Million-dollar business idea: time-sharing

Dali clock

No, I don’t mean going in on a vacation home with your friends and family. I’m talking about the buying and selling of life’s most precious commodity–time. Or it doesn’t have to involve purchasing; it could be a barter exchange or a lend-me-some-now-and-I’ll-pay-you-back-later scenario. But who wouldn’t like to curate their time more efficiently. (“Curate” is the word of the year, so I felt obliged to sneak it into this post at least once.)

The thought occurred to me yesterday while I was reading an email from Dirk, a friend and fellow writer who generously sends me books and always has an encouraging word about my writing endeavors.  He had shared some good news, and I responded with congratulations paired with an apology for not being in touch, since I have not been as diligent in my replies and thanks as I should have. I also admitted that I hadn’t been writing much lately. Dirk instantly sent me a writing prompt to jump-start my creativity. My quick note back assigned my dry spell not to a lack of inspiration but to a scarcity of hours in the day. This whole day-job situation has definite implications. (If only my writing could pay the mortgage…)

Nonplussed, Dirk shot back an answer–he had finished his latest project seven hours ahead of schedule, so he could offer that time to me. I smiled and considered the possibilities.

What if Dirk really could ship me a chunk of seven hours? I could finish proofreading the book on ecosystems and still have plenty of time to work on my play before the next round of corrections came my way.
dmvAnd it wouldn’t have to be a one-way transaction. I could take that hour spent waiting at the vet’s office yesterday, bottle it, and mail it to Dirk for when  he needed it. Or it could be a global sharing economy based on need: the guy sitting at DMV waiting for his number to be called could deposit his hour, and the journalist on deadline could make a withdrawal. Sure, there would be a few hoarders and certainly some who might get greedy, but making the system voluntary would prevent the most egregious abuses.

Time-sharing has other applications as well. You could bank your own hours for future use. Remember those long summer days in August you experienced as a kid waiting for school to start? I could use a few of those now. If only I were able to reclaim those hours wasted last summer watching that travesty of  drama performed in the park. (I blocked out the play’s name, but I recall one laughable phrase “the eternal anvil of truth.”)

What if you could not only offer time but make it mandatory? I bet a few Congressmen might legislate differently on women’s health issues if subjected to just an hour of hard labor. I’d be happy to donate a couple of those hours just prior to giving birth if it could further the cause of reproductive rights. Don’t you think Planned Parenthood would get the funding it deserves if every man actually knew what it felt like to give birth? It would be an experiment on a grand scale–akin to walk a mile in my ovaries. But perhaps I digress…

launching angry birdOkay, now that I’ve explored a few fantasies, I guess I have to face reality: I am responsible for how I spend my time. It’s a matter of priorities, right? Maybe–just maybe–I’d finish my play if I deleted my Angry Birds in Space app. The question is, do I have the guts to do it?


How do I spend my time? An exposé

recording chart

Last week I wrote down everything I did.

It was harder than I thought it would be to keep an accurate account of my time, even though I kept the log open on my computer so that I could jot down my activities as I did them.

I had to decide what was worthy of writing down because early in the week, I was spending too much time recording what I was doing, which, of course, changed the results slightly. I didn’t want my scientific findings to be sullied by faulty testing procedures! So I stopped tracking bathroom breaks and started lumping smaller activities together, e.g.,

8:20-9:15  took Sophie to vet, got gas, did Jumble & crossword

But that made it harder to tally up the time spent on types of activities, such as games. This meant that afterward, during the analysis phase, I had to estimate how long it took to take Sophie to the vet and get gas in order to give me the number of minutes spent on games.

There were definitely some time sinks, which were not a complete surprise. One turned out to be going through my email. Here are the stats: For the 5-day testing period, I spent a total of 430 minutes, or a little over 7 hours, checking and reading the stuff that comes into my inbox, which averages about an hour and a half per day. That seems crazy to me. Of course my email gets somewhat tangled up with Facebook because I receive comments to posts and tags on email, which lures me into the social media world for varying amounts of time.

This is not Lucy’s video from the concert because I couldn’t figure out how to download it to embed here.

For example, on Wednesday, I was in the midst of reading email when I came upon my friend Lucy’s post about the Aretha Franklin concert the previous night. Of course I wanted to see it. Ergo this entry:

9:50 tried to watch Aretha Franklin clip on FB, got frustrated, and got Dave to help

I don’t have anything else recorded in my log until 10:30, despite the clip being only one song long (“Chain of Fools”). This data clearly indicates moments how much time is wasted due to slow technology, or, perhaps more accurately, due to my inadequate grasp of technology.

But that wasn’t the only time sink. Apparently I have a tiny gaming addiction. Not the betting on horses kind or the online fantasy game variety–no, my compulsion involves the Jumble, crossword puzzles, Words with Friends (both classic and new), Cryptoquote, Sudoku, Angry Birds in Space, and an innocent-enough looking game that I discovered on my phone called Two Dots, which is basically connecting like-colored dots but is oddly satisfying for hours on end.

angry birds
angry birds

Add to that total one of my newer projects–Lumosity, which was actually prescribed to me by a neurologist. (I’m not kidding! I was worried about my memory loss and got a referral by my g.p. to see a specialist, who gave me a number of tests that showed nothing serious. So he prescribed puzzles, such as the Jumble and Sudoku; but I already did those, so he wrote down on an official notepad and handed it to me.) So now I spend 15 to 30 minutes a day, 3 or 4 times a week on my “training,” which includes brain stretchers such as Memory Matrix, Speed Match, and Trouble Brewing, which essentially tests me to see if I’d be any good as a barista. (The jury’s still out.) And because I love, love, love Word Bubbles, I usually play a round (or three) of that at the end of my regular “workout.” (I’m using their terminology here.) I try to rationalize this entertaining break as integral to my health. But I’m not certain that it’s actually improving anything except my ability to match shapes and rescue virtual coffee cups from being overfilled.

And of course there are the unforeseeable activities that consume no small part of my life. Here are excerpts from Wednesday:

9:50  tried repeatedly to sync the app on my phone with my Active Band (my cheap knock-off version of a Fitbit that is not working)

noon  went to library rally/protest (that’s worth a whole post by itself)

1:10  tried to retrieve aloe from cracked plastic container to apply to sunburn (that I got at library rally) and used way too much so as not to waste it before throwing mess away; ended up having to peel blue sticky strands off my skin

1:30  cleaned up dog pee

2:30  tried to figure out how to upload a fucking video from my phone to Facebook. GRRR!

4:25  got hungry and wandered around looking for food, then watched the puppies play

5:15  looked all through house and in backyard for Sophie’s missing collar (Bonus: found my long-lost Active Link under the bed!)

fitz & toy
Not the actual puppy I watched last week because I CAN’T DOWNLOAD THE RUBY VIDEO THAT I REALLY WANTED TO PUT HERE!

Now in between those things, I did get a little bit of work done, i.e., proofing a historical biography of Charles Anderson (a less famous guy who made a speech at Gettysburg the same day as Abe). But I won’t lie–it was not my most productive day.

I was relieved to discover that I do spend more time working at my job than I do playing games, but I’m not proud that I spent more than twice the amount of time playing games than I do exercising (8.5 hours v. 3.2 hours total for 5 days). But to be fair–some of that game time was playing cards with Dave after dinner and working on crosswords with him at lunchtime, so that counts as socializing and eating too (double duty). My biggest disappointment in myself is that last week I hardly read any books at all! (And I don’t even have “The Daily Show” to watch any more as an excuse for not getting in my bedtime reading.)

So what’s the upshot of all this? What did I learn?

  1. I should probably save FB videos to watch at bedtime, when Dave is right next to me and isn’t in the middle of redoing some complicated table for a science book that’s due to go to press. In fact, I should probably ignore all Facebook notifications during my workday
  2. It takes a long time to record everything you do.
  3. Don’t try to use a lot of aloe when you don’t need it just to keep it from getting thrown away.
  4. I should spend more time watching puppies play. Outside. Where I don’t have to clean up their pee.

My next project? I think I have some reading to catch up on…

Experiment reveals startling gender bias in publishing

I knew that women had to try harder than men to get published. I just didn’t know how much harder. . . . Then I read this piece by Catherine Nichols on Jezebel. My first reaction was depression. But then I felt a fire stirring that I hope will fuel a redoubled effort in my quest to be published. Read it and let me know what you think.

Nichols piece on JezebelHomme de Plume: What I Learned Sending a Novel Out under a Male Name

Tackling the where-does-the-time-go syndrome

colorful alarm clocks I work part-time and no longer have young children afoot, so I really have no excuse when it comes to completing my to-do list in a timely manner. But I often reach the end of the week and wonder why I haven’t accomplished more. Where does the time go? I don’t think I’m unrealistic in my goals, but many remain just out of reach.

So this week I’m going to track everything I do. (Don’t worry–I won’t bore you by recounting it in full detail.) It will be like a budget for my time. Back when I taught elementary school, I could easily account for just about any minute of the day. What was I doing at 8:45 am? I was sitting in a circle with my students going over the schedule for the day and checking in with them. What about at 10:00? Easy–I was either using the restroom, checking my box in the teachers’ lounge, or standing out on yard duty.

recording chartBut working at home with a flexible schedule means that any given morning, I might be at the gym, at the grocery store, or finishing up laundry from the weekend. Oh, and I might even be copyediting or proofing, which is what I do for a living. Or I could very well be in my pajamas reading the Chronicle. (Yes, Virginia, there is still such a thing as a newspaper.)

I’m a tad fearful of what I may find out, but I plan to bravely record it all, which should provide me with the proper fodder for future planning. After I analyze the week’s data, I’ll be sure to write up what I learned so that you too, dear reader, may benefit from my experience if you suffer from the same syndrome.

Wish me luck.