New Time Spending Habits, Part 1

In the past month, I’ve written two blog posts pertaining to finding valuable ways to spend time. An Intentional Focus on Deep Work has given me the tools to determine value, while Trading Money for Convenience has added a bit over 20 hours of free time per week.

After 4 weeks of following through with my writing, I’ve captured several observations from the experience. Let’s call this post Part 1 of that series. I’ll post Parts 2 and 3 on a monthly cadence. At that point, the experiment will presumably have enough data to influence future decision making.

Being Time Rich is Weird

Finding about 22 hours of free time per week is a shock to the brain. I found myself struggling to fill that time once bereft of my typical distractions (streaming video and video games). Before, I used to spend entire weekends just “vegging out” in the pursuit of relaxation, which effectively gave up any conscious decision making to third parties.

Sitting down to write out my 2022 goals helped narrow down my field of vision:

  • Be an effective leader and mentor to my peers.
  • Be an effective technologist.
  • Write carefully and with purpose.
  • Live a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
  • Spend quality time with family and friends.

Using these goals as a lens, I set forth to find new things to do with my free time.

Lots of Studying

I’ve set aside 07:00-09:00 each weekday morning as study time. This amounts to 10 hours a week. The time is blocked on my work and personal calendars, but sometimes I have a meeting that forces me to adjust my study time a little. I make sure to “pay myself back” for any missing chunks of study time by scheduling other parts of the day.

Most of what I study is technical documentation and reference designs. I’m building Confluence pages with notes and ideas along with using XMind to generate mind maps with repeatable patterns (e.g. “disaster recovery considerations for containerized workloads“). This is effectively the art of translating my opinions into written packages. I use the content for client work and advisory roles that I hold.

I noticed about 2.5 weeks into the experiment that I was finding it challenging to find new material that I didn’t already know (at some level). Oops, I was too comfortable in my bubble! What a fantastic thing to learn! This lead me to pivoting into areas of technology that I’ve just not had the time to digest. I have a road map of learning topics spanning out to April of 2022, which is handy for prioritizing my attention. It helps in avoiding “Squirrel!” moments where a shiny tech thing appears from the bushes.

Lots of Sleeping

With all this new free time, I wanted to shift my schedule to early mornings to accommodate my study time schedule. I slowly migrated my bed time to around 21:00 and get up at 05:00. There’s something about early mornings that is just amazing for productivity. No one is online to interact with or message me. I also like that it’s still dark outside and I get to see the sun rise pretty much every day. Worth it.

I think I finally have a healthy, equitable relationship with sleep. We’ve rarely gotten along in the past. I used to get 4 hours of sleep per night when traveling (and I traveled a ton). That became a habit that remained with me into the pandemic times. I’ve always been taught that sleep is the enemy and that successful people don’t sleep.

I realize now – that’s total bullshit.

Getting 8 or even 9 hours of sleep a night is game changing. While I “lose” 2-4 hours of being awake per day, the time that I am awake is much more enjoyable. Additionally, I’ve measured significantly more output with this adjusted schedule by looking at content creation metrics and my work project sprint plans.

Some numbers:

  • I spend a solid 4 hours in Deep Focus every single day instead of 1 or 2 hours per day sporadically.
  • This has translated into a 500% increase in content output as measured by publications (blog posts, work blog posts, and study time content).

Long story short, I’m just able to do a lot more in a shorter amount of time with far fewer distractions.

Summary

Thus far, the experiment is paying off in spades. I’m finding myself really liking the early mornings, the comfort of a routine schedule, and guaranteed investments into deep work and deep focus.

I thought that I’d miss the video games a lot more than I do. There’s a few that tug at my heart once in a while, but for the most part, I’m happy to just plop down and read a book instead. And on the topic of books, I’m currently going through my longest Kindle reading streak on record with 15 weeks in a row.

Looking forward to the next month. :)