In the movie About a Boy, Hugh Grant’s character, Will, has a line where he summaries how he divides his day into units of time.
I find the key is to think of a day as units of time, each unit consisting of no more than thirty minutes. Full hours can be a little bit intimidating and most activities take about half an hour. Taking a bath: one unit, watching countdown: one unit, web-based research: two units, exercising: three units, having my hair carefully disheveled: four units. It’s amazing how the day fills up, and I often wonder, to be absolutely honest, if I’d ever have time for a job; how do people cram them in?
With a toddler and a 4 month old in the house, my night sleep is of highest priority for me. I aim to be in bed by 10:30 pm. (Since I am on maternity leave, night duty generally falls to me, though my husband helps out when he can. I am generally up at midnight to pat the baby’s back to lull him back to sleep, from 1:30 – 2:30 am to feed him, another feed from 5:-5:30 am and am up for the day with him at 6:00 am. Taking into account I don’t fall back to sleep immediately after each wake up, I am operating on about 6 hours of (interrupted) sleep a night. Then there is the ‘screaming in the middle of the night curve ball’ my toddler likes to throw in every now and then and the occasional extra waking from the baby. In case you were wondering: No, it isn’t enough sleep. Yes, I am grumpy. No, I can’t nap during the day as lining up nap schedules is almost impossible. Yes, I know the baby will sleep longer someday.
While I crave sleep, when the weekend comes around, I miss having a social life. Even just making popcorn and watching a movie on the couch with my husband makes me feel like a normal person. But I almost always regret that I opted to stay up past that magical 10:30pm deadline. Rather than constantly complain about how ‘last night’s movie/dinner/social event wasn’t worth it’, I have decided to follow Will’s model. Using his unit of measurement of 30 minutes (to a maximum of 12 to reflect my maximum hours of available sleep) I evaluate evening activities by how many units of sleep they cost me, and if the loss is worth it. For example, something that cost 1 unit would mean I am in bed by 11 instead of 10:30. Here are some examples:
> Spiderman movie date night with my husband. Cost: 3 units
Worth it for the movie? Nope. It was almost identical to the last reboot and between you and me, Peter Parker is no Bruce Wayne. But the date night was nice. Next time I’ll use one unit on dinner out instead.
> Dessert at my neighbours house after kids were in bed. Cost: 1 unit.
Totally worth it. I was socializing 5 minutes after the baby was in bed, was right next door if anyone woke up, and with no driving time I was asleep 10 minutes after I left.
> Movie rental on TV. Cost: 1-4 units.
Never worth it. Most shows I tune into are block busters with predictable endings. I now watch all rentals over a two night period. TV shows? Also never worth it. That is what a PVR is for.
> Reading ‘the next chapter’ in my current book. Cost: 1-4 units.
I constantly have to remind myself it is never worth more than one unit. The book will still be there tomorrow.
> Leaving kitchen and toy clean up duty until tomorrow. Gain: up to 2 units.
Always worth it. The extra sleep makes dealing with the mess the next day much easier. Same goes for laundry, vacuuming and anything else that can wait an extra day or two. Better yet? Skipping this stuff means date night (even it if it is just a movie and popcorn) can start earlier, and has the potential to include a glass wine. Bonus: I actually get to see the end the same day I see the beginning.