After my son was born, like most new parents, I encountered a crisis of time. It was a rough transition going from my previous lifestyle to that of dad. Time was cheap to me before and now it seems the most precious commodity.
In the late hours of bottle feeding and diaper changes during those first three months your former self is stripped away. You begin to accept, however willing or unwilling, that a major change has set in. I mourned the time I could never recover but also felt a surge of willpower to get work done. This was probably more so for myself than for the well being of my family. But that would change. I made a decision to engineer more time for myself, factoring in the new requirements of both my wife and my son.
The first lesson I learned was to cut the cruft. It was time to prioritize the things I wanted to get done. I knew I couldn’t approach the amount of time that I had previously, but I could try to optimize the time I found. The best way I could do this was by dropping projects I didn’t love going all Marie Kondo on my task list. I begin to take on less work and archived projects that I knew I couldn’t realistically finish for myself. Taking some of this mental weight off myself turned out to be far more valuable to mental health than to my schedule.
With my to-do list lessened I felt capable of allocating my time in a meaningful way. But before that I had even another step to perform. I found myself meticulously keeping my own calendar up to date. Before the baby, I never gave true purpose to my own calendar. It was just one of those apps that’s always been in the background. What did I have to do that was so important that I needed to write it down? My wife was the most skilled at remembering events so I could always rely on her. In the end, daily events and reminders became a necessary framework for me to have a picture of where I was in time.
With my life laid out in an exhaustive linear fashion I could see what remained of my free time. The gaps in my schedule became visible. They weren’t large, but they were there and it wasn’t hopeless. I proceeded to schedule work for myself to fill the gaps and set boundaries as to what I would work on. This contributed to better focus during work time and eliminated overhead on deciding what to work on. I found that when I sat down at my desk with 5 things to do I acquired partial paralysis in deciding. The result was always in choosing the highest priority task. This approach ended up sidelining other projects with lower priorities.
Scheduling specific work solved the problem of stagnation. I had already solved the problem of ditching projects that didn’t matter to more or were otherwise intractable in their requirement of time. Now the pool of available work was derived from projects that mattered to me for one reason or another. The only way to ensure everything received attention was through time-sharing.
It’s still a struggle, I’ll admit, and I hate it when it feels like I haven’t gotten anything done. I try to remind myself that the universe doesn’t owe me any time. There will be unexpected demands placed on my time for quite a while to come. And some of them I really quite enjoy.