I suspect I might be a time minimalist

A lot of folks seem to be overwhelmed with everything they’re trying to do in life.

I often feel a bit overwhelmed at work, but since my brain shuts off after a certain amount of hard thinking and I start making mistakes, I hit actual hard limits on work work, and am thus forced to do things that are not part of my regular paid labor.  But I don’t feel overwhelmed with the things I need to do in non-work.

When I look at the lists of things that other people are trying to fit into their days… I realize that there are a lot of things that I just don’t do.  I don’t get in a morning jog.  I don’t work out after work.  I don’t clean the house (except when company is coming).  I don’t have a particularly onerous commute.  I don’t watch much tv and I’m way behind in Netflix watching (we really ought to decrease our subscription).  We don’t do date nights.  I don’t do mani-pedis.  I definitely don’t do book clubs.  Nor do I do girl’s nights out, except the occasional once every two years shopping trip.  I’ve been considering getting my hair highlighted because I don’t need to look old when I’m not teaching, but have been turned off by the time commitment even more than the monetary commitment (I noticed at a recent conference that my prominent female economist colleagues almost entirely have one shade of hair color– they dye but don’t highlight).  I don’t have hobbies other than the blog and mostly brainless romance novels (I’ve been assuming that my brain will be up to say, Malcolm Gladwell level non-fiction, while on leave but it really isn’t yet) at the rate of one or two a week (mostly before bed or while in the restroom).  We pile responsibilities and habits on our kids as soon as they’re able to take over them (DC1 most recently is in charge of cleaning hir bathroom).

I’m just not trying to do as much stuff as a lot of people.

I don’t think that’s better or worse than other folks.  Just like I don’t think having stuff (that you can afford) is in any way worse than not having stuff, despite what the minimalist movement suggests.  I try to pack stuff in at work and look towards my leisure time (including home production) to contain the chores I don’t mind doing (food, laundry, finances) and have everything else pretty much unplanned.  So it doesn’t feel like I’m missing out.  Maybe I am.  I’m sure I could fit more stuff in my leisure time if I made an effort to organize it, but I’m not sure that would make me any happier than being my standard lazy disorganized self.   Really, so long as I’m getting enough sleep and my kids are getting enough attention (and DH and I get enough together time) and everybody is healthy and happy and doesn’t smell too bad, we’re good.

I do, however, wish I were more productive and organized at work.  I’m just going to have to keep working on that.

48 Responses to “I suspect I might be a time minimalist”

  1. eemusings Says:

    I don’t do much either. I talk to people at work and they fit so much into their evenings and weekends!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I know! It seems really crazy to me. But we’re always open when someone invites us. :) Well, except that we tend to get a whole bunch of invitations for the same weekend each semester and no invitations other weekends. So I guess we’re not really available, it just feels like we are.

      • omdg Says:

        We are the same as you. I think some people make a big (to me) effort to schedule their weekends fully, and end up with a lot of social obligations. I find myself turning things down often so that I can spend time with my daughter because I have so little time with her. I’ve also never been that much of a joiner, so do not tend to do things like book clubs, etc. and I’ve only had a “girl’s group” once, and well, that ended in disaster, so I suspect that it’s not really my thing. I find I like doing things like pedicures, haircuts, massages, etc when I do them, but not so much that I would ever actively make space in my calendar so that I can plan to do them, or even enough to plan them as a special treat to myself.

        I have found that I enjoy finances, but not so much the cooking or laundry, and DEFINITELY not the cleaning. I like walking the dog and paying attention to her. Walking and talking with other people is nice too. Poor neglected animal.

  2. ralucacoldea Says:

    I wish we wouldn’t do much as well, but we currently are wrapping up the construction of our house. It took us 3.. LONG…
    YEARS. 3 years of dealing with construction workers, managing my mother’s expectations how my house should look like (I’m paying for it, but it should be build according to her specifications – if anyone talks to me about tiger moms I can legitimately say that those are cat moms at most, compared to mine). 3 years of nearly daily decision making – should we use this material or that one, which type of wallpaper, what type of doors, floors and furniture. I dream of doing nothing pretty much each day.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That sounds really not fun. One of my colleagues went through that and just the picking of the knobs for the kitchen looked overwhelming to me. DH and I tend to buy things that someone else has already made all the decisions for. Even shoe shopping (or hair cutting) I just want the salesperson (stylist) to tell me what to get based on my general preferences. Picking out a house from scratch just sounds like a nightmare to me. And I don’t even have a controlling mother. (If I did, I’d probably just say, here’s the budget, pick out a nice house for me kthnxbai. We have high levels of laziness at Casa Grumpy.)

      • ralucacoldea Says:

        Yes, it’s really not fun. I would not recomend it to anyone, but we chose to do it because we’re really particular about 2 things: we want lots of land and we want a small house. Over here, you either get a normal house on a minuscule plot of land or a huge plot of land with a McMansion on top, about 2-3 times more house that we need.
        Re: controlling mothers: would you still allow her to pick a nice house for you if she could not be trusted with money, not even her own? Even if she does not understand a budget so you would probably get a phone call telling you, well, your house is half done but the money is all gone? If you know that she will overspend on anything cosmetic like curtains and furniture, but underspend on structural things like the roof? Even if she loves red anything and you like blue? You are way more courageous than me :).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We went with McMansion. And no if she can’t handle money. My SIL had something similar with her wedding. It seemed like a nightmare and they ended up with a lot of debt for one of the more miserable weddings we’ve been to.

  3. Leigh Says:

    Yup. A guy I dated several years ago now had so many commitments that there just wasn’t time to date or sleep. I personally value sleeping and cooking/eating above all else. I am ruthless in what I’ll say yes to. With grad school now, I’m trying to keep my social commitments to once a week and there are some days that are better than others – i.e. the day before the assignment is due is actually the best.

    I get overwhelmed if I have too many commitments, yet I get bored if I don’t have enough projects on the go. So I try to keep a list of “downtime” projects that don’t require a lot of energy, but give me something to do. The blog is definitely a downtime project…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I was going to say that we say yes to everything we just don’t get asked a lot, but then I thought about it and realized that is so not true. I say no to stuff that sounds like the opposite of fun– camping in 90 degree heat? Thanks, but you’re crazy and no. Driving two hours for shopping when I don’t want to buy anything and I’ve been on a week long business trip, it sounds great, but I need to spend time with my family. And, of course, once one starts saying no, one gets asked less and I am totally ok with that. Soooo lazy.

      Yay blogging! I probably spend too much time on it. But it’s a good way of connecting with #2, and some other pretty amazing people on the interwebs.

  4. middle_class Says:

    People at my work seem to do A LOT on weeknights and weekends. However, their kids are older and they all seem to be busy with kid-related activities like sports, dance, music lessons, etc.. Even if their kid does one activity, it still seems like a lot of time commitment.

    Family commitments are also hard to get out of and some people have a lot to do just because of family obligations. Most seem to enjoy it, but I would get tired of going to a lot of kid birthday parties.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We trade off on the kid birthday parties. It does help that DC2’s daycares have had a lot fewer parties than DC1’s did, so we’re not at a party every weekend. The kids enjoy them.

      DC1 is in a lot of activities this year, but almost all of them are at the school right after school so we don’t have to be there and can pick hir up late, which is nice.

      We don’t have family obligations because our family don’t live nearby! (Though family obligations do take up all of our vacation time. I guess that saves time and money from planning trips that aren’t to Smalltown, Midwest.)

  5. Leah Says:

    I like to be social and hang out with people (like, say, board game nights), so I am often frustrated at how very busy people make themselves with obligations. I don’t do a ton, and I still feel like I’m quite busy. Part of that is the boarding school life — there’s often a game or performance I’d like to attend to support my students. Like you, my job keeps me super busy.

    I also carve out me time as much as possible (not much these days), so I do have a to-do list, but I try not to stress too much about doing my personal things (scrapbooking, sewing, etc).

    We try to minimize the number of ongoing commitments we have. My husband sings in a local choir that practices once a week. We do a toddler class once a week. That’s about it. When our kid is old enough, I want her to be involved in some stuff, but we will also plan plenty of time for just playing and downtime.

    My favorite things to do are scheduled but flexible — taking walks outside, going for a jog, wandering around. Last night, the weather was good, so my kid and I went outside and stomped around in the leaves both before and after dinner. Great fun! Maybe I’m a time minimalist too? I don’t feel like it, but I really resent the time intrusions of being involved in lots of planned time obligations, so I avoid those.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DH is always up for boardgames! I’m always up for watching everybody’s kids so he can play boardgames, but I bow out of playing the games themselves.

      We’re gonna take a flexible not really scheduled walk right now! It’s not that we don’t do stuff. But we definitely aren’t trying to pack much into our free time.

      • Leah Says:

        “But we definitely aren’t trying to pack much into our free time.”

        The older I get, the more I see the wisdom in this. I like to do things as they come up. I schedule some things, but I really relish free time so that I can do what I feel like.

        I did have a time in my life when I had more commitments. For example, I used to go to weekly belly dance classes. They were really fun, but sometimes I was just exhausted from work. I remember literally sobbing one time because I did want to go but felt like I should go because I had paid, but it was a sunk cost, but I’d let everyone down, but but but. After that, I decided I needed to not sign up for stuff for awhile. I’d really like to be in an orchestra again (and we have a nice regional one), but the thought of being tied down to weekly practices and committed to concerts is so not my bag right now.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        One of the big problems with understanding sunk costs is that I cannot trick myself into exercising by taking a class. On the plus side, because I understand basic game theory, I don’t waste money on classes I’m not going to take.

        I don’t really know that I’d call it wisdom. Some people are goal-oriented outside of work. I use up all my goals inside work. Except for february when we do our challenge. :)

  6. chacha1 Says:

    I am also a time minimalist. As a very self-aware introvert, I know that quiet downtime is essential to my mental and emotional well-being, so if I don’t feel like doing something after work I just don’t.

    My life is made simpler by 1) no kids, 2) no family in the same city, 3) cats not dogs, 4) really not giving a flying f**k about stereotypical girl things like mani-pedis and highlights! I have been cutting and coloring my own hair for years, I’ve never gotten my legs (or anything else for that matter) waxed, and I shop for clothes maaaaaybe twice a year. And by that I mean I go to the mall, for a reason explicitly other than going to a movie or lunch, maybe twice a year.

    I’ve never shopped at Costco, I’ve been inside a Walmart twice in my life, and I haven’t been to a Target for years. I do 90% of all shopping on Amazon (or otherwise online). I go to Bed Bath & Beyond once a year.

    I’m noting all these shopping things because I know a lot of women whose entire weekend is taken up with going from one retail establishment to another. Basically, if I can’t get something online or at the supermarket, I probably don’t need it so I don’t go looking for it. This saves a LOT of time. My Saturdays are generally spent doing craft stuff, reading, writing, monkeying around with my patio garden, doing a little housework. My Sundays are reserved to spend with the husband.

    I volunteer with a nonprofit that has taken up a good bit of bandwidth for the past ten years, but next year am scaling back my commitment there as a new and very promising-looking Board is incoming and I don’t believe my particular energy is going to be needed. I don’t do clubs, book or otherwise. I don’t even send holiday letters.

    I do yoga daily at home. Before too much longer there will be more dancing in my life again, but to me there is no downside to spending my free time dancing. :-)

  7. bogart Says:

    Me too.

    Aside from the more productive at work part that you mention, I do run into two time problems, though. One is lumpiness — I might have (usually do have) plenty of time this week, but I don’t necessarily have enough time (or plenty of time) today. Mostly I just roll with this, though I do occasionally, you know, wring my hands despairingly. But by its very nature, this tends to be one of those “this too shall pass” problems. Though it is also true that “it too shall recur.”

    The other one I run into, and this is partly related to lumpiness but also discrete, is daylight hours — and that’s one I’m feeling right now a bunch, as the days are getting shorter. Lots of the things I *want* to be doing (as opposed to those i need to be doing, like going to work) are things I only enjoy, or mostly enjoy doing in daylight, or that are impossible to do or less safe to do in the dark. Riding springs to mind (but certainly isn’t the only such thing). I have some flexibility in my work hours, but the combination of meetings and the large amounts of time that some of these activities involve (plus the fact that they cannot be done just anywhere but may require their own commute) limit the amount of weekday daylight hours that are available to me, and that can be annoying.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I get that lumpiness at work too much.

      We had to cut our walk short because it’s dark outside. :( The lack of sun definitely cuts down on our ability to just do random stuff after work even if we want to.

  8. Ana Says:

    A lot of people do these things because they bring real value or joy to their lives, like exercise or social outings or date nights. If they don’t, then, yeah, skip them! The girly stuff is usually for relaxation, less than obligation. I used to get pedicures every once and again and I would read a magazine and chill out. Its something you do when you have time, I’ve never heard of someone forgoing sleep to get a pedicure. I stopped having time, so I stopped getting them. For stuff like hair coloring or the like—I don’t actually get my hair colored, but I imagine you could bring a book to read?
    I do agree that sleep comes first, the other stuff has to fit around that!

    • chacha1 Says:

      I think the observation to be drawn is that a lot of people make frequent speeches about how busy, overscheduled, overwhelmed etc they are, giving 20 time-obligation examples. So if these same people are perhaps assigning equal levels of value/joy to 100% of their activities, a little navel gazing may be in order, because not every activity or thing actually does bring equivalent value/joy.

      That is to say, if there is no value/joy distinction to be drawn between one’s 20 time obligations, then cutting half of them out to get rid of that busy/overscheduled complaint would seem to be a painless exercise. And if there IS a value/joy distinction to be drawn, then cutting those obligations that fall below the median level of value/joy would likewise seem, if not painless, at least reasonably achievable.

      Unless of course the complaint speech *itself* provides value/joy, and reducing the time obligations would interfere with that. :-) People do tend to love their complaints.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        @chacha– you sound like an economist. :)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Also, although all of what you say is absolutely correct (how could it not be– you sound like an economist), I wasn’t actually trying to make any sort of “you should be this way” statement at all. The post was just inspired by me wondering why I don’t have the too much going on problem (outside of work) and me realizing I’ve made different trade-offs. A lot of people would probably find my life boring and think I wasn’t doing enough, but no, I’m good.

      • Ana Says:

        I guess I don’t hear those speeches? The only people I’ve heard talk about being busy or unavailable are 1) parents with multiple older kids in activities (usually sports) that involve driving around here & there on weeknights and weekends and 2) people with lots of extended family in the area and obligations to visit with them regularly (which, isn’t always “busy” since if you happen to LIKE your family it may just mean doing your usual relaxing weekend at someone else’s house)…oh and the usual “lumpiness” issue where all the deadlines are at once, and the kids birthday party and your roof is leaking kind of thing that can happen to anyone no matter how minimal your commitment are. I’ve never heard someone complain that their life was too busy and the items on their list were: pedicures, hair care, book club, etc… Maybe those people exist, and if they do, I agree with you—they need to cut some stuff out of their lives and it is very possible they just enjoy complaining because that’s a stupid thing to complain about!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I can tell you for a fact that mani pedis are extremely important where chacha lives.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        … @Ana– Check out MIM today(!) Though she seems to be in good humor about it and knows the trade-offs she’s making.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        There’s something pretty amazing about enjoying so much of life that it seems like there’s not enough hours in the day to do everything you want to do (as opposed to everything you have to do). Outside of work anyway. But I think it’s also ok to you know, “waste time” relaxing… or, as I’m framing it here, to be a time minimalist. (Doesn’t that sound so much more positive than wasting time?)

      • Ana Says:

        just read that post, yeah, she seems to actually enjoy it, it didn’t sound complainy.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Of course they do! People are rational human beings. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying any of those things. My hobbies (or lack thereof) are not a statement about other people’s hobbies. Of course, I also don’t believe that minimalism is in any way better than having a lot of stuff.

      • chacha1 Says:

        Of course. Everybody’s got their own set of trade-offs. :-)

        From the craggy hill of my advanced age, I will freely admit to being a little judgy when people say “oh I am so busy with all the things” and when asked what all the things are, they are mostly trivia OR things that could very easily be renegotiated, rescheduled, reconfigured.

        It’s the “but I enjoy this so much – it’s for relaxation – (subtext) I deserve it” *coupled with* the time-management complaint that makes me nuts. If you (rhetorical “you”) need more time to, say, work out or cook like you say you want to, then maybe spend less time playing Candy Crush. If you really want to play Candy Crush more than you want to work out or cook, fine – just don’t complain about not having time. Everybody has the same amount of time, and you (still rhetorical) are choosing to spend yours on Candy Crush.

        I seriously know people who will act all stressed out because they are “behind” on their Netflix queue.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I admit, I am very behind on the netflix queue *and* I have a book that might have to get returned to the library before I read it. The latter is a bit stressful (because why did I check it out! It’s not like I didn’t know there was a short deadline on it.).

      • SP Says:

        Wait, people are rational human beings? Are you sure about that???

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Well, no, but in the absence of contrary evidence, that’s my main assumption. Rational until proven irrational. I tend to believe people and take them at their word and so on.

        I do not, for example, believe that anybody who isn’t frequently verbally miserable just isn’t being honest. I believe that people who say they’re happy with their lives, spouses, etc. are actually happy and not secretly afraid to talk about how awful their lives really are. (Sorry, venting a little bit there.)

        Chacha may be right that complaining is a sign of needing to re-optimize, unless, of course, the complaining itself is what is providing utility. Which… it may be in some cases.

      • SP Says:

        Makes sense! On an individual scale, I think I’m with you – assume people are rational. Well, I’m with you in theory, but I quite likely fail at implementing that policy in reality. I accept that as a fault!

        On a global scale “people are rational” is not a statement I would make!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I can’t help it, I’ve spent >15 years being trained to assume people are rational as a first pass. (Next step: assume they are irrational in predictable systematic ways.)

      • Rosa Says:

        time to play Candy Crush is different than time to exercise, though. You can futz on your phone (or read blogs, or whatever) in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s, on the bus commute, at whatever time your partner manages to drag themselves home from work, even if the kiddos won’t behave well at daycare, etc.

        I’m in a spot where I have quite a bit of free time (yay!) but it is wholly contingent on other people’s schedules, and not at the times most people have free time. So there are a lot of things I can’t do (like signup for an exercise class at a certain time – I did that this summer and i missed half the classes for emergencies of one sort or another.)

      • Ana Says:

        so in regards to the candy crush hypocrisy; sure, I know people who don’t do things they SAY they want to do (like exercise, or learning something or reading books) because they “don’t have time” but then they spend loads of time on TV or other mindless things. That is more along the lines of “if you don’t have time, its not a priority”. they SAY they want to exercise, but they really prefer playing candy crush. I think it sounds better in their heads to rationalize that “there is no time” than just owning up to the fact that they’d rather sit on their ass.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        re: candy crush– I blame time discount factors. I have the same problem… me in time t would rather hit reload on the internet even though me in time t+n wishes I’d gone for a walk or loaded the dishwasher first.

        (This is why I do not play any games at all ever. It’s like AA for gaming addiction.)

      • Ana Says:

        I’m EXACTLY the same with games, I don’t allow myself to play because I could see myself getting addicted easily.

  9. The frugal ecologist Says:

    I am much more like you, although we do have family in town and we try to see them every week. That basically consists of hanging out at their house instead of our own. I do try to go on a walk with the dog & kiddo(s) daily but this is pleasant – off leash greenbelt. I do miss running but not enough to make it happen. No hobbies other than reading.

    My sister on the other hand is extremely social. For her, every weekend involves at least one social event and she frequently hosts these, date nights out & about once a month concert or other show. This would be no fun to me, but I find it so interesting how we all fill up our time.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It’s turning out that we’re seeing some friends here in Paradise town about once a week, give or take. But for the most part it’s kid-related and it’s often a last minute pick-up thing (“hey, want to meet at the park for a picnic after the farmer’s market?”) We’re just almost always available and I think they don’t get as much socialization as they’d like with everyone else being so busy with their own lives! We’re also trying to get some exercise in each day because I was turning into a lump, but it’s nothing big and if it doesn’t happen it’s not a big deal. I guess it’s not that we do nothing, just that there’s nothing big and regular and planned. We do stuff if we have time rather than making time to do stuff.

      My sister is also extremely social! She makes time for us about once a month when we’re living in the same state that she is. She hosts so many bridal showers and baby showers. To be honest, I find most of her friends extremely boring (or I did several years ago when we tagged along to a party and when she was still bringing friends to Thanksgiving at our house– they may have become more interesting now that they’re no longer in their 20s).

  10. Revanche Says:

    I like your style. It sounds like you’d be easy to hang out with. (aka just hang out together in the same place at the same time, enjoying the family and so on. Nothing fancy.) Sometimes I’d like to do more things: volunteer, sports, getting out. I like doing them and wish I could do more. I don’t wish to be more busy, though so I guess in a way it’s nice to have an external limit imposed? … No, not really.

    PiC seems to think I should get groomed twice a year, not just once a year. Sometimes I agree, other years I don’t, usually has to do with whether I have to be in company and whether I feel like $55 is too much to spend right then. I love the look of maintained hair but understand that that is generally for other people like mani-pedis are for other people. I do tons online because I enjoy it: blog, money stuff, talk to friends online because I rarely talk to them anywhere else. I also love getting things done in general, that feeling of completion is nice, so sometimes I just make up little projects for fun. Very little projects, though! Otherwise, it’s nice that cleaning feels fun so that gets done and so does laundry and food.

  11. SP Says:

    This is a great way to describe it.

    Right now, I have to admit that work is my main hobby. I enjoy it, but this is probably not good long term.

    I like my routines. I like planning vacations and adventures too, but when I’m overwhelmed, the last thing I need is a social obligation.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Work is my main hobby other than blogging and the kids. Obligation is a good way to put it. When I’m overwhelmed at work, I don’t want more obligations. That’s probably what I’m pressing against. So I minimize obligations outside of work. I’m good with that, even if it means I’m frumpy and can’t run a marathon and don’t host parties etc.


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