I am a scientist. I live for data. I love testing new hypotheses. In any conversation, work related or not, I look for hard facts rather than impressions. While this may serve me well in some instances, particularly in the lab, in other parts of my life it sometimes leads to some obsessive and neurotic tendencies.
A few years ago, while I was obsessing over spending enough time with my daughter, I came across a very useful self help book – “168 Hours” by Laura Vanderkam. The book beautifully outlines how, with a little thought, you can find enough time for anything in your life. It just takes a little habit of time tracking.
Tracking? Data? Numbers? Sign me up!
For years I have been a closeted pedometer user until Fitbit came out and made step tracking trendy. No surprises here – I wear my Fitbit like my life depends on it. More on that later. After reading the book, I eagerly started looking for an iPhone time management app. By that time, I was already familiar with Stephen Covey’s principle of Rocks and Pebbles, but as a true INTJ, I was looking for further improvements. After downloading the app, I began to track the way I spent my time, aiming for accuracy down to the minutes. The data that came from this self experimentation was quite eye opening. Here I will only share what it looked like over the last couple of months. One thing I can say for certain is that it certainly helped with taming the “mother’s guilt”.
So here are my results from August. It was a busy month. We were getting ready to move into our new apartment, and there was a ton of errands to take care of. Not much time for my own interests.
In her book, Laura Vanderkam writes about interviewing a very successful woman, who while running a multimillion dollar business, could not resist a going for muddy hike on a weekday morning. Her formula was simple. She focused on spending her time on nurturing three things: herself, her family and her career. I have tried living by this formula and some months are more successful than others. In August, I clearly did not find much time to nurture myself.
As we were unpacking in our new place, September did not show much promise either. But here is where the second bit of data comes in. Remember the Fitbit? Guess what? Not surprisingly, this lack of balance was taking a toll on my mental state, and that came through in the steady rise of my basal heart rate.
Notice the sharp fall around September 22nd? That is when I made time for returning to NeuroBead, and working on my art into the night.
If there are any scientists reading this post, I realize that this is a pretty weak correlative study, with many other factors happening on a daily basis that could have skewed my results. But to me it is solid evidence for the vital importance of art and creativity in my life.