About time

Big milestone in the Bacon house this past month - our puppy Ferris graduated puppy school. It was a 6 week class (1 hour per week) where he learned how to sit, stay, lay down, walk on a leash without pulling...the works, really. 

As you can tell from the video below, he's quite gifted and obedient:

Anywhos, in the class each week there were the same 5 owners with their dogs and I naturally got to know a few of them as we ran our dogs through the same drills. There was one guy in particular who I befriended over the weeks - he had a beard and wore beer shirts and as I've learned from my 17 years of living in Colorado, I pretty much get along with 90% of guys in that category. Heck, I'm a beard away from being in that category.

During the last session as we were working with our dogs together he casually asked where I lived. Easy question. Then he asked if I was interested in getting the dogs together to hang out and play. WHOA. 

A sudden, unexpected wave of dread washed over me.

He wants to hang out.

He wants to be my friend. 

As the instructor came around and took graduation pictures of each student with their dog, I saw that as my opening to GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE. So I split. 

I did some super deep, Oprah-level soul searching on my 13 minute drive home that night.

"I'm a social guy. I love meeting new people. I've taken Myers-Briggs about a dozen times and each time I've scored as a true extrovert." 

So why did I panic when this new guy wanted to hang out?

The answer in short, is time.

Simply put, I don't have much free time right now. Two demanding full time jobs between me and the wife, 3 small kids...each day right now bleeds into the next. 

This is not to say I don't have time for friends or the time to make new friends. But a simple request to hang out becomes a logistical challenge I'm not always up for. (E.g. - gotta clear it with Brooke, pick a week where we're not traveling for work, mark it on the calendar, make sure it doesn't conflict with dance classes, basketball games, work events, etc. etc. etc.)

So, time? I am completely reactive, not proactive, when it comes to time. This results in bad situations for me and those around me. In fact, I would guesstimate that 75%+ of the fights that Brooke and I get into are about time. Not money, not sex, not housework, not the kids. Time.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm not the only one in this boat. People are stressed about time. Married people with kids are DEFINITELY stressed about time.

So let's talk about time. 

But real quick, this is not a blog post about saving time. I don't have that magic elixir. Most of my days are pretty hard-coded (by choice) and there's not much wiggle room for uncovering big pockets of time to do new things. 

The trick then, is to look at your current "buckets of time" and identify some ways to make them better.

I recently went through a quick 3-step exercise to help me do this. It's not overly unique and I've heard about it several times, but I've never actually done it. It took me about an hour start to finish. So, here's the exercise along with my results and takeaways and then some ideas for you to get started on your own.

Step 1: Map out your average weekday (10 min)

Tip: Make each "bucket" no less than 30-60 min for simplicity's sake. Here's what mine looks like.

4:30am - 5:00am: Wake up
5:00am - 6:30am: Gym
6:30am - 7:30am: Breakfast, get kids on bus
7:30am - 8:15am: Morning commute
8:15am - 5:20pm: Werrrrrrrk
5:20pm - 6:00pm: Evening commute
6:00pm - 8:00pm: Dinner, family time
8:00pm - 9:30pm: Personal time, wife time
9:30pm - 10:00pm: Bedtime

When I wrote all this down, it was surprising to realize just how consistent my average day is. With some slight variations, the list above is what my day looks like 70%+ of the time. Humans are habit machines and I guess I'm no exception.

Step 2: Write down what you like and don't like about each bucket of time (20 min)

Tip: Don't put too much thought into this!

4:30am - 5:00am: Wake up
Like: It's completely silent in the Bacon house.
Dislike: I kinda just zone out and sit on my couch waking up for about 20 min. Not the most productive use of time.

5:00am - 6:30am: Gym
Like: I love seeing my friends each morning and lifting weights with them.
Dislike: I've had some shoulder pain since the summer that I've ignored.

6:30am - 7:30am: Breakfast, get kids on bus
Like: Spending time with my kids each morning.
Dislike: Most mornings are SUPER rushed helping get the kids ready, fed and to the bus on time.

7:30am - 8:15am: Morning commute
Like: Listening to podcasts and learning something new.
Dislike: Sitting in traffic, duh.

8:15am - 5:20pm: Werrrrrrrk
Side note: You could break down your workday into more chunks if you're feeling frisky.
Like: Having a fun and productive group of coworkers.
Dislike: I don't get out much. Most days I eat at my computer.

5:20pm - 6:00pm: Evening commute
Like: This is my time to decompress. I usually listen to music or something mindless/funny.
Dislike: Sitting in traffic, duh.

6:00pm - 8:00pm: Dinner, family time
Like: This is just my favorite time of the day for so many reasons. 
Dislike: Many times we feel rushed getting the kids down by 8 so we usually end up skipping books or other fun family activities.

8:00pm - 9:30pm: Personal time, wife time
Like: As much as I like "bath, books and bed" time, I like the next B almost as much..."bourbon".
Dislike: My wife and I are on slightly different sleeping schedules so it's tough for me to be coherent for any conversation past 9pm. 

9:30pm - 10:00pm: Bedtime

And there you have it. Quite the exciting life, huh? :) My main takeaway from doing this step was that so many of my dislikes are self-inflicted. Basically, not factoring in enough time it takes to do things, despite the fact I do them just about everyday! Which brings us to the next step.

Step 3: Write down one thing you can do differently to make each bucket of time better/more productive/more enjoyable (30 min)

Tip: Make them small changes that are easily implemented and trackable.

4:30am - 5:00am: Wake up
Change: According to uhhhh science (?), early morning is the best time for creativity. So instead of sitting around waiting for the coffee to kick in or thumbing thru Facebook, I'm starting to jot down my thoughts, ideas and to-dos in my Evernote app. 

5:00am - 6:30am: Gym
Change: Instead of strolling into the gym about a minute or two before class starts, I'm going to get there 10 minutes early and stretch out the shoulder more. I'm also going to do a better job of leaving straight after class to give me a few extra minutes for handling the chaos that is...

6:30am - 7:30am: Breakfast, get kids on bus
Change: Instead of getting the kids up around 6:40/6:45 and yelling at them to "hurry, hurry, hurry" like I'm Peyton Manning, we've started getting them up at 6:30am. The extra 10-15 minutes doesn't impact their sleep in a measurable way and allows them to ease into the day.  

7:30am - 8:15am: Morning commute
Change: There's not much I would or could change here. I like the 5-6 different podcasts I listen to and it helps keep my business skills sharp and stay in the loop on current events. But if you have any great ones that you listen to, let me know. 

8:15am - 5:20pm: Werrrrrrrk
Change: Once a week, I'm going to start grabbing lunch outside the office with a friend or coworker. I know once a week doesn't sound like a lot, but hey, small steps people. Also, if you're reading this and are in downtown Denver every so often, hit me up. Lunch is on me.

5:20pm - 6:00pm: Evening commute
Change: The biggest challenge for me sometimes is getting wrapped up in work or conversations and not hitting the road at a good time which gets me stuck in worse traffic, making me late for dinner or kid pick-up, etc. So I just put a daily reminder on my phone telling me to "leave work".

6:00pm - 8:00pm: Dinner, family time
Change: Don't skip books! Somewhere along the way, this became the easiest thing to cut when time was tight or we were running late. Not anymore.  

8:00pm - 9:30pm: Personal time, wife time
Change: I actually asked my wife yesterday what would make this time better/more productive for us and this is what she said. 

Easy enough! Love you honey.

9:30pm - 10:00pm: Bedtime
Change: Not a new change for me, but something I've been doing awhile with great success. Don't check your phone for a half-hour before bed. Don't check work-related stuff for an hour before bed. 

And there you have it. It's not rocket science and I sorta knew some of this stuff already in the back of my head, but it wasn't until putting it down on paper where all the blind spots became more real and actionable. 

Your turn

While this was quite therapeutic for me (and hey thanks for reading along by the way) the point of all this was really to encourage those of you also struggling with time. Interested in what patterns your average day has? Curious what blind spots you have when it comes to time? Grab a piece of paper or open a Word doc and get started. Good luck!

For further exploration:

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work - This is one of the 3 books I have gifted the most to others. It profiles 160 artists like Beethoven and Ben Franklin and all their super weird daily habits. Structure, as it turns out, breeds creativity.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less -  This book by Greg McKeown was the top ranked Time Management book on Amazon for quite awhile. I liked this book so much I actually called and hired Greg to speak at our company's annual conference last year. He jumped around the room for an hour and begged 700+ people to take the email apps off their phones, it was awesome :)

Some programming notes:

The first 3 posts have all covered work/productivity related stuff. As we head into Spring and Summer the plan is to cover some broader topics like family, faith, fitness, friendships and of course food. I might crank out a 20,000 word blog post on the Bachelor finale (which looks like an absolute train wreck waiting to happen). Who knows? I'm also going to expand the "music I'm listening to" section to cover a few more goodies. Starting now...

What inspired me most this week:

I'm Possible - This video by photographer Jeremy Cowart crushed me in a million good ways this week. It's almost comical all the things this guy has done with his camera and his passion for helping others. Set a few minutes aside and watch it, I can't recommend this enough! 

Best podcast I listened to:

FoundMyFitness: How Cryotherapy Affects the Brain, the Immune System, Metabolism and Athletic Performance - Warning, this is loaded with an hour of "sciencey" stuff. If you're not up for listening, here's the gist - cold shocking your body has loads of wide-ranging health benefits. Way, way, way more than I thought. So the net-net for me: 3 times a week, at the end of a shower, I now crank the water all the way to cold and hold on like hell for 20 seconds. Try it. 

Most interesting article I read:

A Turnaround in Denver - This article profiles McGlone Elementary School in Denver, where 95% of the students live in poverty and just a few years ago was one of the worst-performing schools in the city. Now it has the highest academic growth rate in Denver. How they turned it around made me smile.

Music I'm listening to:

Jack Garratt has a new album out this week and it's pretty rad.