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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What Do You Do All Day?

Back when I was single and working a full-time job, I used to dream of getting married and 'just' being a full-time mom.  Aside from the obvious desire to share my life with someone and raise children, I really liked the idea of just staying home all day.  All the things I'd be able to do then!  All the books I'd read, the crafts I'd make, and the fun things I could do with my kids--if only I could stay home all day.

Well, now I'm married and home with my kids all day, and I can't figure out where the time goes.  I feel like I'm super-busy, but I can't really point to anything I've accomplished at the end of each day.  My house isn't as clean as it used to be, I have less time for reading, almost no time for crafts, and TV is something the kids watch when I really need to get something else done.

I really wanted to know where my time was going, so I ran a little experiment.  Starting in late June and going throughout July, I kept a log of everything I did each day for five weeks, divided into fifteen minute increments (yes, I really am that anal).  Unfortunately it was a handwritten log, and I didn't try to do anything with the data until I had it all.  It's taken me nearly two months to find the time to do my data entry and analysis.

But anyway, here we are, and the first thing I have to say is: thank goodness for multitasking!  I kept track of when I was doing something with all my attention, as well as when I was doing multiple things at once.  When I added up how much time I spent doing things, I came up with a total of 1,066.75 hours of activities.  There are only 840 hours in a five-week period.  That means I actually did six weeks, two days, ten hours, and forty-eight minutes worth of activities in five weeks.  That averages out to needing 30 hours and 28 minutes to do what I need to do each day.  No wonder I'm tired all the time!

At first glance, it looks like I spend 637 hours, or 59.7% of my time, doing one thing at a time, and 429.75 hours, or 40.3% of my time multitasking.  But that's misleading, because by definition one can't sleep while multitasking, and I spent 264.5 hours (or 24.8% of my time) sleeping or trying to sleep.  (I'm a chronic insomniac, so much of that time was spent trying to sleep, but it's impossible to break out how much time was spent trying, and how much time was spent actually sleeping.  If I had to guess, I'd say at least a quarter of that time was trying to sleep.)  If you just look at my waking hours, I spent only 372.5 hours (or 34.9% of my time) doing one thing at a time.  Without multitasking, I'd be lost.

So what did I spend all my time doing?  Well, we already know that sleeping or trying to sleep accounted for 24.8%.  That wasn't what I spent the most time doing, however.  Taking care of my kids took up 24.9% of my time, and spending time with my husband came in third at 19.3%.  But it's interesting how those numbers broke out.  Of the 265.25 hours I spent with my kids, 174 of them (or 65.6%) were spent multitasking, while the other 91.25 hours (or 34.4%) were spent doing nothing else but taking care of them.  On the other hand, of the 206.25 hours I spent with my husband, for 126 of them (or 61%) my attention was entirely on him, and I only multitasked for 80.25 hours (or 38.9%) with him.  So while my kids get more time with me overall, my husband gets more focused time with me than they do.

Taking care of my family and trying to sleep accounts for 69% of my time.  Self care (the combination of personal hygiene, reading for pleasure, personal 'alone' time, attending worship, spending time with friends, and exercising) accounts for 6.9% of my time.  Professional development (research and writing) accounts for 6.2% of my time, and I waste (watching TV or mindlessly surfing the web) 5.3% of my time.  Some of that is a little misleading, because I'm sure some of the time I called 'research' really should have been categorized under 'mindless web surfing.'  Also, nearly half the time I logged as 'exercising' (9.25 hours) was actually spent driving to and from the gym.  That leaves me with 12.6% of my time to cook, clean, eat, run errands, manage the household finances, manage my husband's company's finances, and do crafts, plus write sermons and lead worship if I'm called to fill in for a vacationing pastor (which I did four of the five Sundays included in my log).  That's three hours and fifty minutes per day of my 30 hour, 28 minute long days.

It's been interesting to see if how I spend my time matches up with my stated priorities.  Overall, the answer is yes, because my family is my top priority, and I spend 44.2% of my total time (or 58.8% of my waking hours) engaging with them.  On the other hand, I see some areas I need to fix.  I don't have enough hours in the day to waste 5.3% of my time on mindless web surfing or TV.  And I'd like to be able to spend more time writing.  While 6.2% might be the best I can do right now, that was two-thirds research to one-third writing.  I think much of my 'research' is just an excuse, and I need to reverse that ratio.  I also need to spend more time on self-care.  You can't see it in the averages, but a lot of my personal time was grouped together in large blocks every few weeks, because I just burned out and shut down, and had to hole up while my husband took care of the kids.  I need to be more intentional about taking time for me and doing something that I find enjoyable (like reading for pleasure) rather than mindlessly wasting time.  I've already begun to exercise a lot more.

I think I'm going to run this experiment again.  In addition to the changes I want to make or have already made, some things are different now than they were in June.  For one thing, now that the fall programming has begun, I'm no longer being called for pulpit supply nearly every week, so I actually get to worship again.  However, this does cut down on my personal time, because I was taking some time for myself after church rather than going straight home.  Now I've got the kids with me at church.  Also in July, my husband and I attended Readercon 22, which resulted in two solid days where I didn't interact with my kids at all, and my husband got a lot of one-on-one time with me (my 'research' category got a bump, too).  That kind of weekend is extremely rare.  Another change is that my son no longer naps in the afternoon, and I'm experimenting with bringing my daughter down to one nap.  Additionally I've begun homeschooling my son, so he's getting more one-on-one time than he was over the summer.  All of this conspires to take away more of my self-care time, which I really can't let happen.

I'll keep a log for four or five weeks again, and see how it compares.  I think the only real change I'll make is that 'driving' will become it's own separate category, since that adds anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half to whatever I'm doing outside the house, and inflates the amount of time I log exercising or worshiping.

It is a bit tedious keeping the log (and even more so analyzing it) but I highly recommend doing this if you feel like you're not getting anything done, or if you're not sure if your actions agree with your stated priorities.  And as for getting all that time to read, make crafts, and do fun things?  I guess now I'm looking forward to being an empty-nester.


  1. It really is mind boggling where time goes isn't it? I didn't keep quite as detailed a record as you but conducted a similar type experiment before we left Boston. I shudder to think how many hours I should have had in a day! A huge goal for moving to AZ was to eliminate all the stuff that wasn't bringing me joy...basically if it wasn't something I could smile while doing for some reason it was right out. My blog/writing has been sacrificed because of that. A bummer but I was spending time doing those things then feeling frustrated that I wasn't getting any jobs and school started to become overwhelming. But both of those things are clear priorities right now since I "pay" for both. I'll be really curious (although tired, I don't know how you do it all and have kids!) to see your new figures.

  2. I've been debating on whether or not to go back to work (money's tight and the economy sucks), but I have no idea where I'd fit it in! I don't know how working (outside the home for actually money) moms do it! When I look at what I might cut out to make things a little saner (even without adding a job), the only things I can find are the little things I do for myself, and I'm not willing to give those up. So I guess I'll just have to stay overworked and busy!