Yesterday, I stumbled across this article at Wait But Why, proposing a new way to think about the value of our time and how we use it. It works like this:
If you sleep about eight hours a night, that leaves about 1,000 minutes a day in which you’re awake. Think of these 1,000 minutes as 100 ten-minute blocks of time.
What do you do with each of your 100 blocks? Is what you’re currently doing worth the number of blocks out of 100 that gets devoted to it each day?
While neither the author of the piece nor I recommend trying to schedule every block every day (it’s an exercise in hair-tearing), it has provided me a useful way to consider exactly where my time goes.
So Where Does It Go, Exactly?
The 100 Blocks method is especially intriguing to me in the context of one of the most commonly-asked questions I receive on Quora: “What do freelance writers do all day?” “What does a day in the life of a freelance writer look like?”
While I won’t subject you to a list of where my 100 ten-minute day-chunks go, here’s what an average day in my freelance life looks like.
6:30 am: I roll out of bed, because if I don’t, I’ll miss a chance to get a hug from my husband when he leaves for work. If I don’t get a hug, I am cranky the rest of the day.
6:40 am: I feed the cats before the sheer force of their STARVACEOUS YOWLING tears me to pieces. The cats wish it to be known that they WILL DIE if they are not given canned food at 6:40 am. No, the bowl of kibble is NOT SUFFICIENT. THEY WILL STARVE. I AM A TERRIBLE CAT PARENT.
7:00 am: The yowling has subsided. I sit down with my toast and tea to read the Internet. If the Internet is terrible, I read a book instead. The Internet is usually terrible.
8:00 am: I decide I should probably do something useful with my life. I load the dishwasher and clean the litter boxes in order to avoid selling my labor for money.
8:30 am: I sell labor for money. I may also blog, work on things for rehearsals (see “Evening”), send invoices, and so on.
12:00 pmish: I am done selling labor for money, unless it is Tuesday. On Tuesdays I get done at 1:00 pm, because 12-1 pm Tuesday is the Holy Hour of Client Meetings.
12:30 or 1:00 pm: Having eaten whatever tasty glop was leftover in the fridge from the previous evening (or microwaved some chicken nuggets), I proceed to the gym for a hot date with the elliptical, weight room and/or pool. On nice days, I go into my backyard and throw things.
2:30 or 3:00 pm: I get home from the gym, or I run some errands, depending on which needs doing. When I have to schedule appointments, they’re nearly always between 2:30 and 5:00 pm. If I’m not running errands, I might do some composing, or photography, or spend 12 of my daily 100 timechunks murdering werebears in Skyrim.
5:00 pmish: Usually, the husband is home by this time. He makes food. We eat food. While watching Netflix. This is literally the only time we spend watching television at all, so I have no guilt whatsoever about abandoning the upper-middle-class manners of my youth to cram nachos into my face on the couch in front of the boob tube.
6:00 pmish: Time to go to rehearsal. Which rehearsal it is depends on the time of year and the day of the week. Candidates include marching band, wind symphony, drum ensemble, colorguard, and winterguard. Sometimes I perform in these ensembles and sometimes I yell at them.
8:30 pm: I feed the cats, because once again, they will STARVE without canned food, even though kibble magically appears in their bowl on the regular. Then I write fiction.
10:30 pm: I sleep.
On Wednesdays, I clean the house instead of selling my labor for money. Otherwise, things are pretty much the same. A few times a year I go on vacation, during which I might spend an hour or two working in the mornings.
Your schedule as a freelancer may, of course, vary. My work time is scheduled with two major constraints in mind:
- When do I have the focus to do this work most efficiently?
- How can I get my work done in the handful of hours I have allotted per day to do so, which I cannot exceed because addiction?
As For the Blocks….
It’s interesting to me how quickly things fall into perspective when I analyze them in terms of the 100 blocks of time.
For instance: The gym costs me 120 minutes, or 12 of my 100 timechunks every day.
Prior to thinking of it as 12/100 timechunks, I struggled to go to the gym. It felt like recreation. It felt like “wasting time” or “ignoring my responsibilities” (because I wasn’t checking the clock every five minutes to make sure I hadn’t dissociated into some frivolous project, because ADHD means I have no idea what time is).
Now, however, 12/100 timechunks feels like a total steal. That time I spend at the gym manages my chronic pain, alleviates my anxiety, provides the only workable method for me to meditate, lets me catch up with my best friend by snarkily texting her between sets, and enables me to kick people twice my size through windows should I ever wake up in an action film.
I get all that for twelve percent of my day. That’s what we call “good value.”
It’s also made it easier to stop hating myself for things like scrolling Twitter, while simultaneously helping me put limits on things like scrolling Twitter. Yes, sometimes I just need to sit and scroll Twitter for 1/100 timechunks. That’s okay.
But I rarely need to do it for 3/100 timechunks. That’s when I start getting restless. So I can allot 1 timechunk to it totally guilt-free, then go do something else, again totally guilt-free.
For the record, I have allotted 11 timechunks today to selling my labor for money and 3.6 timechunks to the writing of this blog post. Now I will go devote about 2 timechunks to eating food and a few to preparing for this week’s Holy Hour of Client Meetings. Happy Tuesday.