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How Should I Spend My Precious Time?

Here's a video of Jackson Browne singing the title track from one of my favorite albums. It's about the struggle to balance dreams with reality.

Starting a new post may not be a wise move right now. As I will discuss shortly, I have never been a person who responds well to excessive stimulation and busyness, and the last few days have been “overstimulating” to say the least. (My wife’s father died a few days ago. When I'm ready, I will probably discuss this more in the future.) However, I have found in my short experience blogging that it is generally a good idea to write about whatever is currently on the forefront of my mind. So as I sit here feeling overwhelmed, I am going to write about the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Like many kids in our culture, I spent a lot of my youth feeling bored. Today, it is hard for me to relate to that kid who I apparently used to be. I sometimes wish that I could go back in time and get back some of those lost hours when I was sitting on my ass feeling sorry for myself. At the same time, I envy that kid somewhat, and I wish that I could tell my childhood self to enjoy those precious hours when there was nothing that apparently had to get done. Now, there are so many things that I either want or need to do that I seldom have the luxury to get bored.

Boredom somewhat ended for me when I entered college. Unlike high school, I actually had to study to do well in my classes. And when I was not studying, there were often lots of people around to keep me entertained, and I was developing plenty of new interests to fill up any remaining time. Still, I was single and sometimes lonely, so I was able to find opportunities to wallow in boredom. When college finally ended, I was consumed by my struggle to survive my first year of teaching. At the same time, however, I was in the process of getting engaged and then married (just a week after the school year ended.)  This went a long way toward solving the loneliness and occasional boredom problem. Now, however, I had a new problem. For the first time in my life, I no longer had exclusive control of my time. Marriage has undeniable benefits, which is why it remains so popular. Like everything else in life, however, marriage also has opportunity costs. To gain companionship, a certain amount of personal freedom must be surrendered (which helps to explain the popularity of divorce).

Still, I had enormous amounts of “free time” during my first seven years of marriage. I just didn’t know it yet. Sure, I was busy with work and the mundane activities of day-to-day life. Sometimes, like all married men I imagine, I felt that my wife was placing unreasonable “demands” on my time. But when my wife and I were not at work or busy doing other chores, we could basically do what we wanted. We could go out on a moment’s notice, play games, watch TV, have uninterrupted conversations, or engage in other forms of recreation (in various locations) that relative newlyweds have been known to perform. Eventually, however, we made a fateful decision related to the aforementioned “recreational activities”: children. Parenting, I have found, is an amazing, unique, and highly recommended part of the human experience. It can also, however, occasionally drive you nuts. And when you hear parents complain from time to time, there is often an overriding theme: parents, particularly of very young children, lose complete control of their time. You suddenly recognize the value of all of the little things that you completely took for granted before.

For me, the hardest thing about being a parent is not directly related to parenting. My struggle has been figuring out how to get anything else done while I am parenting. And to make matters worse, the older I have gotten, the more interests I have seemed to develop. Here is a short, general list of things that I would like to do with my time: hang out with family, see close friends, read History, read current events, listen to NPR podcasts, tweak my lesson plans, play racquetball at least twice a week, swim three times a week, download music, listen to music, play strategy games, watch movies related to history, write blog posts, promote my blog, read other blogs, . . . I better stop now. I’m stressing myself out. And I haven’t even made a detailed list of the various things related to parenting, work, and household chores that need to get done on a day-to-day basis. I am blessed by having a job with irregular hours that provides me with a lot of free time. Still, I never seem to be able to satisfactorily fulfill my to-do list. Sometimes, I wish that I had a job that kept me busier. At least then I would not even bother to try and do some of the things on my previously mentioned list. I could just stay locked in to survival mode.

One of the first posts that I wrote for this blog was called “What is Greatness, and Can I Ever Hope to Achieve It?” Looking back, I realize that this was largely about my struggle with time management. Right now, I feel that I am a good parent (most of the time), husband (occasionally), History teacher, racquetball player, music collector, strategy game player, and now, blogger. This is in spite of the fact that none of these activities ever gets my undivided attention for any significant length of time. To try and be great at one or two of these things, will I have to give up being good at some others? Are the “great ones” people who sacrifice other aspects of their lives in the name of achievement? And if I come to realize that certain things need to be sacrificed in order to achieve greater success, then what specifically do I need to either neglect or throw out entirely? The economists are right. Life is largely about opportunity costs.

Blogging is my newest activity. I am thoroughly enjoying the creative process, and I occasionally daydream about turning writing into some sort of a second career. But is this worth the time and sacrifice that may be required, especially since it seems like an impractical dream? Are there other things I enjoy that I am willing to give up? One thing is for sure. I just spent some time writing about my lack of time instead of writing actual content. I guess that we could call this “metablogging” or just plain venting. So if you have indulged me this far, rest assured that I will go back to actual content in my next post. Hopefully, there was something in here that readers – especially fellow bloggers, husbands, and teachers – can relate to. Any time management advice would also be appreciated.


  1. I'm sorry about your father-in-law.

    This post speaks to me. I wish I could offer you advice, but I'm struggling with time management myself. In college, I poured myself into studying + I had a part-time job. There were never enough hours. Then I had a few years with just work and I often did feel bored. Then I went back to graduate school and was back to being too busy.

    Since having children, the time management issue has just compounded. To make matters worse, the blogging, as much as I love it, takes away from my writing. I use it as a tool for writing, but I have to make sure I don't replace my writing. In fact, I have to get back to writing now.

    Just keep trying different ways to see what works for you.

  2. I've been thoroughly enjoying your autobiography, Paul, and I'd love to help you with time management advice. But I know my limitations.

    Here's a song instead.


  3. It's all about finding balance, I guess. Keep writing Theresa. I know that some of your blogs could grow into something bigger someday. And CM, is there a reason you went for the Sesame Street version of this song? (All I need to figure out now is the "way I am.")

  4. I opted for sesame street's chummier / less passionate adaptation, but the sentiment is the same.

    Here is the version I thought of as I finished your post.

    BTW: There was another song I thought of along the lines of "Just the Way You Are" (however that is) but from a child's perspective to a parent. I didn't post it before because the video didn't show this relationship.


  5. I like this post because it invites us into your life. Content shmontent...that doesn't really work does it? Several things came to mind while reading this post.

    I think you and my husband could cry on each other's shoulders regarding the time your wives take from you, not being able to read history, play strategy games, listen to NPR, or read (and comment on political) blogs.

    You history buffs are all the same, in a good way. I can say this because I married one.

    I wrote a post about all the things I wanted to do and was surprised at how long the list actually was. I am a Jack of all trades and a master of none. I can't decide which goals to pursue and what nonsense to drop.

    I have no advice. I am not afraid to admit that I have no time management skills whatsoever! Plus there is just not much to manage when working full time and going to school full time. Problem solved right?

  6. It sounds like we are in the same boat. (Although I did not marry a history buff.) As you said, I guess that working and going to school full time solve the problem. Maybe I have too much free time.


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