During this season of life, for whatever reason, the days feel too short, and my todo list seems to grow too long—not with work-related tasks, which get checked off regularly, but with household projects, chores, and the random crap of life that I’d like to accomplish. Even with an empty weekend, there’s just not enough time for work, rest, and life. To try and make space for all three, I decided to switch to an “Alternate Work Schedule,” working eight nine-hour days, one eight-hour day, leaving one Monday off every other week. The goal being to tackle projects, chores, and crap I couldn’t find time for elsewhere in the week.
And I felt bad about it! From the outside, it sure seems like everyone else is making it work—even/especially folks with more complicated and full lives. Admitting the need and asking for a whole extra day to do regular-type stuff like laundry and meal planning felt a lot like whining. But then I read Anne Helen Petersen’s recent newsletter, and, not only can she relate, but she perfectly describes what I’m feeling:
Losing a day, an hour, an afternoon — if that was time used to put things in place to keep them rolling through the week, and that time is lost, then you find yourself in a 17-task pile-up. The laundry didn’t get done or put away, which means everyone’s down in the laundry room sorting through piles on the floor, which means there’s more laundry and/or no place to put the next loads of laundry — and pretty soon you’re in laundry apocalypse, and the only thing that’s going to save you is…the next weekend. When your life is this precariously balanced, weekends aren’t for rest or reflection, not really. They’re for cramming in the things you had no time for during the week (whatever semblance of leisure + 17 kids’ birthday parties or sporting events if you’re a parent) then catching up or setting up or meal planning or doing enough laundry in preparation for the week to come.
Petersen’s solution to the cascading lack of time, as a self-employed writer and creator, is to “be vigilant about not taking on more work than I can reconcile with the rest of my life,” which, as a formerly self-employed writer and creator myself, I heartily endorse. Now, though, as a full-time employee with less control over work and how it impacts my life, I find that (still good!) advice hard to apply. So, recognizing the constraints of reality and late-stage capitalism and whatever other dumb stuff, I shifted my work schedule around to give myself time to get some more of life’s basics done. Otherwise, as Petersen concludes, without intentionally creating that space, the things I love doing will be the first and easiest things to jettison to make room for the endless piles of laundry.
Today, on my first scheduled Monday off, I rode my bike to Lowe’s and picked up a couple parts to fix a toilet that’s sat broken for months. It’s a good start!