Thursday, July 31, 2008

Where Does the Time Go?

I found myself gasping this morning at the realization that the calendar has found its way to July 31st. It's safe to say that, for me, June and July flew by, and in what I'm sure will seem like no time at all, I'll be donning my parka and hard-core snow boots again every afternoon when I go out to walk my dog.

But the fact that the summer is charging forward with a vengeance reminded me of something I've been wanting to write about for a while now: what I do with my time day in and day out.

Lately I've been meeting up with friends I used to work with at various firms over the past decade, and all of them are extremely curious as to what my "typical day" is like, now that I have been away from The Man for nearly a year. I have definitely gotten the sense that most people think I sleep until noon, walk my dog in my pajamas, and then flip through magazines and TV channels while eating bonbons in my robe until it's time to sleep again. Now, if Magic Shell counts as bonbons, then yes, there is a little bit of that going on, but otherwise I really have no "typical day." Yet I feel constantly busy, behind in projects and communications (sorry to those of you I have yet to respond to via email or Facebook...) and each night I wonder, "Where in the hell did this day go?" I also have no idea how I ever got any personal errands done when I was in an office for 8-12 hours every day.

There are a lot of really random things that happen each week that eat up time. Let me use today as an example. I had every intention of getting up at 7 AM to get a jump-start on all the things I have to do. But, because I went on a power walk with my dog last night for the first time in two months, I felt all sore and tired and stayed in bed until 8.

At 8, I turned on my laptop, checked emails and Facebook messages and then made a quick breakfast of a half-bagel, cream cheese and orange juice. While making my tea, I called my mom, because a family member went into the hospital last night (nothing serious, thankfully) and I wanted to hear an update. While I talked to my mom (it was now 8:30), I Swiffered our upstairs hardwood floors because my dog's hair sheds ridiculously in the summer and I need to sweep every day. I also unloaded the dishwasher while still on the phone.

I got off the phone with my mom, but then needed to call two other relatives to pass along the update. After that, my brother called, and then I called a friend to tell her what was going on. As soon as I hung up with my friend, my mortgage broker called. We are refinancing right now, and it turns out that the mortgage peeps could find no record of our condo's title being filed. At this point, it was 10 AM.

So my broker relays to me the chaos that will ensue if we can't find the title/deed documents. I think back to five years ago and remember there being some drama about the title, and I tell her I think I was eventually mailed something, but it arrived a long time after our close. She warns that if I don't find the official title document, she's going to have to track down the lawyer of the people who we bought the place from in 2003 and it's going to be a mess.

This leads me to rummage through my laundry room shelves, where I have our various mortgage and closing documents spread throughout several folders and boxes. I cannot find the right document.

Finally, I remember that I put all of my Most Important Life Documents in a Secret Place, so I search that spot, and lo and behold, think I have found the right paperwork.

By this point in time, my mom had called me again with another update, so that took a few minutes. Then I called my broker back to ask if I had found the right thing, but she was no longer in the office. I remained hopeful that I had found what she needed, so I scanned in the three pages of what I thought was the deed and then emailed them to the mortgage company. By this point in time, it was 11 AM.

Several emails had come through over the course of those few hours, so I responded to the ones that needed immediate replies and then put all of the files, boxes and papers that I had torn out of my shelves back in their rightful spots. My stomach was growling because of my mini-breakfast (typically I eat a much bigger breakfast, it's my favorite meal of the day!), so I popped Amy's Organic Cheese Pizza Snacks into the toaster oven, and while they were cooking I loaded the dishwasher with a bunch of dirty dishes that had accumulated in the sink, threw away dead flowers that were in our centerpiece and changed the water in the vase, and then washed a few dishes that can't go in the dishwasher.

When I went to eat the pizza snacks, the phone rang. It was 11:23 and it was my mortgage broker, who was still out of the office but thought, from my description of the paperwork, that I had found the right document. I finished my pseudo-lunch and then began this post.

Four hours have passed since I got out of bed and I feel like I've accomplished nothing. I could've never had any idea when I went to bed last night that I would be doing any of the things that have taken up the first half of this day today. That is why one of my favorite sayings is, "People plan, God laughs."

Anyway, I WILL say that if I were to describe a typical day, it would be that I get up, eat breakfast, have my tea, and attempt to write my "According to e" post as soon afterward as possible. The posts get emailed out to subscribers in the early afternoon, so if I don't get one up in the morning, it doesn't get emailed until the following day, and for whatever reason that stresses me out. No, it is not "my job" to write on this site and no, I don't get paid in any way for anything I put on here (for this reason I hope you truly, truly, TRULY appreciate the lack of ads on both of my blogs!). Why do I do it? Because I am getting paid to write other things that one day I hope I'll be able to share with you all, and I've found that writing a short post every day has helped me to become a better writer and a faster writer and get over my need to think about everything I write for hours on end before I start typing. Plus, I have "virtually" met so many of you over the past few years that I find myself craving feedback, comments and the weird sort of camaraderie that comes from people who share the same interests, even if they never meet in person.

If I get done with my "A to e" post early enough, I will work on my "real" writing projects for a few hours. I walk my dog for 20 minutes or so every afternoon, and then typically keep on writing after I get home. But more often than not, phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, and do distract me a bit and take up a few hours each day. I also read a lot for some of the projects I'm working on--a form of research, if you will.

Then there are all the things I now do during the day that when working for The Man I could only do after business hours or on the weekend: laundry, cleaning, a wide variety of appointments (doctor, dentist, hair, vet, etc.), waiting for deliveries for everyone in my building, scheduling repair work for my building, scheduling charity pick-ups, watering plants, and so on. And if I actually schedule a lunch or meeting with a friend or colleague, then usually four hours are taken up between getting ready, traveling to/from the meeting spot and the meeting itself. If I don't have to see any other humans on a given day, then I usually don't take a shower until 4 PM, or after I go on a walk or to the gym, which is usually near the end of the day but before the rush of people coming from the office.

So there you have it. I think a lot of people would not do well with the lack of structure I face every day... but then there are those, like me, who prefer it to an office atmosphere. I wouldn't trade my situation for the world and know how lucky I am to be able to do what I love, so despite the daily dramas that distract me from more productive pursuits, I hope I can keep this lifestyle forever!

- e

P.S. So it's now 12:52. I just got off the phone with my broker, I did not have the right documents. No one can figure out if our title/deed was even ever filed and it is, as she predicted, a complete and utter mess. My dog is pacing to go on his walk. My mom just beeped in again while I was on the other line with the broker. AND I had to cancel an appointment I had scheduled at 1 PM with my tax guy. I have a feeling I'm not going to get much else done today...


Lockman said...

You rule E!!!
I love the people plan, God laughs..
I am one big procrastinator and really don't plan for anything...spontenaity (sp?) is my middle name...the thing with me though is if I plan to do something or schedule something and I miss the meeting time, deadline, whatever...I end up getting more stressed and basically I wake up in the morning with an idea of what I would like to accomplish in said day and go from there....I am not bald cuz of genes..I am bald because I was stressing and ripping hair bald is the new fro for me and I am happier for it...everyday has some semblance of structure but if I stray from the plan I don't go nuts anymore becuase I basically throw the chips in the air and let them fall where they may...of course some authority figures don't agree with my plan but Iam successful and thats what matters...
and as always thanks for the entertainment...because as you crave messages or comments...I crave a new post...Cheers and thanks again...

Jenni said...

It amazes me how similar my life can be to someone I will probably never meet. I too broke free from The Man last year and enjoy the scattered, disheveled existence of a work-from-homer. But really, do you think you could ever go back to the 9 to 5? I sure couldn't. I am spoiled rotten being able to control every hour of my day, whether or not every hour is as productive as it would be sitting at a desk working for someone else. That's the joy of it!

In addition to those you've listed, my other favorite distraction is the massively growing number of blogs in my Google Reader, which is always a good way to kill some time when I'm procrastinating on a real project. Yours are of course two of my favorites.

Can't wait to hear your take on the Comic-Con LOST stuff.

Unknown said...

That was a really interesting post about how you spend you day. That lifestyle seems to work perfectly for you. You have so much flexibility! Sadly, I am the type of person that needs structure to get work done or else I would just procrastinate all day.

Hopefully your problem with your broker gets figured out!!!

sylvia said...

That's a very funny and spot-on analysis of how easy it is to fritter away the hours on a seemingly short and trivial daily tasks - which is exactly how I spend 99% of my weekends and days off. It made me feel almost good about being a 9 to 5'er.

Can't wait to check out the new Comic Con post... but since it's a time-consuming pursuit, think I'll use my office time for that:)

G'luck with your projects!