I'm an introvert (an INFP on the Myers-Briggs test). I can spend pretty much endless hours alone, or nearly alone, without getting bored or wanting company. But I do like to have relationships with friends and family, and relationships require spending time together. And I like to go out and try new things. But those activities take energy and I have to spend time recovering afterward. If I'm recovering, I do not have the energy it takes to write.
One of the things I've noticed as I've been tracking how I spend my time is that my energy levels vary quite a bit depending on what I do, and the activities that leave me the most drained are social ones. More so than working out or going to work (although my work involves "socialness" with co-workers and customers, I don't find it as draining) (actually that is only true now that I'm no longer managing - when I was managing it was the most draining thing I did). No matter how much fun I have hanging out, it drains me, rather than energizing me.
On the week I made social plans on both of the days I had off work, I had a difficult time getting any writing done. This past weekend we had a party at our house and I didn't get anything else done, not even my regular maintenance-type stuff, including meditation, for several days. Although the party was only one day, party-related things took up several days (cleaning leading up to the party and resting after). All this adds up to not very much writing getting done, and although I had fun with those social things, I don't feel like I'm doing what I need to do.
A introverted friend told me she sets a limit for social activities - one per week. If she already has something on her calendar, she declines all other invitations. I love this idea. My instincts tell me it will work for me. I won't find one social activity a week to be too much. I worry that I'll end up seeing each friend or family member only once a year, but I think I'm going to give this a try and see how it goes.
Another idea I had, although I am not confident it will work out in practice, is to try to schedule social activities as late in the day as possible, so when I'm out of energy, it's time for bed, and hopefully I will have done my creative work beforehand. Even if I can't make that always work out, it's something to aim for whenever possible.
I've still got a few days of tracking to do to hit three solid weeks, but I think I've already got my three big takeaways:
- My job takes up a lot of hours and there's nothing I can do about that right now.
- Maintenance activities were taking up more time than they needed (and I improved that as soon as I realized what was going on).
- I need time to recoup from social activities and should plan accordingly.
I haven't mapped out my energy levels with the level of detail the worksheet from The Productivity Project requires, and honestly I don't think there's much point since how I use my time at work is outside of my control and work takes up many hours most days. But I'm glad I paid attention to how my various activities affected my energy levels.
Nothing earth-shattering here, but all these little things should help move me closer to my goal of having more time to write. I also love the idea of having considered how I spend my time, and spending it on activities I chose, rather than whatever came along.