that everyone is working part time. I have thought for a long time that the work-life balance is a myth. It’s life and work is part of life. While it may seem, at times, that work dominates ones waking hours, an assessment of how we use the time available that’s given to us might be a good exercise.
Time is like money. There is a finite amount and how we allocate the resources either with a plan, a budget of some kind, we can do some reverse engineering and see how we have spent what we had. Without assigning any priorities, here’s a partial list – work, sleep, parenting (or family time) rest, gathering and preparing food, eating, household chores and maintenance, exercise, travel including commuting, and entertainment.
I observed two places where time studies were done to try and improve both efficiency and performance. There are many other studies. One was the Pennsylvania Railroad measuring how long it was taking us to perform specific maintenance and repair problems and the other was a UPS tracker with a stopwatch following drivers on their delivery routes. Both companies were trying to reduce costs and increase productivity. With advanced technology, GPS tracking, cameras and instant communication devices, it’s possible to be monitored continually.
Here are some time-sensitive questions for you to ponder. They are in no particular order and they will not expire if not used by next week, unlike the organic bananas I bought last week.\
How do you regard time? As a resource with gratitude for the gift? As a burden that has to be managed? Do you keep a schedule and a calendar that Is more rigid or more flexible? Do you have any spare or extra time that is not allocated? What do you do with that if you have it? Do you think it’s possible to save time or reserve it? How, by going faster? Do you think you ever “waste” time? How much time do you allow for self-care? Have you ever thought of time as a construct, an invention for our convenience? An illusion? How is time like an ever-flowing stream?
We all have the same amount of time, enough to do what needs to be done. It is not about time, nor how much nor how little. Rather, it’s about the choices that we make that fill up the space of an hour, a day, a week, a month or a year. We can think of those five entities as times given to us to use as we wish, and in some cases, as others would like as well. In the end, what matters is whether we believe our investment and expenditure of time have given us and others the benefits and rewards of a life well-lived.