Oct. 8, 2023: Saving Time
Time saving. What an interesting concept. Time is not like money that you can save and store until you need it. It ticks away at the same pace for all of us, every minute of every day. We all have twenty-four hours a day, seven days per week. That is it.
We all also have responsibilities, tasks to do, jobs to complete, people to see, places to go, and so many other things to fit into that finite amount of time. What we do with that time, is up to us. How we spend it and what we focus on for those minutes and hours, is where we can seemingly manipulate or adjust time.
I was recently thinking about these things as I was reading Laura Vanderkam’s blog on food preparation as a time saver. Her hypothesis is that this in no way saves time, it just shifts around the time spent on preparing your meals.
Clearly, meal preparation in big batches ALWAYS saves time. If I am making a pot of chili for dinner, but double it so I can freeze half, I have not doubled my preparation time, yet I clearly now have two meals instead of one.
Setting aside that objection to her hypothesis, I think there is a grain of truth that shifting around the time spent on specific tasks does not in fact, save time. However, I would like to point out that shifting the timing of tasks to fit with your own energy and focus rhythms can make you more productive and efficient, and truly, doesn’t using our time efficiently allow us to have more flexibility with our time? And isn’t that the ultimate goal of all our obsession with time-saving techniques and approaches?
I love to cook. And my most productive time in my kitchen is the weekends. I easily and willingly spend hours both on Saturday and Sunday, baking, chopping, sautéing, packaging, freezing, and labeling.
`No matter what I am making, I usually double it so I can freeze some. This allows for the fact that during the week, when I get home from a long day of teaching, I do not have the energy or focus to spend a lot of time preparing meals. Being able to pop a casserole in the oven, or defrost homemade soup, allows for healthy, wholesome meals without much work (at that moment) on my part. Did I actually “save” time? Probably not, but by shifting the time I spent on that task to when it was more compatible to my focus and energy, it was stress relieving.
In my work as an elementary school teacher and a college professor, there are lots (and lots) of tasks that are behind the scenes and not part of my actual time spent working with my students, but that must be dealt with on a regular basis. Lesson planning; resource gathering; scoring assessments; gathering data; paperwork. Taking my own rhythms and energy into account, I know that I will get these things done more efficiently and effectively if I do them in the morning, not the evening. Thus, I am far more likely to arrive at school two hours before the first bell, rather than stay two hours after the last bell.
`Even as a writer, I know my productive time is in the morning. Whether I am researching historical facts, working on outlines, drafting a story, or revising sections of a work-in-progress, I need to get to those tasks in the morning. By working on these tasks when my energy and focus is strongest, have I “saved time”? No. The minutes are still ticking away. However, it is a more productive and effective use of my time. And yes- that means I get up at an ungodly hour, and go to bed far earlier than most adults I know.
` By adjusting the timing of tasks that require my focus, to fit with my most productive hours, I realize I have not actually saved time. But I have absolutely made more productive use of the time I do have. Which in turn, relieves stress, and isn’t that ultimately what we want when we talk about saving time?