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The Challenge of Time.

Time. It’s of the essence. It also heals all wounds and it flows like a river. It’s perhaps the most precious commodity, you can both sell your time to others and buy their time – but you can’t get it back once it’s gone. At least that’s how most of us perceive time, there are a lot of different and pretty weird theories out there that try to explain what time actually is.

Personally, I don’t dabble much in time theory. All I know is that the 24 hours a day I’m getting don’t seem to be enough. I’ve always found it hard to find time for everything I want to do, but it didn’t become a real challenge until a year ago, when Vilde was born. The majority of a day’s twenty four precious hours are consumed by standard affairs, things pretty much everybody use their time on: We’re working, doing chores around the house, cooking, eating, looking after our personal hygiene, sleeping, spending time with friends and family, raising kids, shopping and commuting.

I accept that these are things I need to spend my time on; it comes with the territory. A lot of it I also enjoy doing, so it’s not really a problem. But when all is said and done, there’s very little time left for personal recreation, and I, like most of us, need a little downtime.

I’ve finally realized that I have to prioritize hard and think smart to cover my selfish needs.

Priorities

There are five activities I’d like to be able to cover: Jogging, gaming, writing, reading and developing my professional skills. There is not way I’ll manage to do everything unless I set myself realistic goals.

Jogging

I don’t need to be able to run a marathon or anything, I’d like to jog simply to stay reasonably fit. Exercise is a great way to reboot the brain, and no matter how exhausted I get after a workout, I usually feel re-energized as soon as I recover. I’ve also been told that working out is good for ones health, but when I’m in the middle of it, I sometimes wonder if that is true. A realistic goal for jogging would be to jog a 5K at least ones a week. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last five weeks, so it’s seems like a good plan. Over time, I hope to gradually run a little bit longer before eventually settling on a 10K run every week.

Gaming

I’m a gamer. There’s no denying it. I don’t have the same need I once had for playing computer games, but it’s a thing that I, compared to the majority of my friends, will never grow out of. Unlike jogging, I’m not sure if I can set a “play for X hours a week” goal. If there isn’t anything I want to play, I don’t see the purpose of sitting down just for the sake of playing. But when something great is released – or, in my case, on sale – it’s good to be able to spend a few hours with it.

Writing

Ah, yes, writing. The time when I wrote long e-mails and written letters to people are long gone. By writing, I’m thinking primarily about writing posts in this site. My publishing frequency has dropped considerably in recent years, from a whooping 243 posts in 2003 to a miserable 46 posts last year. The length of each post has increased dramatically, though, so in terms of number of words, the amount of content I produced in 2014 might be about the same as in 2003. But it still feels like a bit of a let down when I’m not even able to pump out a post a week on average in a year. So that’s the goal I’m setting: At least one new post every week. This year, I’m pretty sure I’ll make it. Being home for 13 weeks on parental leave has done wonders for my publishing rate. But that’s over soon.

Reading

There is so much great literature out there that I haven’t read. There are also books that are so good they deserve to be read multiple time. I’m pretty sure I’ll read Frank Herbert’s Dune again this summer, for instance. I also learn a lot professionally from books, and after listening to Dan Carlin’s “Blueprint for Armageddon” series, I’d love to dig into a little World War I history. But, as with gaming, it’s hard to set a measurable goal; to “read X books in a year” would be just silly. Instead, I want to pick up and read interesting books as I discover them. One thing is important, though: If a book turns stale and I leave it one the shelve for weeks, I don’t have to feel that I have to pick it up again just to finish it. I don’t want to waste my time on boring and uninteresting books, but instead move on to something else.

Developing my professional skills

I’m a programming consultant by trade and creating great computer code is my bread and butter. In my profession, you have to be at the top of your game to get relevant work. To accomplish that, I have to stay current. Not only do I have to keep up with my main language, frameworks, and general programming related topics – which is a very wide range of topics – I also have to know what’s happening with other programming languages. The only way to really accomplish that is to sit down and try it out. A reasonable goal would be to anticipate in work-related and relevant activities organized my employer, read tech-related blogs and online magazines, and listen to relevant podcasts. I should also be able to try out a new programming language every second month, either by doing a small project or taking an online course.

Eliminate time wasters

One way of finding more time to do the things I want to do is to eliminate time wasters. I’ve identified two major ones in my life: The internet and television.

The internet

The internet is amazing. My job exists because of the internet. The internet can also tell you everything you need to know: If you have a question, simply look it up and you’ll find an answer. Just make sure you check your sources. But it’s a double edged sword. While it’s amazing, it can also consume you completely. I have no idea how many hours I’ve blown away on a site like Reddit. If you just want to be entertained, that’s the place to go. Twitter is also a black hole of time if you follow too many people. Because of this, I’ve looked at both my Reddit and Twitter subscriptions and removed a ton of mindless subreddits on Reddit and stopped following a lot of people on Twitter. Now checking Reddit and Twitter consumes perhaps 10 minutes of my day.

TV

Traditional television broadcasting is amazingly old fashioned. The time when people was happy with being told what to see and when to see it is long gone. PVRs are a result of this. The quality of broadcasted television has also taken a nose dive in recent years. The demise of the History Channel and the Sci-Fi Channel are great examples. But TLC is probably the pinnacle of the current “dumbification” of television. TLC was originally The Learning Channel, but with shows like Toddlers & Tiaras, Extreme Couponing, Long Island Medium, My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, and My Husband’s Not Gay, there isn’t that much learning left in the channel.

I’ve discussed this with Anniken, and if we could, we’d simply cancel our TV subscription. But unfortunately, that’s not possible; we have to have a TV subscription to get an internet subscription. If there is a technical or regulatory reason for this, I don’t know, but I’m guessing it’s just the cable company’s way of saying “fuck you” to their customers. Still, I’ll try to keep my eyes off the idiot box as much as possible.

Afterword

The Challenge of Time is not something new. We all struggle with this in one way or another. Will I discover the silver bullet? Probably not. There are tons of books, courses, techniques and seminars available on the subject. If no one has been able to crack the code yet, there is not much chance I’ll be the one that do it.

But will I manage to spend my time wisely? I think so. The main challenge will probably be to eliminate the time wasters. I also think it’s important to not become completely obsessed about time. Sometimes it’s good for me to “misuse” a little time, and spend 30 minutes browsing /r/all just to zone out.

What about your own time? Do you feel that you’re using it efficiently? Perhaps reading this post was a complete waste of time for you. Then you owe it to yourself to consider if reading anything on this site is a good use of your time. To help you with your decision, I’ve added both relevant tags and an estimated reading time to each post. This way, you can read what you find interesting and short enough and skip everything else.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure your time is spent the way you want to use it.

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