Designing how I use my time
For a while I’ve been observing that I was still feeling like I had to work a 9:00-5:00 day and work at my computer. I knew this was crazy for me and also for the work that I do, but socialisation is a hard thing to undo. Firstly, I often work at the weekends, and in the evening and in the morning. Secondly, I don’t have an hour’s lunch break and weekends off, nor do I have set paid holiday time. Thirdly, my work is designing and food growing and making stuff, all things that could but don’t necessarily happen at the computer. Of course I have a chunk of admin to do, but I don’t have to be at the computer waiting for it to come into my inbox. Finally, my natural pattern is to wake up really early and go to sleep early. All in all, this meant that I was working pretty long hours inside or feeling guilty/like I had work to catch up on when I wasn’t. This isn’t the way I want to use my time, it wasn’t balanced, productive, effective or enjoyable. It was time for a re-design.
When you do something you love, working long hours can be easy to do. But for that very reason, I think it is even more dangerous. Burning out doing something that you used to love is not part of my vision, so something had to change. Nor was doing permaculture design solely from my computer. Ironically, I think part of the appeal of the 9:00-5:00 is that, in theory, it offers you time for self care. But that pattern certainly wasn’t offering me that.
For many months, as part of my diploma 2, I have been noting down these observations and frustrations. Earlier this week I spent time working out the functions of my work in the form of a mind map. The first one was inpspire
What are the functions of your work?
Turns out mine are: inspire, design, do, share and reflect. I started to embellish the functions with decoration, that reflected that function so ‘inspire’ and ‘share’ are more energetic and ‘reflect’ and ‘design’ are more reflective and convoluted. I was really satisfied with the functions and their visual depiction, so it must have hit the nail on the head.
With clear functions, I moved on to the elements that support that function. This time in vibrant neon pink. I asked myself questions like ‘how do I get inspired?’ ‘what do I find inspirational?’ and ‘what do I design?’.
What are the elements that support the functions you just identified?
I have to say, there were no great surprises revealed. But what I really got from the exercise was validation in doing that different things to support that function of my work. Spending time going through pinterest or watching TED videos was actually valid to keep me inspired rather than a distraction from my work. It was an important part of my work. Likewise, writing this blog and meeting up with people was an important part of sharing.
From that realisation, I knew I had to design my work space. Now, I work from home and often have meetings at home so my “office” is the study, my hobbies room, the living room, the garden, various cafes and friends houses around town. But just then, I was in my hobbies room which is often where I do design work as it is away from the computer and bright. I got to work on that room. I tidied it up, sorted through stuff and turned to the bookshelf. One of the shelves I use as a bookshelf and there was a real jumble of books on there. I sorted through them, moving some to the study others to the living room (I have a system but won’t go into it here) and then once cleared and emptied I started collecting the books and magazines that I currently find really inspiring and want to read, and collected them all together. Somehow that little act transformed the room and now I wanted to make time to spend there just reading.
Is there a space that you need to re-design?
That room gets the morning sun, and so an obvious set in the design was when I wake up early, to get up and spend time there or doing other inspirational stuff. It absolutely felt like the right design solution, and almost immediately I sat down with one of the books and started reading. I also had various notebooks nearby to capture my ideas for new projects, ideas for current projects and next actions. All the while with some music going and some essential oils burning to create a lovely smell. It was pretty perfect, which has to be a sign of a good design.
Since then I have been a lot more choiceful about how I design my time including going off to London to spend time with other permaculture designers and my nephews and sister-in-law, I spent yesterday working on the design of my website and designing a new project working with kids. I have also got various budgets, emails and computer work done a lot more efficiently than before. I spent time in various gardens and generally things feel a lot more balanced and I feel more alive. Now I have the weekend off, and I’m looking forward to my week ahead.
How are you going to re-design your time?