Finding the Time

Okay, so let's throw out some facts. Each day has 24 hours; each week has 7 days. Months and years get a little harder to explicitly quantify[1], but that's okay as they're also a little meaningless for what we're talking about[2]. Right, following so far?

My job requires me to work from 9am to 5.30pm every weekday, with an hour at some point near the middle for lunch. That means 5 days a week, a block of 7.5 hours is automatically accounted for. On top of that, I live about 1.25 hours (so 75 minutes... the whole non-metric time system doesn't make textual explanations easy, does it!) away from where I work, and whilst I do occasionally work remotely or from home, for the sake of this discussion lets assume I do that commute every day of the week and block out another 2.5 hours Mon-Fri, making 10 hours total (11 if you include that lunch hour).

As a human, I need to eat daily[3]. Now I don't eat breakfast, and during the week I have a specific hour at work for this purpose, but I still need to factor that hour in over the weekends and add time for dinner as well. We try to cook as much as possible, probably averaging around 40 minutes a night, and then eat food whilst watching an episode of whatever show we're currently focusing on. Again, it's hard to definitively state how long that total process takes, but let's assume it's a 50 minute show (on average) and call the whole thing 1.5 hours for easier maths. Plus, lunches don't just magically happen, so let's add another 30 minutes to make lunch after dinner and tidy/wash up too, putting total time accounted for on weekdays at 13 hours and on weekends at 3 hours[4].

I'm also terrible at waking up so, although I don't eat breakfast, I probably take just as long (or longer) as most people to leave the house in the morning. From the (first) alarm that goes off, it routinely takes me 1.5 hours to simply become a semi-functioning person again, including time to shower, get dressed, and sort out anything I need for the day. We can definitely consider that a standard across the week, giving 14.5 hours a day on weekdays and 4.5 hours on weekends.

I think that broadly collects together everything routine/required of my time during a standard work week, though let's round up both to the next hour (15 and 5 respectively) to account for *ahem* other necessary functions, and the only other core need is sleep. That's a tricky one though as, bad for my health or not, I tend to fit sleep in around the rest of life rather than prioritise it. Still, I'm basically useless if I don't get at least 5 hours, definitely play catch up on the weekends, and at least try to be in bed (albeit rarely asleep) by midnight, so we can assume an average 6.5 hours for each weekday and probably 8 hours for Sat and Sun. I'm not sure I could cope with much less than that, so it seems fair, which gives us 21.5 hours on weekdays and 13 hours on weekends.

So what, exactly, is left over? 2.5 hours every weekday and 22 hours across a weekend... that's just over one full day a week of "free time". But, of course, that time isn't necessarily free; we all have other commitments, stuff like cleaning the house, arranging and attending appointments, sorting out bills etc. Plus, somewhere in all of this should really be some time for exercise[5]! That's kind of terrifying... especially when you have a list of interests and hobbies that you want to spend time on.

Which brings me around to the point of this post. Six months ago, I laid out a set of goals for 2019. Given that we're just hitting the midway point, I figured it would be worthwhile providing a small update. So how am I doing? Well, as you can probably guess by ⬆️ all of the above ⬆️, the answer is: not too well 😔

I've still got outstanding photos to edit from 2018, I've only uploaded one photo to my portfolios so far this year, I haven't printed or framed anything, and despite some genuine efforts the photo trips keep falling through. I don't have personal logos, or a review system, or social streams on this website. I've barely made any further headway on the magazine digitising project, or the hard drive sorting, and frankly the 30th trip feels a little dead in the water right now...

For some slight positives, I have at least settled on a rough plan for video filing which seems to be working well, though it hasn't been tested enough yet to feel genuinely done. I've written 3 articles (this will be #4), so whilst I'm not keeping pace I'm at least making some progress, and I have managed to keep up with the zoo trips. Best of all, I have migrated (most of) my CMS; it's not a done thing, but I'm typing this in Craft, my last two articles have been entirely written and published on Craft, and the old site is no longer being updated. That isn't exactly ideal, as the new CMS still lacks a front-end, so no one can see anything, but small victories and all that 🎉

However, with all that said, I think it's time to try a new line of attack if I want to start seeing some genuine progress. I mean, sure, you can see from the above that I have 24.5 hours a week to dedicate to these things, but they aren't the only interests I have. For example, Tuesday evenings are drumming practice, and about 12 days a year are drumming gigs, so straight away that's a good chunk. I'm also trying to attend meetups more, we go to the cinema every other week on Wednesdays, and then there's the fact that I have a partner and a large group of amazing friends/family that I want to do things with as well. Oh, and then there are about four weeks of the year which are dedicated "holiday" time, and you can bet I'm not going to blow much (if any) of that sitting in front of a computer!

So what, then, is my plan? Well, I think it's time to get Agile ✊! Whilst I remain a little sceptical about all the buzzwords I have to deal with at work (y'know, stuff like SAFe, Scrum, Kanban, Sprint, Retro, Three Amigos...) there are some elements of the Agile methodologies that I fully believe in, chiefly that big things are achieved by focusing on small goals and routinely re-evaluating resource commitments[6].

I've talked in the past about how New Years make good mental refresh points, but I don't see why that model can't be applied to months. So what I want to do, moving forward, is to give myself a monthly theme, and then break down a few micro-goals that will build into that. Those themes might be quite specific, such as "theAdhocracy" if I want to spend a month really zoning in on this site, but that doesn't mean the micro-goals will be repetitive – for example, that theme might result in goals of attending a Homebrew Website meetup, writing a blog post, sorting out domain renewals, and experimenting with Netlify[7].

At the end of each month I'll do a small "retro" with myself (and maybe Alison) to see where I stand, and to plot out the next "sprint", including assigning goals to each week. Again, these won't necessarily all even be related to that main theme, though I'd like to try and do that a bit (with the hope that it leads to some eclectically weird themes). Nor do those goals necessarily have to be related to my "resolution list" for 2019; a goal could be to meet up with friends or go for a run or buy a new pair of headphones. Goals should be achievable within a week, so they will need to fit around other commitments, but hopefully that makes them more achievable. That to-do list will effectively work as a roadmap and backlog, to try and keep thinking focused.

So with all that said, June's theme is going to be... (drum roll)... Planning! The first week was planning for, then going on, a holiday (more on that soon); week two is to write a post about my plan (see what I did there?); week three is a little JavaScript and CSS Grid experiment around a calendar; week four is going to be outlining a plan of action for the launch of Planet Zoo (again, more on which soon). As you can see, eclectic and should be interesting, but let's see how it works out!

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  • <p>We have seven days in a week, 24 hours in a day – but what does that actually mean when trying to set aside time to work on side projects? Once you take into account work hours, time to eat and sleep, and everything in between, is it all as bad as it feels?</p>
  • Murray Adcock.
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