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Kristen Coy
Kristen Coy

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Time: A Non-Renewable Resource

Working from home is an entirely different beast from performing a job onsite. Where I would previously have my work-time compartmentalized into a neat little chunk bookended by the arrival to/departure from my hospital's parking lot, I now float seamlessly from personal into work time, in and out, lines blurred, no clear delineation of one from the other. I mean, I'm not complaining. Being about to throw a load of laundry into the washer, microwave some leftovers, and return to work tasks is pretty liberating. Despite the innumerable benefits of flexibility, though, I'm learning that successfully balancing productivity with my sacred personal time is a learned skill.

Honing of habits and routine is something I've been interested in since my bright-eyed days as an undergrad psychology student. There's quite a bit of interesting research in the pop psych world about habit formation - an issue that I believe is at the heart of using your time wisely (or if not the heart, at least some other vital organ). Books like James Clear's Atomic Habits have become very en vogue over the last few years, especially as the world tries to navigate the evolving expectations around "having it all". Side note: for another great read about habits that includes some illuminating situations where you habit data is used, check out Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit. I won't bore you with the details, but I will say that I employ the strategies outlined by this research to improve my personal habits, streamline my routines, and try to make sure that I have enough time in the day to get things done without constantly feeling like I'm drowning in my to-do list. It's a concerted effort without which my life would probably (/likely) devolve into total chaos.

At this early stage in my role as a software engineering apprentice, I'm spending the majority of my time either in meetings or trying to learn as much as possible. I start and end my work day with refinement of my Trello board. This is where I write out both work and personal tasks that need to be done (i.e. 'meeting from 9-11', 'fill out form', 'complete section 6 of SQL Udemy course', 'load of laundry', etc). As tasks are being completed, they're being moved from the To Do column to the Done column. I realize as I type this out that I sound a scooch insane, but this level of life micromanagement works for me. Between parenting a 3 year old, employer host tasks, Develop Carolina tasks, and general adulting, I've just gotta write it all down or the cognitive load feels too heavy. Anyway, those tasks make up the bulk of my day, and in the mornings and evenings I focus on exercise, playing with my son, hobbies, cooking for my family, and doing nothing - which brings me to my next point:

Taking time to do "nothing" is exceedingly important. I'm a firm believer in doing nothing, whatever form that may take. Watching Netflix and scrolling reddit is often my chosen form of nothing. Sometimes, sitting on the front porch drinking a cup of tea and appreciating the gentle sway of the Spanish moss is my chosen form of nothing. Taking time to do things that are "not productive" is completely vital to being a well-rounded human, so I try to make time for it every day. If I don't go out of my way to make time for it, it won't happen, and I'll burn myself out. It's definitely happened before and was a hard-won lesson for me to take time for myself.

I'm unbelievably grateful for the opportunity to control my time the way that I currently do. Having worked jobs that left me completely empty at the end of the day, it's a wonderful thing to feel gratified in what I'm doing without being exhausted.

Speaking of time, I've spent a lot of time writing this. Time for me to give my kid a bath, put him to bed, and go do nothing.

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