About a year ago I tracked my time for five weeks and reported the results in my post What Do You Do All Day? I'm feeling the need to do that again, because once again I'm feeling slammed-to-the-wall busy while simultaneously wondering why I don't seem to be accomplishing anything.
I've been wanting to do this for a while, but it seems like there's always something 'special' going on that's going to skew my time in a misleading way. For example, I don't plan to start until sometime after next week, because next week I'll be bringing my kids to VBS, which means four nights of not cooking supper (which I usually do) and of following a completely different routine from what we do every other week of the year. Back in June there was the five-day retreat I took at a Benedictine Monastery, which would have totally skewered my numbers.
But looking over the post from last year, I can already see some areas where I'm going to fall down. Mindless computer time leads that list. I'm spending way too much time playing stupid Facebook games. In preparation for my next attempt at better time management, I've gone ahead and disabled the applications platform on Facebook, which means not only can I not play the games, I can't even see the posts about my friends' game activity. Sorry, friends, but something's gotta give. I lost Bejeweled Blitz to the need to wear two wrist braces continuously, and I just don't have time for Bubble Safari or Hidden Chronicles anymore. I'm also completely failing at exercise, so I'm going to try to pick that up again before I start logging my time. Please believe me that I'm doing these things not to make my time logs look better, but because I'm genuinely trying to manage my time better, and I don't need a detailed log to know that these things have to change if I'm going to live my priorities.
So what are my priorities?
Taking care of my family still ranks first. This means spending quality time with my husband and kids, individually and as a family. It means preparing healthy meals for them. It means having regular homeschooling sessions with my kids (I've been pretty haphazard about it so far).
Professional development as a writer ranks second. Last time I did this I was talking about wanting to be a writer, but I wasn't really writing anything except this blog, plus editing some old sermons to send off to DesperatePreacher.com. Now in addition to those two things, I'm writing daily devotions at Quiet Publications, plus entering several writing contests. I'm also trying to reformat some bible studies I've written so I can make them available for sale at Quiet Publications, and I've got a couple of short nonfiction book ideas I want to develop for that site. And then there's the novel. And the memoir. Realistically I know I can't possibly do all that, and I'm going to have to pick one or two things to focus on and put the rest on hold, but for now I'm trying to do it all so I can see which of these projects really inspires my passion.
Self care? I feel obligated to put this one in my top three, but I don't have very high hopes for it. Don't get me wrong; it's not that I don't want self care to be a priority, it's just that it seems like a luxury I can't really afford right now. I realize that's short-term thinking, and if I want to achieve my long-term goals (or, more specifically, live to have long-term goals) I'd better make it a priority. So there it is, and I'll do what I can. For the purposes of this project, self care will include exercise, time with friends, and down-time (reading for pleasure or watching TV that I choose, opposed to what my kids choose).
The wild card is going to be my continuing education. I've been accepted into a year-long unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, which is going to take up twelve hours a week from September through April, plus commuting time (about an hour each way). It's part of my effort to become a certified chaplain, which is a long-term goal. It very easily could push its way into my top three (most likely squeezing out self care), and I may eventually have to choose between it and writing. I hope not, but it's a possibility I have to consider. As much as I hate to admit it, chaplain is kind of my back-up plan in case writing doesn't start bringing in some money. I want to be a writer. I'm willing to be a chaplain. If I have to start helping out with the bills (a real possibility in this economy) what I want to do may have to take a backseat to what I have to do. I'm nothing if not pragmatic. But it's also part of the reason why I'm putting such a push on writing now; I'd really like it to start paying some bills. But in the meantime, I'm trying to pick up three more unites of CPE, one unit at a time.
These are my priorities. When I log, I'm going to pay attention to mindlessness (mindless games, mindless websurfing, etc) because I don't really get a benefit from those things. That's not to say that all my self care has to be intellectually challenging; rereading the entire Harry Potter series is on my short-list of things to do, and I certainly don't consider that to be challenging. But it's not mindless, either. Escapist fiction that I intentionally sit down to read is a lot different from random websites that distract me from whatever it is I should be doing.
It will be interesting to see if I'm living according to my stated priorities. It will also be interesting to see where my time is going; I really don't feel like I'm accomplishing much most days.