I didn't have time actually means, it wasn't important enough. It wasn't a high priority, fun, distracting, profitable or urgent enough to make it to the top of the list. Seth Godin on Time

I remember reading Seth Godin’s post on time a few years ago:

“I didn’t have time” This actually means, “it wasn’t important enough.” It wasn’t a high priority, fun, distracting, profitable or urgent enough to make it to the top of the list.

This is something that really challenged me. It had me rethink my approach to things, especially social media and notifications.

This quandary came up again recently when in response to an invite from Chris Aldrich to participate in a meetup about Domain of One’s Own. Other than the logistical problem that it would be the middle of the night for me, I stated that was was never very good at such attending synchronous sessions. I explained that I much of my time spent on such tasks as IndieWeb and Domain of One’s Own is stolen. In response to this, Nate Angell asked who the time was actually stolen from?

What i meant by my throw-away comment was that time is always a balance. Whether it be work, family or chores, there is always something to chew up the time. The problem is that each aspect would be enough on its own, let alone find time for the personal stuff.’

Therefore, I have learnt to ‘steal time’ for me. This involves making the most of situations to read and respond. This is often done by doubling up when doing more menial tasks. At the moment, this means listening to podcasts or my Pocket feed in the morning as I do the chores, such as getting everyone’s breakfast ready and tidying up the kitchen. I then curate in the odd moments throughout the day. While in the hour or so when I finally stop at the end of the day I try to carve out time for my thoughts or do a bit of tinkering or creating. I have written about this workflow before and although it continues to evolve, it still remains much the same.

I must admit that although I love many aspects to working from home, one aspect I miss is the way in which my commute seemingly gave permission to stop working or doing chores. I have subsequently found myself working more than I would have if I were in an office setting. I am not implying that I am lazy in an office setting, however it provides certain structures and expectations that do not exist at home. For example, with an hour commute, I was always mindful about leaving on time to pickup my children from childcare. This is no longer an issue.

I remember reading Doug Belshaw talk about breaking up the day into different spaces, although I cannot find the reference, only this. Sadly, that is not necessarily possible where I live or in the job I do. However, it is probably something that I need to be a bit more deliberate about.

Another challenge I have being a connected educator and learner is justifying what I do in regards to my work, whether it is writing my newsletter or writing these reflections. The reality is that blogging and Domain of One’s Own is very much a passion project. Although I used blogs when I was in the classroom, sadly my current work involves supporting schools with learning management software. In saying this, I actually apply a lot of my lessons from blogging and actually cracking open the database in the work that I do. However, not everyone sees professional learning like that.

As always, thoughts and comments welcome.

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Stealing Time – Finding Balance in Busy Times by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

18 thoughts on “Stealing Time – Finding Balance in Busy Times

  1. I find that I sabotage my own time with the attention span of the dog in the movie ‘Up’ who is easily distracted by a squirrel. Case in point, I was making a coffee for my daughter and opened my email. Saw your post above and clicked on it. Sat for a read and now I’m responding… but now I’m not downstairs getting my morning exercise, writing, and meditation routine done on the schedule I created for myself today.

    Work can be like that too… I’m in the flow getting things done, a teacher asks me something, I leave my desk to help, I come back and check email and suddenly I’m no longer on my own schedule or priorities.

    I seem to steal productive time from myself based on influx of information that I allow to take over… and there lies the rub, ‘ information that I allow to take over’. I just listened to Derek Sivers book, ‘Hell Yeah, or No’ and I think he has figured it out more than most. What’s interesting is that I thought that book was about saying no to others, but really it’s about our own self talk and what we internally prioritize.

    • Thank you for the comment David.

      Thinking about work, I find that there are periods of ‘doing’ where I go from school to school, following up issues. Then other times when I am able to dig into things a bit deeper and develop proactive solutions, such as documentation and videos. Sadly, I doubt that the life in leadership affords such ebbs and flows.

      Sivers’ book sounds like one that I should have a look at. Another one to steal time for 🙂


  2. Wow. A very thoughtful post to what probably started as just a series of offhand comments. Thanks for finding the time to share it Aaron! Making me think about how I deal with time…

  3. Tom, I really enjoyed this newsletter. I have found that the change in work and getting back the commute time really interesting. I am no longer stressing about waking at six and rushing around frantically in the morning trying to the kids and I out the door. However, as you touch upon, this has not necessarily provided more time, but instead a different set of jobs to be done. In regards to audio, I no longer listen on my commute, instead I have found myself listening to podcasts as I do the morning rounds (something that used to be the afternoon rounds).

    Now, starting our audio day at 8:30 instead of 7:15 doesn’t necessarily mean we are sleeping in later, but I am sure that’s true for many people. I’m not getting any more sleep, I can tell you that, because… [gestures broadly at the outside world.] But one of the many things COVID-19 hath wrought is a drastic reduction in the Great American Commute. On any given day, work can throw you a curveball, kids and family can have their issues, but the commute is ritualized behavior. It’s one of the reasons that AM/FM remains the leading source of audio in the car—it has been expertly designed to serve that ritual.
    In April, most of the country (and the world) was shut down, and EVERY form of media had a dramatic consumption shift. Podcasts, AM/FM Radio, even Audiobooks, all went down. “Tiger King” went up (man does that seem a long time ago?) We didn’t just lose our commutes—we lost the gym, we lost our “lunch hour,” and we lost something crucial for listening to many podcasts and audiobooks, Me Time. If you thought quarantine was going to give you more Me Time, you didn’t think through the impact of being a 100%-on-duty spouse, son, daughter, mother, or father, in addition to whatever your job entailed for those of us lucky enough to still be working.
    Gradually, however, overall audio consumption has returned to something approaching pre-pandemic levels. We might be starting our audio days 75 minutes later, but COVID didn’t permanently rob us of 75 minutes of audio listening. Comparing Q2 2020 to last year, we are down about 10 minutes per day, not 75. We’ve settled into the this that is whatever this this is. Podcasts are fitting back into our lives.

    I think that what I have come to appreciate about podcasts as opposed to radio (although many of my podcasts actually are deduced from radio) is that they allow me to steal time when it may arise.

  4. I really enjoyed this Doug. It reminds me of something Dave Cormier wrote a few years ago:

    Once we jointly answer questions like “why would people care about this” and “how does this support people starting to care about this for the first time” and “will this stop people who care now from caring”, we have a place to work from.

    I wonder if formal education justifies the time we spend frustrated. I find the most frustrating point in my life being the time and mental space to actually learn things that interest me.

  5. Lauren C. Howe , Ashley Whillans and Jochen I. Menges provide some tips for managing the work/life divide associated with working remotely:

    Create your own commute.
    Give yourself a Feierabend, a daily evening celebration marking the moment when work is switched off for the day
    Focus your workload on a daily “must win.”
    Put “proactive time” on your calendar.
    Reclaim the social in social distancing.
    Run time-management experiments.

    Some interesting ideas, but the problem I find is that my time does not feel like my own to control.


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