Tick Tock – back to the grind of billable hours


Paula’s Post #58 – If you’re a follower of the 5writers blog, you may have noticed that first-out-of-the-gate Silk begins our blogging week with her post on Monday. Often, her fellow 5writer colleagues pick up the threads of her post and ‘riff’ on some of the ideas propounded in her piece.

Yesterday’s poignant post by Silk ‘The top 10 ways to spend 2014‘ resonated with me, particularly where she noted:

Everything we achieve has a cost, and the only real currency we have in life to pay for these things is time, attention and energy. These are in our control, if we’re lucky. Other things, not so much. We pay attention. We spend time. We expend energy. But they’re all finite – we have only so much of them. Every year I become more aware of this.

What we choose to do with this capital defines our lives. This may seem ridiculously self-evident, but knowing something intellectually, and feeling it in your bones, are two entirely different things. I’m finally ‘getting’ how critical it is to invest in the things that are truly important to me. It makes me want to kick myself when I think of how much of this capital I’ve blown over the years on the penny candy of wasted time, mindless distractions, hopeless or unworthy causes.

Wow! The penny candy of wasted time.

Did that hit you the way it hit me?

I don’t have to turn the calendar back too many pages to find examples in my own life. Wasted days and wasted nights where I let time slip away from me in 2013.

Looking back at December alone, if you count up the number of hours I spent Christmas shopping on Amazon, crafting kitschy cards on Jib-Jab, tweeting on Twitter and connecting with friends on Facebook… yikes. If you subsequently presented this figure to me on a silver platter, I suspect I’d fall over in a dead faint. Oh, and let’s not forget the hours spent on Netflix, in airport departure lounges and just keeping up with the mountain of email slamming my five, yes FIVE email accounts (in my defence, three of those are for work).

But the arguments in my defence are as flimsy as a House of Cards (and no, I did not spend endless hours watching that offering on Netflix, nor Damages or Breaking Bad or any of the other series my dear husband now appears so addicted to).

But seriously, what is becoming of us all?

Is there just too much information out there, have we all become the social media equivalent of ‘Hoarders’ (another series I can smugly admit to not watching).

One of the most damning indictments against me is my complete loss of accountability where ‘time’ is concerned. Perhaps this is pure knee-jerk rebellion on my part, a pathetic attempt to reject the straight-jacket time clock of the lawyer’s billable hour, where for years I toiled to fill my daily time sheets, reviewing pink phone slips and scrawled notes on yellow message pads in an often futile attempt to retro-actively recreate the week that was and somehow come up with the requisite number of billable hours to keep the powers that be happy enough to keep me employed!

But if that is part of the pathology behind this evil squandering of TIME, I can only say, ‘oh, just get over it’.

If you flip back through the blog posts we 5writers shared since the inception of this blog in September 2012, almost a year and a half ago now, you’ll find a lot of words devoted to the subject of ‘time management’ and procrastination. But for all that whining, our record speaks for itself: three novels completed, two nearly done (and those two brilliantly re-envisioned by their authors in response to feedback from both their internal and external ‘critics’.

Yet as the weeks slide from one to another in a jumble of hours and days and weeks, I realize I miss the discipline of the ticking clock.

So, thanks Silk.

Thank you for reminding us to be mindful, to avoid the easy distractions of social media and other aimless endeavours, ‘the penny candy of wasted time’.

And to my fellow 5writers, I announce I’m throwing down the gauntlet. While I admit there is an element of my own metaphorical kicking and screaming here, my challenge to my fellow 5writers:

Track your time for a week.

Starting now.

Just like a lawyer. Ugh!

Record each ‘billable hour’ and each ‘non-billable’ hour of your day. Keep track of how much time you devote to your writing, to reading fiction or other books on writing and, of course, to this blog. Keep track of your hours on Facebook and Netflix and just watching TV. Feel virtuous and tell us about hours spent at the gym or on housework or mentoring a young person. We’re not voyeuristic, we don’t need to know all the intimate details of your ‘personal time’  but keep track of this too.

Next week, I’ll reveal if this helped me at all. I hope it helps you.

4:05 PM January 7, 2014 – Ready set, go!


5 thoughts on “Tick Tock – back to the grind of billable hours

  1. Paula thanks for the kind words … But I hope no one takes my post as an indictment of anyone (well, besides myself). Like you I spent decades “on the clock” filling out daily timesheets (and harassing my staff to do the same, with only modest success — creative people love keeping timesheets like cats love taking pills). However, I think your idea is as brilliant as it is evil. Many diets suggest keeping a log of what you eat, solely for the purpose of becoming aware of what you’re putting in your mouth without thinking. Is time management so different?

    I’m signing on for the January timesheet challenge, starting tomorrow. But for people who’ve never had to do it, this may be a bit daunting, so I’d like to give a pass to our other 5writer buddies unless they’re up for it. I will say, though, that it’s a real learning experience.

    You know that affirmation, “dance like there’s no one watching”? I love that. But maybe I need to “write like everyone’s watching”!

  2. Great insights, Paula! Ah yes, the time management thing again. Why is it so challenging for all of us? One reason I think is that never before did we have the luxury of so much time at hand. Dishwashers, take-out food, cleaning services, etc., all add to out free time. The second reason is that never before have we been bombarded with so many temptations to WASTE this free time. So here is how I am trying to ‘un-waste’ this most precious and valuable resource:
    No more Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, flipping channels on TV, reading unsolicited newsletters, blogs that I follow (that one is really hard). I have unsubscribed from almost all. It’s tough, because there is just soooo much titillating stuff at our fingertips. But it’s the only way.
    With that in mind, I regret to say I’ll pass on your time sheet challenge, because it’s another temptation for spending time that takes away from what I should be doing, namely writing. In a way, your challenge is an oxymoron. But thanks for suggesting, it could be a good tool for some.

  3. Hi Helga, I totally understand your decision to ‘opt out’ of both the time-keeping challenge and also many unsolicited newsletters, blogs etc. Good luck unsubscribing, there seems to be a special kind of ‘digital hell’ reserved for those that blithely subscribe to these email subscription lists, only to discover you need to input a long forgotten password to unsubscribe. But i’m sure the effort will be worth it!

    Ironically, just back from spending an hour shopping for writers notebooks to jot down thoughts for my outline and also a DAYTIMER – you don’t even want to know how much time can be wasted by a person with ADD trying to pick out the perfect coloured note books, pens and calendars before they can even start doing a task!

    Still, I think writing down my time is helping me be more ‘mindful’ about squandering it… I think I’ll post an update about how the system is working for me so far.

    • Been there, done all that. There are endless numbers of apps for tracking time, but the reverse is what bring results. An action list.

      Paula wrote:
      One of the most damning indictments against me is my complete loss of accountability where ‘time’ is concerned.

      I have known this for ages. Ever since I did my certificate in coaching. Now that’s how to get results. Yet, one is incapable of coaching oneself. I finally found me a coach and wow, I’m getting much more done. More focused, more directed.

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