Help me hack my schedule. Am I overloading myself?
September 11, 2018 8:18 AM   Subscribe

I (28F) can't tell if I should optimize my schedule or soldier on. The devil is in the details, of course.

I'm struggling to evaluate my current level of busy-ness. I've recently stopped taking anti-depressants, which left me with excess levels of energy and caused me to take on extra commitments and responsibilities. Now that some time has passed and I've somewhat adjusted to this new reality, I can't figure out if I'm trying to do too much or if this is what life looks like for off-meds people.

A typical day for me looks somewhat like this:
6.00-7.30 wake up, yoga, shower, breakfast, meditation
7.30-9.00 work on a side project that I love and am not willing to give up
9.00-9.40 get dressed, walk the dog
9.40-10.00 cycle to work
10.00-18.00 work. I do take about an hour for lunch outside the office
18.00-18.20 cycle home
18.20-19.10 walk the dog, have dinner

I go to bed around 23.00, in the few hours between dinner and bedtime I do this:
Mondays: grocery shopping, cleaning the house
Tuesdays: swimming pool with parents or tennis with friends
Wednesdays: a social outing or a date
Thursdays: staying in working on side project
Fridays: a social outing

I usually spend my weekends with friends, either out in the nature or doing a cultural activity, or just hanging out. Every Sunday I go for a run at the sea with my sportsy buddies. I eat reasonably well.

I'm very happy with the fact that I do feel motivated to do all sorts of things. I feel like seeing people and getting out of the house. I want to connect with the world. It used to be a battle with myself to do anything apart the bare minimum and computer games.

The problem: fatigue is creeping up. I fear I might exhaust myself, but I don't really want to give up any of the habits that make up my new, shiny life. I've established this routine that I think should be good for me, but every week I'm a bit more tired than the last. I can't tell if I need more time getting used to an active life or if I'm stretching myself too thin.

Please help me gain some perspective on the structure of my life. Am I doing something wrong? Should I slow down? If so, what do I sacrifice, as all the things I do seem important, healthy and wholesome to me. Does this look like a reasonable schedule?
posted by mesija to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I think your structure is really, really good. I wouldn't change a thing. I think your schedule is one many people would be very jealous of.

You feel rushed/fatigued - I've found that feeling rushed can mean just not enough travel time between stages. Can you carry out your schedule in a relaxed way? There's a lot of difference between rushing to the grocery store, trying to do it as quickly as possible, and moseying around looking at different new things.

So, to fix that, maybe keep everything the same but build in 10 minutes of time into each category and subtract it from the four hours at the end.
posted by bbqturtle at 8:28 AM on September 11, 2018 [11 favorites]

Congrats on getting off anti-depressants! When I've done this in the past, I also felt some immediate benefits of extra energy, but this eventually wore off, as it seems to be with you. Your schedule seems admirable, however — good work-social-you mix, effective, not really too ambitious. The only thing I notice is that you're not really getting that much aerobic exercise. Unless you're really pushing yourself on your two bike rides, two widely-spaced 20 minute periods of exercise per day may not be enough. Maybe you can substitute aerobic exercise for yoga and mediation a couple of times during the week, and get some more in on the weekends? It sounds like it would be even more tiring, but most people find, once they "get into the groove," that it gives rather than subtracts energy.
posted by ubiquity at 8:30 AM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

11pm to 6am is 7 hours sleep, which is one hour under the "recommended" amount. It's entirely possible you're running a sleep deficit.
posted by parm at 8:31 AM on September 11, 2018 [33 favorites]

How much of your weekend do you spend with friends? Can you spend more time sleeping/loafing? Or move some of the cleaning to the weekend and have an easier night one night per week? What about Saturday with friends and Sunday to decompress on your own?
posted by Frowner at 8:36 AM on September 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

Good catch by parm. I also found I needed more sleep after coming off antidepressants — in my case, I went from needing 6 hours to needing 7.5 hours. If the schedule you're on is the same as before you came off, I would definitely suggest trying to add an extra hour for sleep, especially if you're finding that you "catch up" on sleep during the weekends.
posted by ubiquity at 8:37 AM on September 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Looks great, good mix of exercise, projects, work and being social. I think aim to be asleep by 11 (unless a late night out say once a week) so go to bed nearer to half 10?
I don't think you should do less though, I find I get more energy by keeping busy than lazing around.
posted by JonB at 8:43 AM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

You haven't got a full day off to recharge. I'd block out either Saturday or Sunday. You are socialising a lot during the week and it's a great schedule, but taking a full day on Sunday to do nothing but your own routine and putter around the house with your dog, catching up on shows, prepping meals for the week, napping or just flipping through a magazine on the couch will give you way more energy for the rest of the week.

That also gives you a reserve day for inevitable emergencies so when something crops up, you can move necessary things to your rest day for a bit and still make that doctor's appointment/car repair/work deadline without throwing your whole schedule off.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:18 AM on September 11, 2018 [14 favorites]

Yeah, I feel like the one thing that's maybe missing from this schedule is total downtime where you just lie around in your pyjamas/read/watch crap telly/maybe do something more productive but only because you fancy it in the moment, not because it's on the schedule.

It's easy to be scared of unallocated, lazy downtime when you're coming out of depression, because lying around in your pyjamas is associated so intensely with the worst times. But I think it's an important skill to learn, and to reassociate it with rest and pleasure, rather than fear and depression. If you can allocate specific time to it, and enjoy it, it's a joy. And for me, a very necessary part of not getting exhausted.

I think I need at least one or two evenings a week, and maybe a full day every second weekend, to do whatever the hell I want to do on the day, usually as little as possible and often not involving getting dressed, though YMMV.
posted by penguin pie at 9:29 AM on September 11, 2018 [7 favorites]

Seconding the comment upthread about transition times and rushing from activity to activity. I'm not sure if transition time is already built into your schedule, or if you are feeling rushed because you haven't built enough of it in?

For instance, how long does the bike ride to and from work actually take? You allocate 20 minutes total for it. Now, if it were me, I would take a minimum of 5 minutes getting on the bike (taking it out of the shed/garage, locking up behind me, loading up work gear onto the bike, and the inevitable running back indoors to grab the keys or water bottle or helmet that I forgot), and then another 5 minutes getting off the bike at the other end (locking up, storing keys properly, checking that I stored keys properly because I fucking know not to trust myself, walking from bike parking into office, probably jogging back to the bike to get my water bottle which I forgot). So the ride itself can't be more than 10 minutes.

This might just be me, but your schedule sounds quite ambitious because of the lack of transition times.
posted by MiraK at 9:54 AM on September 11, 2018 [7 favorites]

Looks like a great life to me. Echoing a bit of what MiraK mentions, I'm curious about transitions, and your evening schedule --> bedtime portion of it.

Are you actually falling asleep 11, or is that when you get in bed and still have to do things to fall asleep like reading or tossing & turning or whatever? For a lot of people 7 hours is fine, 6 too, but if its really less than that (b/c being in bed is not sleeping) than you might just need to sleep a bit more to not feel tired.

You could also catch up on sleep by sleeping a bit longer in the AM or sleeping in on the weekends.
posted by RajahKing at 10:25 AM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Looks good, but maybe try to get to sleep a bit sooner sometimes (like 10:30).

I (35 F) find I have days and weeks where my energy is great and I can do all the things, and days and weeks where I'm dragging and can't do as much (usually related to the later part of my cycle before my period where I need more sleep and alone time). I adjust accordingly, keeping in mind that it's not forever if I'm feeling like I'm being too lazy or antisocial or not exercising enough. If I were you and feeling like cutting back I'd cancel the Wednesday activity and just rest, go to bed early, and block some time on Sunday to be lazy too.
posted by lafemma at 10:48 AM on September 11, 2018

That looks like a great schedule, and one I'd like for myself if I didn't have a kid... EXCEPT if I had 7 hours of sleep every night I would definitely get fatigued after a few days. I can cope with the odd underslept day but feel much better if I get 8 hours or more most nights. In your place I'd try to expand the sleep hours and see if that helped.
posted by altolinguistic at 10:50 AM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I personally wouldn't be able to deal with only 7 hours of sleep on an on-going basis. YMMV. Nthing try going to bed an hour earlier every day for a week. Yes, it will cut your after dinner routine a little short, but if you *are* sleep deprived you'll need to adjust that anyway.

I would also, just as an experiment, take a weekend (or just one day) where you stay home and really relax instead of going out. Read a book. Watch some Netflix and order in dinner. You sound like you aren't leaving much time for self-care in the form of down time. It's important too!
posted by ananci at 11:06 AM on September 11, 2018

Your schedule sounds great but it would be about 15% too packed for my taste. To work in more downtime, maybe you could hire a cleaner to come while you're out or on a project night, and maybe consider ordering groceries, so you can relax on Monday nights. And I'd want to take half a weekend day, maybe occasionally a full weekend day, to do nothing, sleep in, nap, etc. Or take a sick day once a month and just veg. I need more introversion time than your schedule allows (and I'm an extrovert!).
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:34 AM on September 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

It's your life, and you get to decide if you're happy with it. There's a lot of variation in how healthy people spend their time and how much rest they need, and variation for a given person at different parts of their life. If you're feeling tired, do less. Don't worry too much about what other people do.
posted by momus_window at 11:51 AM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I agree with previous posters that you may not be allowing yourself enough downtime. Your schedule sounds like fun, but if you don't fall asleep immediately, and if an off-day makes you feel inadequate, and you are tired, then the schedule may be just a bit too rigid. A day of reading schlock or going for a random walk or sitting on the porch staring at nothing may be what you need every couple of weeks or so. And an early-to-bed night never did anybody any harm. Be kind to yourself, you don't have to do it all every day.
posted by Enid Lareg at 5:17 PM on September 11, 2018

I agree the problem is not enough sleep; I usually need 8 hours. So if I were you, I would wake up later. You're already getting 1-2 hours of exercise daily by cycling and walking the dog, so do you need an hour of yoga every day? Maybe you could wake up at 7, take a quick shower (most people don't need to wash their hair every day), do 15 minutes of sun salutes and 5 minutes of breathing exercises, then eat breakfast while working on your side project.
posted by capricorn at 5:53 PM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

+1 for unstructured down time (TV, reading, movies, etc). I was exhausted just reading your post and I'm generally someone who runs around and keeps pretty busy - but I need down time sometimes and maybe you do too.
posted by sunflower16 at 5:03 AM on September 12, 2018

Just like to disagree with many other posters. Lots of research says that 8 hours isn't some magical number for adults to sleep. Everyone needs different amounts of sleep - and studies show a regular sleep schedule (similar bedtime / wake up time every day) is more important than hitting a magic number.
posted by bbqturtle at 5:36 AM on September 12, 2018

Thank you everybody for your advice. I think that building in some buffers between activities and just spacing them out a little bit might help me feel less rushed. I've already blocked out 5 hours of unstructured, do-what-I-want downtime for Sundays. Downtime is scary, but, apparently, necessary.
posted by mesija at 6:29 AM on September 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

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