What does your daily schedule look like, hour by hour?
March 19, 2024 3:19 PM   Subscribe

I find it a constant struggle to get everything I need to get done done. I am always behind on multiple important things because there simply isn't enough time in the day. However, I see people managing many more responsibilities than I have, so I thought it would be helpful for me to see how other people organize their days.

I only work part time, and I'm currently looking for more/better work. I'm also trying to find time to exercise, cook very basic meals, socialize, organize my physical and digital belongings (that have been in disarray for years), clean, rest, engage with hobbies, spend enough time outside in the sun, attend to hygiene, learn new crucial skills that will make my life easier (such as sewing), and take some prerequisite high school courses in order to apply to university next year. I'm sure I'm forgetting some things.

When I write that out, it sounds like a lot, but I've met people who work full time, attend school, and have kids - my life is not at all busy compared to them! Please don't suggest solutions that require throwing money at the problem, like meal kits or a cleaning service, as I don't have any to spare. How can I do this? How do you do this?
posted by wheatlets to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
My answer is that I spend a whole lot more time fucking off than my more productive peers.

And I've decided I'm fine with this. I simply value my goof off time more than I value, for example, a vacuumed floor. Or I value making myself breakfast and walking my dogs more than taking a shower at a fixed time every morning. Or I value reading a book more than learning to knit. Etc. Those value judgments can change for me day to day based on situation and need, and have changed for me over time as my life has become more stable.

What are you doing with your time, and do you value those activities more than the things on your list? This question here is rhetorical, but something you should answer for yourself.
posted by phunniemee at 3:35 PM on March 19 [15 favorites]

When I write that out, it sounds like a lot, but I've met people who work full time, attend school, and have kids - my life is not at all busy compared to them!

I assure you the vast majority of those people are not accomplishing much outside of those three things. They are NOT learning to sew and engaging with hobbies plural AND also exercising regularly AND doing household overhaul/organization AND socializing frequently.

You simply have to choose. Prioritize first. For many people, the sort of basic life tasks (work, eating, sleeping, hygiene, paying the bills) are the priorities. On top of that people generally have time for like two, maybe three more things: a hobby, an exercise habit, and socializing, for example. Or school and socializing. Or a hobby and a couple of household projects. Many many many many things will always have to give.

So you will have to spend some time really figuring out what is the most important to you, and internalizing that some things will have to wait for a later season of your life. It sucks! I've had to downscale my exercise time lately to meet some other obligations. Later I'll have to sacrifice other fun things to get back to my preferred exercise level. In a few months I will be so busy I will have no time for anything at all beyond food, water, sleep, work. I will say again: it sucks.

If you see someone on social media who seems to be doing everything perfectly all the time without ever sacrificing anything, they're 1. a liar and 2. wealthy. (Notice I didn't say "or"! They are both. Because no human can do everything in the world with no compromises, but a rich person can fake it effectively.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:55 PM on March 19 [25 favorites]

(An hour by hour accounting for my time would, first of all, take more time than I have! And also it would not be helpful to you, because my priorities are not your priorities, and my energy/executive function are not your energy/executive function.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:06 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

To echo some of what others have already said...

Giving you my hour by hour wouldn't help you because our lives are so different. People are not as productive as you think they are, they just hide their unproductivity well (or not).

If you take just one word from everyone's answers, it is "prioritize." Make a list of all the things you think you should be doing and rank them by importance. Cut the list in half because most of the time you won't get to the items in the second half. (Similar, track how you actually spend your time, that's where your priorities are.)

If you want to regularly exercise, you may need to wake up much earlier than you really want to (so there goes some sleep time, or time for something else the night before). If you want to spend time learning new skills, that is probably time you would otherwise put toward hobbies. It's really all about prioritizing which things are most important to you. There is a corollary to this - if someone complains they don't have time for an activity, that likely means they have prioritized other activities over it. If the household's needs are covered without much effort, then they simply don't want that activity more than other activities which they do make time for (working two jobs just to pay rent and buy food is a completely different situation, for example).

Since you mentioned high school courses and university, maybe focus a bit more on education right now. The hobbies will still be there when school is over. I promise, focusing on classes can easily pay off well later on.
posted by Meldanthral at 4:34 PM on March 19

I assume you've looked into ADHD because a lot of that sounds like untreated ADHD in not being able to easily prioritise and organise.

That said, there's a helluva lot of compromise or support in everyone's life. I have a well-paid housekeeper so that I get those hours back to stare vacantly at a wall while I drink coffee so that I can cope with the rest of my life. I can only manage one big social event a week, and so most of my hobbies are things I can do alone or intermittently around the rest of my life.

There is a lot of external social and consumer pressure to have a Shiny Productive Full Life, but interrogate everything on your list - do you really want to learn to sew, or do you just want to be the kind of person who has the time to sew pretty handmade quilts? Because I absolutely want to be the person who has the organised beautiful craft room and sews gorgeous quilts, but the reality is I have a sewing machine in a storage room and bought a nice enough quilt instead.

Do less! Read up on ADHD.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:58 PM on March 19 [8 favorites]

To be honest, I think people are wired differently. I have super productive friends (with kids! who socialize! and exercise at 6am!) that make me feel like a total sloth. But I need a lot of downtime (I don't think my friends actually sit down during the day- literally, except maybe while making notes for their jobs etc). I maybe also have some kind of something (even if it's just anxiety) that also absorbs a lot of mental energy and time...but I don't know for sure.

I think you just have to prioritize what you actually want the most. When I worked and went to school (I did not have kids)- that was basically all I did. No real socializing, messy apt, bad food.
posted by bquarters at 5:26 PM on March 19 [4 favorites]

None of us is perfect and none of us gets it all done - certainly not all the time.
Speaking to your question, I have kids and work and so on.... and some of the ways I do some of my things include
- I don't do everything every day. Like, exercise on Mondays and Fridays and bike to work when I can and not on exercise days.
- Because I have all these obligations that do not include my delights, I have to schedule it out/prioritize where I can. I have some Thursday evenings to space out or see a friend
- Also, I have a running list of my daily obligations because I cannot remember it all and am flexible about how. I get dopamine hits by marking off taking my vitamins and I don't get annoyed if I forget and I have a little extra box of them in my lunch box because they can get missed in the hubub of the morning.
- Also, I try not to get caught up in doing it all right or spend a bunch of time getting down about not doing something beyond seeing that something is not happening. No read books for myself in 2024 - worth noting but not fretting about.

And know and accept yourself, I found Gretchen Rubin's The Four Tendencies to be helpful. Being externally motivated, it helps to to put together the kids lunches so I also do my own. I suck at doing things at night so I do more in the morning (just hang out dishes, we will meet in the AM). Stacking habits (brushing teeth connects to flossing connects to deodorant connects to putting on earrings, etc) creates more flow for me. I wonder what will work for you?

I hope that you spend more of your time doing what you want to and also have some space out time.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 5:36 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I completely agree with everyone who said that prioritizing is what needs to happen here. When I try to prioritize, each activity on that list still comes up as crucial because it's linked to the #1 priority (for example: if I don't socialize, rest, and exercise, I'll be too miserable to study, or if I learn to sew I can save the time and effort I spend on buying, hating, and returning clothes and use it to attend to a priority).
posted by wheatlets at 7:50 PM on March 19

Huh, just to validate if you are struggling to do such basic activities per your descriptio an and you're not in your 20s, that's probably something to ask a doctor and/or psychiatrist about. (If you are in your 20s, don't worry, you'll get better at adulting, it gets much easier with experience).

Some of my hacks are:
-combining things where possible (read while working out, or do my errands by foot or bike)
-Use external motivation (invite a friend over for dinner, make lots of extra so I've meal prepped for the week, also used to be useful for forcing my house to get cleaner but it doesn't really get dirty anymore)

I don't have a consistent hour by hour schedule, but I work from the office 2 days a week and get absolutely nothing else done those days, other than maybe running to the grocery store at lunch or meeting a friend for dinner to wait out rush hour. Maybe.

On WFH days I'm off work by 3 so I can exercise outside if it's sunny or catch up on chores if it's not. Then I have most of the evening for relaxation and/or something productive like exercise. I'm in bed by 9 and asleep by 10 most of the time.
posted by Narrow Harbor at 8:03 PM on March 19

Your life will always expand to fill whatever time you have. Scheduling activities by putting them on the calendar helps. It might also be helpful to record the time you are spending on things - be honest. I'm someone with a full time job, a kid, hobbies, who cooks almost all meals, and I think my hack is that I only watch TV once a week for an hour or two (and when I do it's a family bonding activity).

I also agree with the previous poster who combines activities. For example, I take walks outside for exercise and listen to audio books when I do. I schedule lunch dates with friends because it's easier for my schedule. Etc.

Earlier in my life when I started to be better about time management, I focused on the basic routines and added the rest later. For example, waking up at the same time every day and having a strong morning routine and a simple breakfast, doing a basic tidying before bed. Once you have this under control you can figure out where your hour of activity or socializing will fit.
posted by beyond_pink at 8:12 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]

Let's say you still want a crack at workshopping your daily schedule anyway. If you don't have money to spare, can you make it up by social relations? Otherwise, your only resource is time. In your list, I would suggest to add commuting and thinking (as you plan your job search) as activities.

Here's one way to break it down: You could start with two sheets of paper. Or an empty wall and a block of post-its.

One sheet of paper is to draw up a rough sketch of a weekly schedule, marked by hours. So, 7 columns, one for each day. Then a day will be segmented with 24 lines.

I prefer post-its for this stage but a pencil works too of course. (you can also do this on the pc/phone too tbh)

1. You fill in with all the activities that are currently non-negotiable eg work.
2. Then add the time chunks you do need to get the non-negotiables done and the business of being alive and civilised (e.g commuting, eating, cooking - don't put in meal prep yet, sleeping, showering, chores)
3. Don't think to time save yet. Just list these time blocks in the most luxurious amount for you.

In the other sheet of paper, list down all those things you want to do. Be as maximalist as you like.
1. Mark the things you need to do vs what you want to do.
2. For the things you need to do, consider turning them into calendar items, as it shows up there and can have reminder alerts set. This will show you how urgent they are by how soon you need to do them.
3. For the things you want to do, pick max. 2 you'd like to do for the next two months.

4. for what you need to do, break down the tasks/steps. Turn those into calendar items too.
5. For what you want to do, also do the same breakdown. Now each item will be a project and their listed steps the project activity.

go back to the generic weekly calendar. Time to review those time chunks. This is when you can think about maximizing the flow, maybe by habit stacking, meal prepping, activity combination (e.g can commuting be some part of your exercise as well as getting some sun? Can lunches be outside?).

You should have by now a better idea of the time you do have. Start plugging in those project activities that's not deadline-bound or at least will be relevant for the next month.

Next, add the activities under the things you want to do.

Now you have a prospective weekly calendar you can start roadtesting and adjust as you go on. Don't fill up the hours though. Always leave some slack, like electricity poles and their wires.

Ultimately self-forgiveness will go a long way.
posted by cendawanita at 8:16 PM on March 19 [5 favorites]

I’ll bite. I will add that I think I’m fairly unproductive, technically diagnosed with ADHD but unmedicated and truly who the heck knows. About me: 38, happily partnered, kids are 2 & 4 and in daycare, work part-time at the job I once held full-time pre-kids and intend to return to when the kids are older, so I am “available” all day but not charging hours unless I work. (This last bit is maybe not ideal but it works out well for me as I get to keep clients I like and work/life balance) my partner is the breadwinner and I am the main kid/cooking caretaker. We have cleaners 2x/month.

6:30-7am: wake up, do Wordle, motivate myself to get up
7-7:30: start to make coffee, help kids change diapers/get into daytime clothes
7:30-8:00: make and feed kids breakfast
8-9am: get the kids to wash up/brush their teeth, hopefully make myself brush my teeth/change my clothes, wrangle kids into shoes and take them to school (either by car or bike)
9-9:30: unless I have a meeting, I typically do fuckall/nothing/play on my phone because I’m tired from the 7-9 hustle already. Maybe make breakfast
9:30-12: typically 1-2 hours of meetings and 1 hour of work and 30-60 min of personal life admin (personal banking, making travel arrangements)
12-1: clean up from breakfast, make and eat lunch, clean up from lunch, hopefully start either the laundry machine or the robovacuum, hopefully say hi to my husband if he’s working from home
1-4:30pm: typically 1-2 hours of meetings, 1 hour of work, and 30-60min of either personal life stuff (grocery list making, tidying up after the 4yo who loves cutting pieces of paper into confetti for some reason, meal prepping) or honestly doing NOTHING ie reading metafilter/reddit. About 2x/week, I do either a 20 min strength training video or a 30-min Peloton Bootcamp cardio+strength video. This normally takes me about 75 minutes from start to finish bc I like to shower afterwards and I’m slow AF
4:30-4:45: intense panic that I didn’t get enough work done
4:45-5:30: pick up kids from school. I try to bike so that I get at least SOME exercise and sunlight in
5:30-6:15: unload the kids, put away their various school accoutrements, make dinner
6:15-7pm: feed kids, husband and myself dinner
7-7:30: clean up kitchen, either give kids a bath (2-3x/week) or pack kids lunches for the next day (if it’s a bath day, I make lunches after kids go to sleep)
7:30-8:15: put kids to sleep
8:15-9pm: depending on the day, sometimes wrangle the kids back to bed. Sometimes, shower/relax, catch up with my husband
9-11pm: watch TV, read, shower, personal care, random house projects if minor/low-key like folding endless laundry, maybe spend time with my husband, dick around on my phone
11-11:30: bedtime for me
posted by samthemander at 9:01 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

My above comment addressed your literal question. However I think maybe you should consider addressing it too, for yourself. Writing all that out actually made me feel more productive than I had originally thought it would.
posted by samthemander at 9:05 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

I think you might be interested in the work of Laura Vanderkam. She has 5 kids, a successful career and writes (a lot) on the topic of time management and how to "do it all". I can recommend her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. She's a big proponent of time tracking to gain insight into where your time goes.

And to partly answer your question: She seems not to be the type of person who requires a lot of downtime or spends a lot of time faffing around on the internet. In comparison, I open reddit.com and 45 minutes whoosh by, and I do this several times per day.
posted by gakiko at 1:31 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]

OK here is mine for today

05.50 - 06.20 wake up, shower, shave, get dressed, pack work bag
06.20 - 06.40 leave house, walk to train station
06.40 - 07.10 train to city. I always have a book to read
07.10 - 07.40 cycle to office (I leave my bike at the train station
07.40 - 17.10 work. Maybe pop out for a stroll at lunchtime & grab a sandwich. NOTE I will also do various personal admin, read some websites etc during this time
17.10 - 17.40 cycle to station
17.40 - 18.15 train home, read book
18.15 - 18.45 walk home, via supermarket if necessary
18.45 - 21.00 some chores (e.g. clean the bathroom or iron shirts), cook food, eat food, maybe give kids a lift somewhere, maybe watch telly, maybe mess around on the internet, maybe do hobbies
21.00 - 22.00 wind down, read books
22.00 bed
posted by el_presidente at 3:26 AM on March 20

As a person learning to sew at the moment I just want to clarify an assumption that may actually help you:

if I learn to sew I can save the time and effort I spend on buying, hating, and returning clothes and use it to attend to a priority)

Lol, no. You will not save any time, money, or energy by sewing your own clothes. Trust me. Taking up sewing is just taking up a new hobby that you should approach with a plan to just purely enjoy the craft for the sake of enjoyment.

(To solve that particular problem, maybe look into a clothing subscription service where a company gets you to take a quiz. sends you a box of clothes, and you send back what you don’t like. )
posted by like_neon at 5:01 AM on March 20 [29 favorites]

I work full-time, actively date, read more than 50 books a year, parent a teenager half-time (every other week), and consider myself below average for work productivity (hi ADHD) but above average for the time I spend on socializing and hobbies. I'll also say that all of my bills are on autopay so I spend maybe five minutes a month on finances.

5:30-6am: yoga, if I can get myself up that early
6-6:30am: meditation, if I have gotten up for yoga
6:30-4:45: shower (either directly after waking or after the above)
6:45-7: get dressed, pour coffee, do a tarot reading for myself
7-7:45: pack breakfast and lunch for the day, skim the news, do hair and makeup, get my kid up and out if he's with me; otherwise just dink around, maybe send messages to dating app matches.
7:45-8:45: commute by train; my commute also includes some walking so it serves double duty as outdoor/exercise time. on the train I do the NYT games and listen to audiobooks, and also send a good morning message to my work team
8:45-3:45: usual breakdown is 3-5 hours of actual work, an hour of socializing with coworkers, and a couple hours fucking around on the internet or doing personal life admin tasks. some days the fucking around is more and the actual work is less. some days are completely unproductive. some days are so busy I have no time to fuck around.
3:45-4:45: commute home by train. listen to audiobooks, swipe on dating apps, catch up on news or facebook.
4:45-5:30: do nothing. snack. look at TikTok. occasionally this goes all night and you can skip everything from now until bedtime.
5:30-6: go to the gym if I'm gonna go; this varies from every day last summer to almost never at the moment
6-9: make and eat dinner, read books, and shepherd my kid through homework and personal hygiene if he's with me; do something social (book club, game night, contra dancing, meet friends for dinner or drinks, go on a date, etc) if he's not
9-9:30: meditate, set up coffee maker, load or unload the dishwasher, otherwise wind down
9:30: go to bed. this could include another half hour or so of looking at my phone before I turn off the light

I usually do laundry and other cleaning tasks on the weekend, it's rare I spend more than a few minutes on cleaning during a weekday. Weekends also include 2-3 activities outside the house (day trips, social events, hiking, etc.) and some kind of spiritual activity (church, meditation, etc.)
posted by biblioPHL at 6:32 AM on March 20

I, like you, work part time (30ish hours a week, about 10 of of those from home) and do not have kids. I think particularly for people with part-time/flexible schedules, it's important to think about your weekly schedule more than your daily one. Like -- two days a week I work 10-hour in-person shifts with a 1+ hour commute each way. On those days I don't get a whole lot else done, and it would stress me out if I expected to. On Thursdays I work from home and only in the afternoon, so Thursday mornings are when I clean and do laundry for the week. On Tuesdays and Fridays I usually have scattered Zoom meetings and other remote work obligations, but my time is pretty flexible, so on both of those days I play tennis for two hours and skate for an hour. A dream! I get six hours of exercise a week, but it only happens on two days. Is this totally ideal, maybe not, but it's better than not doing it at all.

On weekdays after all the work is done, I go for a walk. On WFH days, I cook a proper meal. On Sundays I try to make a meal that generates a lot of leftovers (to bring to work for lunch, and to reheat on my long commute days). Otherwise in the evenings I mostly putz around! I love watching TV and reading and scrolling on my phone. This is fine and normal after-work behavior, IMO. I might see a friend one night, or invite people over for spaghetti or something else low-key.

Weekends are for big projects (like your organizing project -- I went through all my old electronics cords last weekend, yuck), socializing, and hobbies, since I try to get most of my cleaning and house maintenance stuff done during my more flexible weekdays.

Basically: I agree with others that it will be helpful to actually make a chart of every hour of the day, but in your case, without a standard 9-5, I think it's worth doing it for the entire week. You're not going to get to everything on your list every day, but I totally think it's possible to get to all of it at some point each week.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:53 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]

(Also, I asked a similar question a couple years ago. I had a MUCH higher stress job back then. It was helpful for me to see that most folks are just chilling out in the evenings, and as you can see I have adopted that lifestyle.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:55 AM on March 20

mine: wake up at 6:00am
6:30am: take kid to school for sports
7:10am: take other kid to school.
7:30-8:45: exercise.
9-5: work.
5-6: personal emails, veg out.
6:00 make dinner.
7:00: take kid to night activity (sports/gym/band/etc). I stay there messing around on my phone.
8:00: homework/housework/dishes
10:30 bedtime.

My kids are in school activities, so often that 6:-9;00pm is 'go to activity', like a kid basketball game or whatever.

I keep a pretty set schedule because I believe in 'decision fatigue', and the best way to combat it is to make as many decisions as one can automatically, so that means a schedule. I clean house on Sunday morning, after my shower for example. Saturday is for home and car maintenance, but unless there is something wrong, that usually doesn't take much time, so I'm done by noon.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:19 AM on March 20

I'm a big fan of Oliver Burkeman's work about time management (which is basically "you're going to die, your time is limited, and you need to make choices about what really matters to you"). 4000 Weeks isn't a long read but it really changed how I approached things.

I come at this with a lot of privilege - decent executive function, discretionary funds, no kids, good health, stable job, wonderful supportive partner who does his fair share of household work, etc. Introvert, I don't need a lot of other people to feel good about my social life. Also, I'm not coming from a deficient or trying to improve my life, I kind of had a lot of good luck and managed to land in a place where everything kind of works. So like...keep that in mind with all the below.

I double up activities as much as possible. Exercise, social time, and outdoor time all happen if I go for a walk or run with a friend. My partner and I do desk chores (paperwork, taxes, etc.) and house chores together. I also have things that happen every week so I don't need to plan them - planning takes time! The aforementioned run is every Thursday at 7:30 with some buddies. Groceries happen after my sport once a week.

I'm ruthless about cutting things out. Homemade lunches went out the window when I returned to in-office work - fine! I use part of my Monday lunch break to buy some pre-chopped salads, a thing of fruit, and some shredded chicken. That's lunch handled. I can only really devote myself to a couple hobbies at a time, so right now my sport and reading are the only ones I spend time on. Piano is taking a break, fun baking is taking a break. That's fine, I'll come back to them. Social stuff that doesn't absolutely tickle me? No thanks!

I block out time on my calendars both so that I set aside the time and that I don't just let myself worry about things. Taxes? Scheduled for this Friday. Next grocery run? Monday. All my regular appointments (sport, running, therapy, etc.) get put in the calendar, which I review in detail on Sundays and check throughout the week. I have a notebook that I carry everywhere for notes, to-do and grocery lists, and other ephemera, and anything that needs to get calendarized does as soon as I realize that.

Anyway, my daily schedule:
6:30 wake up, shower, breakfast, linger over tea
8:00 go to work. Usually during my lunch break I go for a walk, do a grocery, library, or Target run, or read, or occasionally grab lunch with a friend.
5:00 leave work.
Monday/Wednesday nights: sport for 2.5 hours, do big grocery run after one night.
Tuesday/Thursdays/Friday nights: dinner at home, some chores one night. Maybe every third Friday I have some social thing.
9:30-10:30 head to bed, read for a bit. I usually sleep around 7 hours, occasionally 8 if I need it.

I work from home one or two days a week and use that day to catch up on groceries and any smaller chores. Also, tbh, I take those days easier at work if I can, because my job is demanding. Maybe once a quarter I take a vacation day to blitz through some chores, go the doctor, whatever. Weekends I try to keep pretty clear of chores/drudgery, other than a two hour block at some point to do a big blitz of the house. If I have time leftover, I use it to do some organizational work - sort through clothes, shred/file papers, etc. This past weekend was:

Friday night: read, ate cereal for dinner, I was out of steam.
Saturday: sport early in the AM, post-sport socializing, shower. Lunch with partner and his kids, climbing wall, quiet time with family (I read.) Weeded my lawn and had a long walk with partner. Leftovers for dinner, concert with partner, ice cream date.
Sunday: luxurious reading/coffee morning, with a couple loads of laundry. Made a cake for dinner. Collected my tax documents. Washed the cars with partner. Reading/daydream time. Went to my parents' for dinner.

I only watch TV if I'm with someone else. As much as possible, I make my down time actually restorative.

I outsource/automate/cull what I can! I enjoy grocery shopping so I do that myself. We're getting a cleaning service once my partner moves in. I do stitchfix so that I don't have to make choices about clothes. I really only wear two outfits, just with color changes. My makeup is simple, my hair is simple. Simplifying where I can, cutting where I can, and accepting that I'll only get done about...75% of what I'd like - and that's great! 75% is great! - really helps.
posted by punchtothehead at 7:45 AM on March 20 [5 favorites]

or if I learn to sew I can save the time and effort I spend on buying, hating, and returning clothes and use it to attend to a priority

Let me dispel this myth for you. The amount of time you will spend learning and PRACTICING sewing in order to make your own clothes, on home equipment, that you would actually put on in public, is enormous.

Learn to sew if you want to learn. Make your own clothes! But don't be fooled into thinking making your own clothes is going to save you time, money, or grief.
posted by archimago at 8:31 AM on March 20 [8 favorites]

I’m not a person who is “doing it all.” I have ADHD and a stressful, non-ADHD-friendly job (40 hours a week plus a few hours of overtime most weeks) that takes most of my energy. I was telling my husband the other day that the way I manage this is by putting very little energy into anything else in life.

I don’t have kids at home, but I do have an adult child who has issues that cause me stress and worry. I can’t do school on top of this job, I can’t handle that much stress. When I’ve tried to do classes I got burned out very quickly, which for me translates into extreme irritability, emotional instability and an angry, stomping-around sort of hopelessness and depression, which is super fun for everyone.

I don’t socialize (not really into it and don’t have the energy, anyway) and barely exercise (ditto.) I only cook for myself a couple times a week, otherwise relying on leftovers, convenience foods or takeout. I often have my groceries delivered, because I find grocery shopping exhausting. Our apartment is usually a wreck and we don’t really worry about it that much, because we rarely have people over and the two of us who live here aren’t overly bothered by mess (my husband doesn’t even SEE it; personally I do see it and don’t love it, but I can live with it longer than most people before I feel the need to clean/organize it.)

My daily routine varies some day to day depending on how busy I am at work, but below is a typical day. I currently work from home almost every day, and it has made a HUGE difference in how well I am able to manage my time and energy. When I went into the office every day, I had less of both due to the time spent getting ready in the morning, commuting, getting settled at my desk, etc.

Morning: I get up somewhere between 5 and 6:30 every day. I’d prefer 5 because it gives me an hour in the morning to myself before I start working at usually 6, but it doesn’t always happen that way. As soon as I get up, I head to the kitchen to make coffee and feed the cats. Once I have coffee, I log onto my work computer (still in my nightgown) and check my email. I have several email boxes I must monitor, and the first thing I do is delete things that don’t pertain to me, flag other things as “to do” and add category tags to others. Once this is done, the tagged emails are tasks which I then need to prioritize. The first couple of hours of the day are usually quieter so I take that time to catch up on tasks that require focus, since new emails are not usually coming in yet.

8-ish: At some point I will get dressed. I don’t shower every day, but I do “wash up”, brush my teeth, comb my hair and put on clean clothes (usually a t-shirt and yoga pants.) I don’t wear makeup most days, but when I have an on-camera meeting it takes me five minutes to put on mascara, pencil liner, one color of shadow, and blush. I don’t do anything with my hair… it’s long and I wear it down most of the time or throw it up in a bun if it’s bugging me.

9-ish: I get breakfast whenever I notice I am hungry. Sometimes I scramble a couple of eggs, or heat up a frozen breakfast sandwich, or grab a yogurt. I eat at my desk and work until mid-morning before taking a short break, often to throw in a load of laundry or partially unload the dishwasher, then I work more until lunch.

Lunchtime: I heat up a can of soup or fix myself a wrap sandwich. While it’s heating, I often clean something in the kitchen (finish unloading the dishwasher, wipe the counters, organize the dishes to wash later, etc.) I usually eat lunch while working at my desk, then nap at lunchtime.

Afternoon: this is when it usually gets busier at work, so I’m mostly working on my task list from earlier while monitoring my email for new stuff that is coming in. I’m constantly re-prioritizing depending on how urgent the new emails are. Sometimes when I get stressed during the day I will get up and do a household task like cleaning in the kitchen, sweeping the floor or whatever. My brain likes it when I bounce back and forth between different types of tasks, so this helps me calm down and refocus. These breaks are not long, 10 minutes or so. When I worked in the office I would get up and walk a couple of laps around the inside of the building instead. While I’m up I might throw together an easy homemade soup for dinner, or fry up some ground beef for tacos, or whatever, just to have a start on dinner.

End of workday (usually around 3-ish): Once I put in my 8 hours I assess to see if there is anything else that needs to be done before I log off for the day. I may wind up working an hour or so overtime, but not always. Once I log off, I collapse onto my bed and scroll on my phone to de-stress. There are days I can scroll for hours, but I have been trying to be more intentional about how I use my time (as my therapist puts it) so I’ve been trying to make myself get up and do something else after an hour or two. I started working in a small art journal recently to encourage myself to do art more often. It’s easier to want to do it when I’m only faced with a small page and give myself permission to suck… lol. So these days I make art and listen to music a couple of evenings a week.

6-ish: At some point I will get myself some dinner (either finish up what I started cooking earlier, or I might have put something in the crockpot, or I grab some leftovers or order takeout or throw something frozen in the air fryer.) And I will watch a stand-up comedy or some other show while eating.

8:30-ish: this is when my husband likes to have his dinner and watch TV, so we watch TV together until 10 which is when I go to bed.

Weekends: Often I have a couple of hours of work I need to do. Some weekends I don’t do anything but rest, scroll my phone, watch movies, nap, etc. I may not leave the house at all. Other times I might go out in the morning to get some groceries in person or run to some shops I don’t regularly go to (Whole Foods to pick up a couple of things, the art supply store, the bookstore.) We go out in the evening for dinner and a movie maybe once a month. Usually at some point during the weekend I’ll clean something, like sweep the living room floor or clean my bathroom. (My “baby steps” approach to housework is a fairly painless way of preventing a months-of-crud buildup situation, but the downside is we rarely get the satisfaction of having the whole house clean at once.)


Incidentally, I’m not putting any effort into fooling people on social media into believing I have my life together, but I’m not “letting it all hang out” either. If I post a cute cat picture, I’m zooming in to show the least amount of mess in the background, and I usually only post selfies if I’m feeling reasonably cute. While I’m sure no one is under the illusion that I’m out here kicking life’s ass, I’m pretty sure the extent to which I struggle is not super obvious and if you didn’t know me well you might assume that my apartment is reasonably clean, I’m showered, I’ve cooked, and I’m regularly doing fun and social things offline like a normal person.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:51 AM on March 20

What's working for me lately is to not divide my life up into hours and minutes unless there's a good reason - I pushed myself too hard a few weeks ago and wore myself out and that reinforced staying in my energy envelope. I follow my energy level and what else is going on (weather, does my body hurt) and pick the best thing to do at that time from my task list.

I keep my things tidy and fairly minimal, and find that it saves me energy trying to find them / clean them / move them out of the way, dealing with this now can pay dividends later.

A weekday looks like:
6 am alarm goes off
-breakfast, brush/snuggle/feed cat, get dressed, journal, pack lunch, usually commute
8-9 am start work
-work varies, sometimes it's physical and tiring, sometimes it's quiet
-when what needs to happen is done and/or I'm too tired to focus more, I go home
3:30-5 stop work
-commute as needed
-run an errand on the way home as needed
-lie on the couch for a bit, drink water / snack, pet cat
-fix dinner / do a to-do / work on projects / leisure / rest
-last night the weather was right to do some gardening (~1 hour), texted with a friend, made dinner (~20 min), read (~30 min), weekly grooming stuff (~30 min on top of ~30 min usual evening routine)
-one night a week I go to the gym with a friend (~2 hours with chatting and travel)
9 pm bedtime alarm goes off
-do dishes, tidy up
-scoop cat box
-shower, brush teeth, etc.
10 pm bedtime

Weekends I try to have 1-2 social plans (that often also involve walking / hiking) and this is when the bulk of chores get done.
posted by momus_window at 9:51 AM on March 20

“When I write that out, it sounds like a lot, but I've met people who work full time, attend school, and have kids - my life is not at all busy compared to them!”

Just throwing this out in case it might be relevant for you — I’ve spent a lot of my life wishing I was more like this type of person but I’ve had to make peace with the fact that I’m just…not. It’s not a scheduling issue for me, it’s the fact that I just cannot be doing “productive” things every waking hour of the day without feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Humans are wired differently and we all have to find the right balance that works for us!

What has really opened up more of my time, however, is making an effort to cut back on my smartphone use. I try to use my laptop for browsing when possible because it makes my internet time feel more intentional, while on my phone it’s really easy to look up one thing and then get lost in the scroll. It hasn’t made me some productivity genius but I feel that I am somewhat more productive, I’m a lot less stressed, and my downtime is spent on better things.
posted by sibylvane at 10:15 AM on March 20 [5 favorites]

Meal prep is one of my time savers. My breakfast is a protein shake with coffee every morning that I make the night before. Saturday I shop for lunch and Sunday I cook. Everything is portioned out into containers and ready to pop into my lunch bag. I've been informally doing intermittent fasting, so I rarely eat dinner. If I do it's some cheese and crackers. That takes so much mental load off me daily.
posted by kathrynm at 10:40 AM on March 20

Nthing all the people saying "Most people are not trying to do all those things to a high priority value" (and if they are, they've probably got some help with some pieces of it, like someone else doing the cleaning or most of the cooking).

I live by myself, I have a full time day job, I write in the evenings. I've also got longstanding chronic health things that make leaving the house unduly exhausting and that affect some of how I go about ordinary daily life stuff (if I would like to have energy for stuff I actually enjoy!)

My big tips are:
1) Minimise time on stuff you don't actually care about. (I wear a couple of different combinations of clothes, none of them need special care. I have a set of meals I mostly rotate between seasonally. Etc.) Kendra Adachi's Lazy Genius (podcast, books, website) has some great stuff on this.

2) Figure out what stuff is a really huge project and what making steady but small project looks like.

3) Rotating between different projects is normal for me, so figuring out which ones are a 'yeah, that is an every day thing' and which ones are 'this is the current focus' thing helps a lot.

My average weekday looks like this:

7:15am : If commuting, get up, get myself out of the house by 7:45, I'll be in the office by 8:15.
8:00am: If not commuting, get up, start work at 8:30.
8:15ish to 4:15ish (depending when I started) : work
4:15 to 4:45ish : Commute home, if needed.
5pm: Dinner (see notes below)
6pm to 9pm: Whatever I'm doing with my evening (see below)
9pm to c. 11:30pm : Writing

Exercise: If I'm commuting, I will go for a short walk around the building a couple of times, that plus walking to and from the parking lot gets me about what I need as a minimum in the day. Other days I go for a 20-30 minute walk or do the equivalent in an exercise video.

Cooking: I cook things that will make 3-4 servings twice a week (Wednesdays and Sundays), with lunches being sandwiches/leftovers/super simple cheese board, soup, etc. Breakfast is always one of two things (yogurt or cottage cheese) except on weekends sometimes there are eggs. I grocery shop about every 10 days, though in the summer I try to hit the farmer's market on my way home from work because I enjoy that experience.

Variations on that evening block:
This is when I do stuff that takes some brain but not necessarily a lot of decision making. Usually it's some combo of:
- Reading (for writing research and for pleasure)
- Knitting
- What I refer to as 'defy entropy' (organising files, cleaning up my digital life, etc. both person and writing-related. Currently in a huge project of cleaning up my personal authorial wiki, and on a good day I do about 30 minutes of this, it's a big project.)
- Other writer admin stuff that isn't new words
- Some of my religious / spiritual / magical practice

Multitasking when that makes sense also helps with time: I combine knitting with watching shows I want to pay attention to, I have podcasts on when I'm walking or doing work tasks that don't need my brain.

A big thing here is that I don't expect to do all those things every day - I aim to knit every day, and to do at least 15 minutes of reading, but the rest of it depends on mood, what else I want to get done, what has a deadline, etc. My day job has enough flexibility I can usually do stuff that takes business hour arranging during it, plus appointments. (And I snag my lunchtime and go grocery shopping as needed in there when things aren't busy.)

One or two days a week I have tabletop gaming online with friends (I write first, then game, knit while gaming). I'm a witch and priestess with a small coven: about every other Saturday has a chunk of time that goes to that (plus a couple of hours during the week, depending.) Some of that's online, some of that is in person. Fridays I have a standing call with one of my best friends until a later than usual dinner.

On the weekends, besides that cooking prep and coven stuff, I also do my weekly planning (about 30 minutes, but it helps me figure out what I need to manage that next week), my own spiritual/religious/etc. learning, and usually a fair bit more reading.

Sundays I refuse to schedule anything with any human if I can possibly avoid it - it's my one reliable time for larger focused project time (editing that writing!) though I also use the other Saturdays plus some vacation time from the day job for that.

I do hire out some stuff: I would have to go to a laundromat for my laundry, and paying for pick up and delivery saves me a bunch of time and energy. I also now have a cleaning service that comes once a month - they do the stuff I find a lot harder to do due to chronic health stuff (basically anything involving bending over or working at an angle) and it saves me not only about 8 hours of cleaning a month (much longer in actual time because I'd need to take a bunch of breaks), but about 20 hours of guilt that I'm not cleaning something. But before I got them, I'd put that cleaning mostly on Saturdays around the coven scheduling.
posted by jenettsilver at 2:37 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

It seems like you are thinking of all of these as separate items to accomplish, but you might be able to socialize while working on hobbies, or exercise while spending time outside in the sun.

I've met people who work full time, attend school, and have kids - my life is not at all busy compared to them!

Some of these people have cut out sleep to make more time for other things.
posted by yohko at 8:48 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

Mod note: [btw, this has been added to the sidebar and Best Of blog!]
posted by taz (staff) at 3:39 AM on March 24

My partner and I both work demanding full time jobs. We have a 5 year old who just started school.

We are lucky in the sense that we live half a mile from the school and both largely work from home, which helps us claw back valuable time. When one of us is at the office or at a client site, the other one picks up the resultant slack on the home front.

(All times approximate)
06:30-07:00 Wake up. Whoever gets up first makes first round of coffees.
07:00-07:45 Morning time. Breakfast, showers, two coffees each, a bit of school work to keep our son on top of his learning. Prepare his school lunch.
07:45-08:00 Play/iPad time. LEGOs and the like.
08:00-08:30 Doing the alphabet (flash cards) and putting on uniform.
08:30-09:00 Walk him to school (and back). Usually one of us, occasionally both.
09:00-17:00 Work, with a floating lunch, depending on meetings and work load. I usually put on a load of dishes and laundry during lunch. Our son is in after school care three days per week, and the two remaining days we alternate to pick him up at 15:30.
17:15-19:00 Post-work comedown. Dinner falls in there somewhere depending on how early I get started on it, but always finished and eaten before 19:00. Usually play time, a walk to the local park, or just iPad. Lately a bit of school work. My partner goes for exercise classes twice a week during this time.
19:00-19:30 Bath/shower/change time; laying out his clothes for tomorrow if a school night.
19:30-20:30 Bedtime ritual. Reading on school nights, often a movie on Fridays.
20:30-23:00 Evening/Adult time. We're both usually drained by this time and don't have energy for anything but unwinding, usually with a show, just having a chat, or occasionally a book. I exercise once per week during this time (and on Saturday mornings while he is at swim practice).
(sleep; repeat)

Anything outside of this routine happens on the weekend.
posted by flippant at 9:57 PM on March 25

If you are a neurodivergent/diverse individual, advice intended for neurotypical brains is not going to work for you, and will likely make you more stressed and ashamed. I would for sure read up on Spoon Theory and set some realistic expectations for yourself based on how you might be feeling each day.

The things I prioritize for myself are to get out of the house at least once a day, to make sure to drink water, and to not let chores stack up so long that they start to be totally overwhelming.

That said, I have some days where I can easily get through six things on my to-do list. It really depends.
posted by softlord at 11:45 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]

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