Discover more from Tech and Tea
How do you want to spend your time?
a question that seems to be on lots of people's minds
Ooh boy it is raining here in the Bay Area again, and I would like to give some major props to whoever coined the term “atmospheric river,” because it sounds way cooler to say we’re having an atmospheric river than to say that it’s going to rain for a week straight. The kids are home sick today, both with hopefully mild colds. I started this post last week when I thought we were just past the winter colds. A good reminder that this is all life, that life doesn’t begin once we get past this next cold.
As we collectively re-adjust to this new normal, as we start to emerge from this season’s nasty colds and illnesses, as an opening of possibility lingers in the air, a question I’m pondering and seems to be top of mind for others as well is, how do I want to spend my time?
There are so many other big questions that branch off of that one, including:
What do I want my weekends to look like?
What does travel look like for the next year or so?
What do I want friendship and community look like?
What’s a healthy balance between time to myself and time with others?
What do I enjoy?
Other questions on my mind are:
How can I slow down and do less (one of my 2023 intentions) but still do all the things I want?
What does taking care of my body look like?
How do I plan ahead for social/travel/family outings as well as make space for unstructured unplanned time?
What does balancing all this with the risk of long COVID look like?
What does figuring all this out while in partnership with someone else look like?
The big question on everyone’s mind seems to be, how do I want to spend my time, and going even deeper than that:
What do we want our lives to look like?
If this question is top of mind for you, I’d love to hear any insights or questions you’ve been grappling with.
Many people underwent major life transitions the past few years, from becoming parents, to uprooting and moving their lives, to having their friends move their lives.
The three years that have passed since the beginning of COVID seem like an eternity, and also like one year disguised as three. Sometimes someone mentions an event and I can’t remember if it happened in 2022, 2021, or 2020. Honestly, sometimes I just don’t even remember it happened at all.
This 3-year reflection is seemingly in the collective conscious, as I’ve seen a few twitter prompts of people reflecting on what’s happened for them:
These threads quickly become achievement comparison threads, which is a little weird, because truly, getting through the past few years is an accomplishment in and of itself, but it’s an interesting glimpse into how much people’s lives have changed.
Personally, here are just a few of the changes I’ve gone through since March 2020.
Finalized divorce papers
Naveed uprooted his life in SF and moved in with me and the kids in Berkeley
A year and a half of keeping the kids alive and learning in a pandemic pod (I can’t believe there was no in-person school wtf)
Started a new job, my first time in a VPE role
Bought a house, moved, sold a house
Got married 🎉
Finally got COVID
Another job transition
Through all that change, the simple option of “going back” to normal life pre-March-2020 doesn’t make sense at all.
As I grapple with how I want to spend my time, here are some questions and observations I’ve noticed lately:
Slowing down can make space for more things I enjoy
At the beginning of the year, I set an intention to slow down and do less — and to let myself do things I am pulled towards in the moment, even if they seem like they wouldn’t be a good use of time.
My efficiency brain struggles to understand how slowing down allows me to do more things I enjoy, but somehow it kind of works.
When I let myself do the things I enjoy that don’t seem like a good use of time, time stretches out to feel like there’s more of it. I’ve been spending hours weeding in the garden, and it energizes and satisfies me in a deep way.
Structured and unstructured time are important
I love seeing a huge block of no-meeting time on my calendar, but sometimes the reality of that time is that I end up feeling a bit adrift and aimless.
As an introvert who has become even more of homebody in the last few years, I am somewhat resistant to going out to events or social gatherings.
But from experience, I know that a healthy balance of unstructured time to do whatever (often weeding) and planned social time is what helps me feel satisfied.
As we plan for an upcoming trip, this is even more top of mind. How much should we plan or make reservations for? How much should we leave up to our whims?
Our sweet spot seems to be enough planning to have a few key experiences and meals (and so that we’re not spending hours each day reading Lonely Planet), and also have some spacious time to explore.
I’ve never thought of myself as a very community-oriented person, perhaps because I do better one-on-one as an introvert. But I find community in my own ways, including with all of you in this newsletter. I love getting email or texts from friends and new people sharing thoughts on a recent post.
Lately, I’ve been finding community in some new places, including Mothership Hackermoms, a local creative life lab for moms. I just joined last year, and we had our annual art exhibit this past weekend. I volunteered to handle snacks, and combined with a copy of Everybody’s Winging It, it felt like I had two pieces of creative expression on display.
I can’t do everything I want, all the time
There is a parallel here between career growth and life progression. In your career, you get to a point, where it is literally impossible to do everything, even working longer hours. The job then becomes prioritizing, delegating, and keeping plates spinning until you can hand them off to someone else.
Being a human with a partner and kids kind of feels like that. I’d have to wake up at 4am if I wanted to cram in all the writing, exercise, time with partner, time with kids, nutritious eating, solo self-care time, time with friends, and family of four time that I want — and well, sleep is too important.
We’ve found ways to work a healthy balance into our routines. For example, on the weekends when the kids are with their dad, one of us usually plans date night on Friday. We’ve found this to be particularly satisfying because we start the weekend off with some time together, but still feel like we have the whole weekend ahead of us. The next day, Saturday, we typically spend separately. I write and do whatever else I want — sometimes it’s working in the garden, or meeting up with a friend, or playing in an ultimate frisbee pickup game.
While I don’t necessarily get a good balance of everything everyday, this bi-weekly ritual helps make ensure that I get a good dose of solo time and creative time that fuels me for the following week or so.
And like this past weekend, when birthday party and other plans disrupted our usual ritual, I’m more aware that I may need to find space to myself the following week.
Finding enjoyment in unexpected places
For awhile, I tried to write morning pages every morning, thinking that an established journaling habit would be a good start to my day. There were a few weeks when I journaled daily, but as I let myself spend the “morning time” doing whatever felt good, I’ve been intrigued by the activities I’ve been partaking in.
Lately, when it’s not raining, I gravitate to the garden. Spending time outside in the sun pulling weeds and pruning overgrown plants is so joyful in a satisfyingly tedious way, scratching almost the same itch as refactoring and deleting code from a legacy codebase. I proudly filled a 90 gallon compost bin over the course of a few weeding sessions.
Another morning, I worked on a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle for an hour before work — I felt like a kid sneaking a cookie from a cookie jar. It felt so indulgent.
As I grapple with these questions of how to spend my time, finding a balance of trying out new things (that, as an introvert, I might be resistant to initially) and having space to follow impulses that bring me joy seems to be working well.
I’d love to hear from you. What’s been on your mind lately? Have you been noticing these same questions? What questions have come up for you? What insights have you gleaned about how you want to spend your time? Where have you found joy?
If you’d like to support my ongoing writing about navigating a life and career in tech, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber (equivalent to a monthly Bay-Area ☕️)