Again, the myth of doing it all

A few weeks ago “The Busy Person’s Lies; With four kids and a full-time job, time is precious. But it’s also plentiful,” appeared in the New York Times.

In this opinion piece, the author—a married professional who works full time (with travel) and has four young children—writes about tracking her time for a year and concludes that people like her have more time than they realize. She asserts that we perceive our lives as being “AAAHHHH!!” hectic because we focus on inconveniences and rushed moments when in truth we mostly get to do the things we say are important, things like seeing our friends and family, spending time with our kids, and reading books, as well as excelling at our jobs.

While I’m as anti-bitchbrag* as the next person, I think the author neglects some of the reasons behind the widespread feeling of overwhelm:

  • Time is not a commodity, and a half hour in the middle of the day is not the same as the half hour before bed. Repeatedly transitioning between activities and modes of thinking depletes our energy over the course of the day. Doing activities on an imposed schedule rather than when it makes the most sense for us physically or psychologically also takes a toll (this is why I didn’t succeed at working out at 5:30am, and why it was so hard to open my work laptop after putting my son to bed).
  • Everyone needs some amount of daily “do nothing” time in order to recharge.
  • Some people have less energy than others. I’m confident that I don’t have the energy to do the equivalent of raising four childen (let alone raising those children while working full time)—a fact that has nothing to do with time management.

While I disagree with what sounds like a claim that we can “do it all” if only we manage our time better and stop feeling sorry for ourselves, I thoroughly agree with the author’s conclusion: decide for yourself what your true priorities are, and make sure you put your time and energy there.

*bitchbrag:  complaining about how busy you are with the goal of appearing important and in demand

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