“How We Spend Our Days Is How We Spend Our Lives”

Mar 26

Pen, Diary and GlassesAs I told you last week, Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life is one of my essential books on writing. Among my favorite parts are Dillard’s reflections on time and, what Maria Popova of Brain Pickings calls, “the tradeoffs between presence and productivity.”

Before sharing tales of some of history’s most disciplined writers, Dillard reminds us

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.

With Dillard’s words dancing in my ears, I came upon this quiz at The Happiness Project on knowing oneself better through understanding the rhythm of one’s days. I’m a sucker for such things and thought it would be fun, and perhaps even revealing, to reflect on my own answers. If how I spend my days is how I spend my life, what do my daily choices say about me?

Let’s find out:

Would I rather be ten minutes late or ten minutes early? Ten minutes early, without a doubt. I cannot abide being late.

What errands do I regularly do? How many times each week? Thanks to the wonders of Amazon Subscribe & Save, my only regular errand is a trip to the grocery store, usually once or twice a week (though this New Yorker article is making me rethink my already shaky devotion to Amazon).

How much control do I have over my time: what time I get up, go to work, go home, go to the gym, leisure time? My husband and I both work from home and have mapped out a pretty clear division of labor so I have about as much control over my time as I’m going to have while still being a mom to three young children, only one of whom is in school all day. Not having more control over my time given the vicissitudes of parenting is one of the big challenges of this season of my life and one that I’m trying to get better about all the time. Not easy.

How much time do I spend commuting or taking other people to activities? I have no commute. My husband and I take turns ferrying our kids to and from school and their schools are close to our house. (My oldest son’s school is close enough that we can walk; I hope we’ll do that more once the weather allows.) My kids only do one activity each and the only one that involves a drive is my oldest son’s weekly rock climbing class.

Would I like to spend more time with friends, or by myself? At the end of the day, I usually choose to spend time alone or with my husband, though I am always glad when I spend quality time with a friend or an intimate group. (In true introverted fashion, I find “mixers” or cocktail parties to be one of the lower circles of Hell.)

At what time of day do I feel energized? When do I drag? Unfortunately, I tend to feel energized at night and drag during the mid-afternoon – not the ideal set point for a mom of young kids.

Do I like racing from one activity to another, or do I prefer unhurried transitions? I don’t generally like feeling rushed, though it can be energizing from time to time. Like most of us, I bet, I like dictating my own schedule and my own pace.

What activities take up my time but aren’t particularly useful or stimulating? I spend too much time watching TV and mindlessly surfing the Internet.

Do I want to spend more time outside? I wish I could say yes, but I fear that, at my core, I am an indoor kid.

What stores do I often visit—for necessity or for fun? I almost never go into a store other than a grocery store and do almost all of my shopping online. That being said, I don’t know that I’ve ever walked past a bookstore without going in.

Do I have several things on my calendar that I anticipate with pleasure? Umm, that would be a no.

What does my ideal day look like? Waking up without an alarm (human or otherwise). Staying in bed with a good book. Going for a run. Having a healthy breakfast that someone else made for me. Reading and doing puzzles with my kids. Writing for a few hours. Practicing yoga. Going out to dinner with my husband at my favorite Italian restaurant. (My last birthday was a pretty close approximation of this ideal.)

What can I do for hours without feeling bored? Read. Hang out with my husband and our friends. Drive while listening to NPR.

What daily or weekly activity did I do for fun when I was ten years old? I would play in the woods outside my childhood home for hours. (Hmm, maybe I’m not such an “indoor kid” after all.)

What does the rhythm of your day say about you? Are you a sucker for online and magazine quizzes like I am?

Image: Pen, Diary and Glasses by Generation Bass via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.