I struggle with the tension between multi-tasking/hyper-productivity and the mindfulness of being present where you are. In order to resolve that tension, I place time in two different buckets: quantity time and quality time.
Quantity time refers to the minutes/hours I spend crossing things off a list and doing something productive. “Something productive” can be work-related (read a paper, edit something I’m working on, homework for a class). It can also be home-related (laundry, running errands, unloading the dishwasher). When I think of all the things that need to be done and the lack of time to do them, time itself becomes a very important unit of currency. For example, if I have 30 minutes, I think about which tasks I can get done in that 30 minutes. So for quantity time, things-to-do are separated into “things that need at least an hour” and “things that need 30 minutes or less”. As I write this blog post, I am sitting at a car wash. I figure, it will take the professionals at Auto Bell at least 30 minutes to tackle the mess of a car that I just left them. It typically takes me 30 minutes to get a draft for a blog post written. So, for me, this is very important quantity time.
Quality time refers to time spent with people. If I am with friends, family, or otherwise being social, I try to make it a point not to think of all the quantifiable things I could be doing. Granted, when I schedule a lunch with friends, I’m thinking “Lunch might be an hour, maybe an hour and a half” and I try to ensure that the time frame fits into my work schedule for the week. But I try to push the thoughts of projects, papers, and panic over deadlines out of my mind and focus on enjoying time with people.
You might notice that my paragraph on quantity time is twice as long as my paragraph on quality time. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I spend a LOT of time thinking about all the ways I can/should be more productive, and less time thinking about how to enjoy quality time. I think it’s because I’ve learned how to give myself permission to prioritize relationships. It doesn’t mean that my mind doesn’t wander during a family game of “Duck, Duck, Goose”. But it does mean that I’m more self-aware and able to re-direct my focus back to where it should be.