Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Second Half Of The Day

Tom Waits--"All The World Is Green (live)" (mp3)

"And Monday when the foreman calls time,
I've already got Friday on my mind."

I hate to admit it, but the last hour of work each day, I don't really get very much done. The hall is quiet, the students are gone, few teachers are around, whatever pressure or deadline there might have been has passed. Everyone has moved on to something else.

I find myself listening to the persistent blast of the air conditioner while I sort through email, check social networks, try to work magic with my portfolio, get through my phone messages, clean my office, try to work magic with my fantasy team, drink a final cup of coffee, read for tomorrow's class, try to work magic with my checking account.

Maybe that's okay. Or maybe I'm wasting company time.

What I've come to realize, though, is that if I could work 7-4 instead of 8-5, I would probably get a lot more done. Or what if I could work 6-3? I don't want to claim that I'm a "morning person," because I'm not. I don't jump out of bed, rarin' to go. I'm not "chipper" at the breakfast table. I don't accomplish more before 9AM than most people do all day. But I do begin the day with a sense of purpose that involves accomplishment and commitment, and I'm willing to start that as soon as I can.

Increasingly, though, I enjoy a double life. Now, that's not what you think, because I'm not talking about two simultaneous lives. No, I'm referring to one life in the first part of the day and a different one during the second one.

In my current routine, I'm focused on work or getting ready for it for the first 10 hours of the day; during the final 7 that I'm usually awake, I'm thinking about anything but.

My friend, the co-writer of this blog, has been really jacked up about problems at work this year. I agree with him about every single problem that he has identified. I may even wish for the (sometimes obvious) solutions as much as he does. But not at night. Not this year.
Five or six years ago, heck, maybe even five or six months ago, I was lying awake in the middle of the night, worrying about work, solving problems in my head, envisioning conversations and confrontations. I was angry while cutting the grass. I was furious while driving to school. Now I'm not.

What's changed? I'm not entirely sure. The same things bother me. But not while I'm away.

I think it's the double life. The pleasures of home and hearth, of working on a new vision of our house, of cooking a good meal, of going out with family or friends, of getting to read what I want to instead of what I have to, of sitting with a dog or a cat, of making plans for parties or games or trips or "Dylan Night" all have such a strong pull on me this year that when I walk out the door of my office, I've left almost everything there.

It's a life of trade-offs. I'll do this, put in the time that is expected of me, in order to be able to do what I really want to do. Expect me to do something at a time inconvenient to me and I will still do it, but I will actively carve out that other time to do what I want. Take my weekend; I will take my week.

I've also discovered that, and I don't say this as a boast but as a commentary, I can do all that's needed and more during a work day and still have plenty of brain leftover. That's key if you're going to live a double life. You can't use it all up. There are plenty of days where all emotional energy, all social energy, all "helping" energy can be depleted, but that doesn't stop me from finding outlets during the second half of the day that don't require those kinds of energies from me anyway.

Ben Franklin, I'll meet you halfway. I'll accept "Early to bed." I'll get up as early as I need to to get done what I have to get done. But then I'm going to take the rest of the day and work it how I want to for as long as I can.

1 comment:

troutking said...

1. I don't get much work done during the last hour of the day either. That's due to a chatty co-worker, however.

2. I've the double life too. I work hard but I don't live to work. I work to live and I do my living "Out in the Street UH OH UH OH UH OH Yeah yeah yeah yeah!"