Posts Tagged schedule

Do You Have Time?

Mr. HalfFull subscribes to the Economist and often shares articles of interest with me. One entitled “Nice Work If You Can Get Out” piqued my interest. The author begins by comparing the leisure time of the rich and the poor in the past:

Sarah Bernhardt, 1890

Relaxing on a chaise is divine leisure! (Library of Congress)

For most of human history rich people had the most leisure. In Downton Abbey, a drama about the British upper classes of the early 20th century, one aloof aristocrat has never heard of the term “weekend”: for her, every day is filled with leisure. On the flip side, the poor have typically slogged.

But today, the roles have reversed.  Many wealthy people work long hours. According to the article:

Overall working hours have fallen over the past century. But the rich have begun to work longer hours than the poor.

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Baby, I’m Back!

Did you miss me? I missed you too. Yes, both of you!

Fantasy Football Draft

My brother and Mr. HalfFull drafted a San Diego Chargers player, so of course the jerseys came out for additional shenanigans. Too bad you can’t see Mr. HalfFull’s ridiculous championship ring in this photo. The commissioner wears three massive rings, so don’t start a fight with him during the draft!

Realistically, I knew I hadn’t blogged here in quite a while. But it really hit home last weekend before Mr. HalfFull’s Fantasy Football Draft.

He and his crazy friends do a live draft every year. One year, three of the guys (and some wives, including me) flew to Indiana for the draft!

But this year, the draft was at our house. Before the appointed draft time, I went out to dinner with the guys (and then disappeared until the following morning to spare my sensibilities). As we were chatting and catching up over dinner, my husband’s friend said that he reads my blog…or rather, he used to read it when I posted. Woah!

Two things struck me during this conversation. First, on the half full side, it’s awesome to have a third reader! Now I can address my readers as “all of you” instead of “both of you.” The second overwhelming feeling was embarrassment at my dearth of blog posts.

Posting Apathy

Why haven’t I posted more regularly? Well, there are lots of reasons.

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The Pursuit of Happiness

The Declaration of Independence has instilled in the American culture a belief that we have the right to the pursuit of happiness. But actually pursuing happiness can be a struggle for some. Defining happiness and the process to get there isn’t so clear-cut.

Happiness is a topic of immense interest to humans in our own personal searches. There are blogs and books like The Happiness Project that try to define strategies for happiness. There are TED Talks about happiness. There are quotes about happiness. And there are endless studies about happiness.

Professional Happiness Study

Time

The perception of time

I heard about one such study at the University of Maryland on the radio. The study measured how people perceive their time — how rushed they feel and how often they have time on their hands. It’s pretty common to think that if we had more time, we’d be happier. But the study showed just the opposite. The people who reported being the happiness almost never feel rushed and don’t have time on their hands that they don’t know what to do with.

Most people don’t like feeling rushed; that seems pretty self-evident. It’s nice to be in control of our own schedules. But the more surprising part is that people don’t enjoy having excess time on their hands. The interesting thing about this is that excess time is self-defined. So if you schedule time to watch TV, exercise, and hang out with friends, that’s not considered time that you don’t know what to do with. The key seems to be making time for the things you want to do, even if other people would consider that idle time. So being busy (but not rushed) seems to make people happier.

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Taking Back Control

My jobless summer of attempted spontaneity made it painfully obvious that something was missing.  I wasn’t happy.  (Just in case you’re wondering, I was probably still happier than if I had been working.)  I had all this time and no plan.  I needed some structure.

Even my dad, who retired a few weeks ago, asked me what I do with my days.  Perhaps he wanted me to justify my lack of employment.  But part of me wonders if he was asking for advice.  Not working is a big change.  We once spent our days commuting and sitting in an office.  It took up the majority of our time.  Now we are free.

Self Definition

But what are we free to do?  How do we define ourselves in this new chapter?

Preschool

Ms. HalfEmpty had no problem defining herself in preschool with all sorts of ridiculous garb. But now it’s a different story.

Especially in an area like DC, when people meet for the first time they ask what you do.  It’s part of the customary introductory small talk, but it also helps to categorize people.  We have expectations of people who do certain types of work — stereotypical ideas of what that person’s life might be like.

But where do I fit?  I’m not retirement age.  What do I do with my days?  What should I be doing?  I think there is an expectation that women in their 30s without children or major disabilities should work.  They should contribute.

And I want to.  I just want to do the right thing for me — something that excites and inspires me, something that allows me to meaningfully contribute, something that makes use of my talents.  I don’t want to be another person clocking time in an office, letting the hours and years of my life pass by.

A friend recently sent me a tongue-in-cheek Washington Post article entitled, “How to completely, utterly destroy an employee’s work life.”  This quote sums it up for me:

What we discovered is that the key factor you can use to make employees miserable on the job is to simply keep them from making progress in meaningful work.

People want to make a valuable contribution, and feel great when they make progress toward doing so. Knowing this progress principle is the first step to knowing how to destroy an employee’s work life. 

-Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer 

Time

I’ve realized that I now have time.  I have more time than most people ever will.  It’s a valuable gift.  But it doesn’t mean I have time to do anything and everything.  That would mean my time is worthless.  I still decline offers that don’t value my time. My time is precious and mine to spend.

With endless options, deciding how to spend it (and not waste it) was daunting.  But after my unstructured summer I learned that I crave a schedule. It can be a rough outline, but I need a framework.

Exercise

The first thing I did to recreate a schedule was to reincorporate exercise.  It was a no brainer for me since I already belong to a gym with a fixed schedule of classes.

BodyFlow

Ms. HalfEmpty launching BodyFlow™ Release 57 over the summer

I used to go to the gym each morning before work around 6 AM to take a group fitness class.  But it seemed ridiculous to wake up that early when I was no longer working.  I loved sleeping in and not worrying about staying up late.

Of course, my gym had later classes, but Mr. HalfFull wasn’t a member.  I thought I should be home to spend time with him during his summer break, and perhaps exercise together.  We did take long walks through the neighborhood occasionally, but summers in DC can be oppressively hot, discouraging outdoor activities.

Once Mr. HalfFull went back to work in August, I started going back to the gym.  This became the anchor of my new schedule.  I would workout for 1 or 2 hours a day.  Plus, I got hired at my new gym to teach  BodyFlow™ again.  So during 2-5 of those weekly workout hours I was getting paid to exercise!

That time felt purposeful because I was doing something good for myself.  Without this break from work, I never would have had the combined time and energy to devote an extra 12 hours per week to exercise.  I was getting stronger and more fit!  Plus the structure of group fitness classes appeals to my need for a schedule.

Coffee

Coffee in German Biergarten

Ms. HalfEmpty with lattes in a German biergarten. No she didn’t drink all of those herself!

I also got my caffeine intake back under control.  I used to drink up to 4 coffees per day on workdays.  I would drink one en route to the gym before 6 AM.  My 2nd coffee would be consumed after breakfast.  Sometimes I would have a 3rd coffee when I got to the office, and my 4th would be after lunch for my afternoon jolt.

These were not huge mugs full of coffee, so it wasn’t that bad.  They were generally 6 ounce servings (whereas a cup is 8 ounces and a Starbucks Venti is 20 ounces).  But now I’m down to 2 coffees per day — one with breakfast and one in the afternoon.

Coffee has transformed from something I needed to survive the work world to something I can enjoy.  It’s wonderful to savor each sip!

Sleep

Santa Monica nap

Ms. HalfEmpty enjoyed naps early and often on the 30/40 World Tour

I used to get headaches to varying degrees almost every afternoon at work.  Now when I think I might be on the verge of a headache, I just take a nap.  Napping in the middle of the week is so luxurious and feels a heck of a lot better than a headache!

I’m getting full nights of sleep (since I can wake naturally), and napping when tired.  Sleep is certainly going well now that I am able to listen to my body’s sleep cues.

Transformation

I have the time to enjoy the world around me.  I am able to savor sunny afternoons outside with a picnic or my laptop on a bench.

I now try to act out of desire and joy.  In the past, I generally lived a life of obligation.  I was the kid who never wanted to miss a day of school even if I was sick.  I always did the thing I was supposed to do.  But there comes a point when you are on such autopilot that you no longer want anything.  You merely stay the course.

Another great benefit of not working in the afternoons is that I’ve been able to attend almost all my husband’s home games.  I’ve felt connected to his team as I’ve watched them grow over the season.  I got to be a part of their success as they finished the season with a championship!

People have commented that I smile more and seem happier since leaving my job.  I don’t think that was true over the summer, but it is now.  It’s a lot easier to be happy when you feel rested and unhurried by the pressures of the working world on a taxing commute with deadlines looming.

Mr. HalfFull has even commented that perhaps I have become Mrs. HalfFull (instead of Ms. HalfEmpty).  Maybe I’m finally coming into my married name!

In our relationship, he has always been known for his humor, while I was more of the straight man.  But now Mr. HalfFull is worried that I might be taking over his comedy domain.  Hum…I’m not sure I could do standup comedy at the DC Improv like he did, but perhaps humor comes more naturally to those who are well rested.

More sleep, more exercise, less coffee, fewer headaches…sounds like not working is doing a body good!  I’m probably the healthiest I’ve ever been.  I’m still waiting for my vision, but at least I’m back to living the spaces in between.

  • Do you need a schedule?
  • How do you define yourself in quick introductions?  Does it affect your self-image?
  • Are you the master of your time?  How do you spend it?  How would you like to spend it?
  • Have you found exercise, caffeine, and sleep to impact your well-being?
  • Have you noticed transformations in yourself?  What prompted them?

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End of the Journey

Last year, Mr. HalfFull and I embarked on our 30/40 World Tour:  Quest for Passion.  But it all came to an end 10 weeks later, and we returned to the real world of jobs and schedules.

Sailing in Fiji

Our sailing adventure in Fiji was nothing like that of Robin Lee Graham. I prefer to take airplanes between countries.

A few months ago, I read Dove, the true story of a 16-year-old boy who sailed around the world.  My trip was nothing like the solitude he experienced on his sailboat, but the wanderlust and thrill of adventure on land are similar.  During his journey, he met his wife, Patti.  This passage about her really struck me; it reminded me of my writing here and thoughts as my journey was coming to an end:

There are gaps in Patti’s diary, which was written to remind her of days that meant much to her.  She knew as I knew that we had got too close to heaven too early, that our time in the islands must come to an end; that we would soon have to return to the real world again.

One day I noticed that she had stopped typing.  She had put the typewriter back in the locker where she had found it.  I asked her why, and she smiled and said, “I don’t want to write the last chapter.”

Robin Lee Graham

Well this is the last chapter and it’s been written, like it or not.  As they say, all good things must come to an end.  But the memories will last a lifetime.  Perhaps those memories will continue to inspire me, and help me on future quests.

Recently, I was telling a friend about my Quest for Passion.  He stared at me incredulously and asked why I had to travel to find my passion.  I explained that travel wasn’t required, but it’s a good way to get out of normal routines and change thought patterns.  If you are in the same place, with the same schedule, interacting with the same people, you are less open to new possibilities.  But when you throw yourself into new environments, you are forced to make it work and challenge yourself in different ways.

Mauritius

Mr. HalfFull practicing mental relaxation and flexibility. But he doesn’t need as much practice as much as Ms. HalfEmpty!

This is part of the reason why vacations are so important.  They help to free your mind from chores at home, and give you the opportunity for mental relaxation and flexibility.  Stay-cations can be useful to accomplish projects at home, but they don’t have the same freeing power as getting away and changing your environment.

We are generally creatures of habit.  Many of us say we like change, but change can be hard.  Perhaps we like the idea of change, but the work to get there isn’t always enjoyable.

I think the Quest for Passion is lifelong for many of us who are not innately drawn to something.  My trip is over, but I think my quest will continue.  Patience is not one of my virtues, so I need to learn to appreciate the journey and live my way into my answers.

…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.  Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer…

Rainer Maria Rilke

I hope you stick around to find out what life is like after the 30/40 World Tour.  Or perhaps you have found my passion, the key to the locked room, or can translate the very foreign language for me.  If so, let me know in the comments.  Living my way into the answer seems like it could be very frustrating!

  • When your trip nears the end, do you worry about writing the last chapter?
  • Has travel helped you think in different ways?
  • Are you a creature of habit or spontaneity?
  • Have you found your passion?  Was it a struggle or did it come naturally?
  • Are you patient?

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