Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Avoiding the Time Suck™ (And Other Philosophies For Life)

As some of you may recall, I've been enjoying (!) the throes of home improvement this summer. While trying to get readers to "discover" my stories that are out there on the web, plus working full time, I've also been finishing the entire basement level of our house (and doing much of the work myself).  It's been a nearly ten month fiasco of ups and downs, hiring some good people to help, hiring some bad people to help, discovering problems, working around them, getting frustrated, starting over a few times.

What has this meant?

Well, for starters, it's been hell on my efforts to read, write and market my books. And for seconds, it's meant little time for the things I value even more than that: time with the family.

I thought there might be some value in me talking a bit about the scales of importance in my life. Obviously, my little one and my lovely wife are at the forefront of importance. Immediately following that is my desire to get my writing in front of as many people as possible without sacrificing the next tier on my ladder, which is: the basic necessities of life. Shelter, food, safety. You know the drill. It's all those things we need for survival for ourselves and the people we love.

And none of that comes without spending time on a job or career. I value my career beyond its intrinsic value to provide the necessities of life. I'm very good at what I do and I'm getting better at it all the time, but it is, as you know, part of a much larger balancing act.

This is where commitments trade off positions on the Ladder of Life momentarily to get the hard stuff out of the way and into a more comfortable state of Being Taken Care Of.

Let's look at the example from my life: finishing the Basement Ordeal.  How important are the home improvements when you look at them relative to everything else? They are third in line, right?  Way behind family, writing and the job. So they are the least important in the big big picture. Right. Right?! But why then, do they trump writing, reading and marketing of me as an author right now?

Home improvements move around on the scale because the rewards are so high.  At least, that's how I view it.  Finishing a previously unused basement into fresh, new living space offers a multitude of things to me.  The improved organization of all our space will help me relax and reduce stress, thus giving my mind freedom to wander and come up with fanciful worlds to write about, time to decompress and truly think about things.  Of course, there will be increased functionality or usefulness of the space: I have built a new studio space down there to allow me room to roam, write, work on painting and music. Plus these are enhancements that make the home a more appealing space, like flower beds, clean, well-managed lawn, decks and fences. Sale value of my home, should I need to move, just went way up based on the calibre of work here. And I save a lot (and I mean a LOT) of cash doing much of the work myself. I know every square inch of that renovated space and feel much stronger in my abilities and comfort level with tools.

But the Time Suck associated with home improvements is high because I own very few of the pricey niche tools necessary to do complex projects so I had to research techniques and tool rentals. Plus, my inexperience or newness to a particular task meant it would take me a lot longer to complete a task than it would a professional. Finding a professional can take a huge chunk of time because of researching their skills, scheduling, coordinating the arrival of materials, dealing with bad work, dealing with poor delivery (like the time a load of doors meant patches to walls and ceilings when the "professional" delivery people bashed into things more than the bumper cars at the local fair.)

Near the end of such a major project (thankfully, I am very near the end --phew!), I can't help but step back and look at the value-for-time relationship of such an undertaking. Ultimately, was it worth it for me? I would say yes, but with some regrets. My son is young and I've missed too many weekends at home with him when his mother took him to the park or the pool or the lake and I couldn't join because I needed to wait on a delivery of trim or get down on my hands and knees to install flooring. I have not been able to savour some of his childhood moments and those are the regrets that such a thing carry.

Essentially, when looking at my Ladder of Life, I have decided on three main statements which will help me determine the importance of things...and how much time I wish to spend on them.
1. For me, being rich in time has more value than being rich in money.
2. Finding/Making time to do the things I enjoy is tantamount: being with my boy, writing.
3. Avoiding things that offer few rewards: too much work at the expense of anything I cherish.

What's on your Ladder of Life?


  1. It's oh so hard to keep things to their priority level. Sometimes one thing, like the Basement Ordeal™ will take precedence for a while. I think it's important to remember that if something takes over, it doesn't mean that you're putting it above your family, who it obviously more important. It's a short-term project with long-term benefits, so it needs to be pushed up on the priority list for a while. That said, we have to be careful we don't end up with lots of This Will Just Take a Month™ taking over priority every other month. Then we have a problem. :)

    Good post, Jason. Good luck with the ordeal. Hopefully it gives you all the benefits you're hoping for. More writing space is always welcome. :)

  2. Hey Brenda, so glad that Blogspot didn't crap out on you and you were able to leave your comment (hopefully without frustration!).

    You're comments here and on your own blog definitely ring true to me. Life is a weird pyramid game where all the activities and pleasures are stacked up and up, culminating in a point, but the blocks are moveable and you can temporarily rearrange them, can't you? How many times have we said, "This will just take a Month!" and then it stretches out to three. (Do I owe you a royalty on using your slogan? :-)

    When the stack gets top heavy and the pyramid is suddenly upside down with ten things at the top and only a few at the bottom, all of them screaming for attention, that's when I get stressed out. Luckily, I can retreat to my new basement studio and find a few moments.

    I used to laugh as a younger man (before career and kids) when people would say "There just aren't enough hours in the day." Now, I need to write that in all the tags in all my clothes just to help me remember how true a statement it is.


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