The Struggle with Time: Quality vs. Quantity

(Part 1 of sure to be many thoughts on time)

I was meant to sit down and write out my topics for each week over my break but that didn’t happen so when I woke up this morning I just let the first thing that pop into my head be the topic for this post and that is Time. Reader beware this is going to be a two parter possibly more as Time is a big topic but for today I want to focus on Quality vs. Quantity.

My time is something I value greatly, it is what I believe to be my greatest asset. Reality is that all our time in finite. My partner and I were discussing why I work out and try to eat healthy, not do drugs, limit alcohol, etc, etc. if not to extend my life i.e. live longer. I responded that my goal is not to live longer, I operate that we truly have no control over when we are going to die, there are enough instances where tragedy, unfair deaths exist that I can’t function in any other way but I take care of myself because with the time I do have alive, I want to feel and be good.

So time is finite and because of that, it is precious.

I clearly could go down a rabbit hole but won’t in order to stay focused on the reason why time popped into my head and is that yesterday I got to spend the day with all my kids, unencumbered.

I’m separated from the father of my oldest two children and our custody arrangement is that the kids are with me Monday-Friday and with their dad Friday-Monday. Most people when they hear the split say something to the effect of ‘He doesn’t have any weekends off?’ and I can’t help but get my hackles up because to me, the weekends are the prime time with kids. It’s the time you get to watch Saturday morning cartoons, have brunch or visit the zoo; it’s the chill time, and that’s what I got yesterday.

My ex is teacher so it’s report card time, and in spirit of putting the kids first, when he is busy writing comments I get to have my oldest two kids on the weekend.

It’s easy to see the split and think that I get more time with my kids however when you look at the schedules on the days they are with me, they spend more actual time at school or in programs than with me. Our daily schedule generally looks like a 7:30am wake up (at that point I’ve usually been up for a couple hours either getting an hour of work in and/or a workout), breakfast, bags packed and bus to school. After school we often (3-4 days/week) have one, sometimes two programs for each kids – this means some nights we aren’t home til close to 7pm at which point it’s dinner, some hope of homework and bed (ideally 8pm). One the one program free day the kids are off the bus around 4:20pm, so still not a huge amount of time.

There is very little ‘down’ time throughout our days and overall our weeks. This to means we are high in Quantity of days, but low in Quality of our time together.

What is Quality time? To me it’s the kind of time where you get to know someone better, where there is space to allow the kids to just show themselves and to see me without the stress of schedules.

My parents were divorced as well and in thinking back to why I was able to have a strong relationship with my father, I think it’s because we always got to spend easy, unencumbered time. We would do dinner and a show almost every weekend, usually a matinee followed by the meal which gave an opportunity to just talk to each other, sometimes about the movie but often just about the week. The lack of stress or rush to another activity meant we could relax and just enjoy the time, hence quality.

The concept of Quality over Quantity for time can extend past just personal relationships to work as well, there has been a ton of memes recently around how good work and efficiency is often ‘rewarded’ i.e. punished with more work.

My experience would line up with the memes and disappointingly efficiency at work is not always appreciated. The work from home vs those insisting on back in the office is a prime example – there are some jobs and industries where WFH obviously doesn’t work. When the rest of the workforce has to be in, i.e. Service positions like retail, sport & fitness – it doesn’t work for management to be home. That being said lots of office environments have culture orbiting around the ‘Watercooler’ meaning that lots of ‘work’ time is spent talking with coworkers or visiting vs executing deliverables.

I worked somewhere once where a one of the top leadership members has a nickname of Do-Nothing-D. This was because the individual was great at filling their time with wandering around, ‘checking in’ but not actually following up on any tangible concerns which only leads to more work for all other teams members. They may have been putting in all their hours but only working for half, if that.

Value is often put more on the appearance of work or being around over the actual work itself, the Quantity of time over the Quality of how the time is spent.

I could go so much further but I can feel my brain having a hard time siloing the thoughts right now – the whole picture is huge and complicated because our personal values come in, and those vary based on each one of us.

I ended up taking a break from writing, normally I draft a whole piece, walk away, read again, edit, read, edit and possibly post – but today I started left and came back to finish, one second read, edit and post. I go to spend another day unencumbered with my littles, we went to the zoo, had brunch and then the Science Centre – it was great! I am full of gratitude and although tired from walking around, answering questions, setting limits, my cup is full from the how I spent my day. Hopefully this post isn’t lacking too much quality and just the seed of the thought of time, so much more to come.

Happy week to come!

One thought on “The Struggle with Time: Quality vs. Quantity

  1. Speaking of time, I queued up your post and only now have made time to read it. But it’s really a timeless post. Time is the one thing we all have the same amount of every day, and we have to figure out how to make it as high quality as possible.
    Really enjoyed your thoughts here! I look forward to your next posts on the topic…

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