The Remains of the Day
Schedule crunch. Sanity at stake. Please advise. Julie Morgenstern steps in to offer timely advice to a frazzled working mother.
My life is one meeting to the next, one baseball game to the next, one class to the next. I might have time to eat if I'm lucky ... It's just that no matter how we try to simplify, there's not enough time for shopping, doctor appointments, family events, time for my husband, homework with my kids or time just for me! Could someone help me find my sanity? — Pamela, San Diego
Organizing time is exactly like organizing space. Just as a closet is a limited amount of space into which you must fit a certain number of objects, a schedule is a limited space into which you must fit a certain number of tasks. Each day and each week is simply a container, a storage unit with a definite capacity. The trick is to treat time not as an abstraction but as something solid that you can hold on to and move around.
So the first thing I did was give Pamela a blank weekly schedule and ask her to write down when she woke, went to sleep, and everything that happened in between. The idea was to make visible exactly where her time goes so we could look for hidden pockets of space, activities that might be deleted or moved to open up her day.
Pamela struggled with this exercise. She could fill in her work hours and her children's school-related activities, but beyond that she was stunned to discover how many hours and tasks she couldn't account for. Each day was a blur of nonstop activity. Bill paying, cleaning, taking out the trash, pet care, shopping, preparing for classes were haphazardly squeezed into any hour, any day. She paid bills while sitting through her daughter's dance class, made phone calls from her son's baseball games, sorted her mail in the dentist's office. No wonder Pamela couldn't enjoy the moment—she was never really in it.