Thursday, December 18, 2008

Transition times

I have been trying to monitor my own time to see where I lose minutes (and occasionally hours) on non core competency activities. A few culprits:

* Exercise. Don't get me wrong. Exercise is a core competency activity. No one else can do it for me! But exercise can burn a lot of time that isn't spent actually elevating your heart rate. For instance, for me, exercise involves finding my workout gear, changing clothes, finding my keys and ID and walk-man, traveling downstairs to the gym or to the street, then coming back upstairs afterwords and usually showering before other human beings have to smell me. This is, at best, a 15 minute addition to my workout, and usually more like 20-25 minutes.

There are two ways to make this more efficient.

First, I've started keeping all my winter outdoor exercise gear in a pile by the bed. Yes, this looks messy, but it also means I don't have to hunt for my gloves and headband.

Second, I try to exercise fewer times per week, but longer each time. If I lose 20 non-exercise minutes every time I exercise, then it is better to run 3 days a week for 5 miles each time (roughly 3 x 50 minutes or 150 minutes plus 60 transition minutes), then 6 days per week, running 2-3 miles each time (150 minutes plus 120 minutes of transition time). Indeed, I can add another 4 mile run to the 3 5-milers (190 minutes plus 80 transition minutes) and still come out at exactly the same total time as the 6-day regimen, but with a higher proportion of it spent on the core competency task of exercising.

* Post Office trips.
Yesterday, I had a realization. I am never going to purchase Christmas gifts in stores for out-of-town relatives that I won't be seeing again. I spent about 30 minutes the other night packaging up gifts and addressing them, then spent 12 minutes in line for the automatic postal machine (not even a clerk!) at the post office. Online stores offer gift boxes and ship things for you for less than I could have earned in the hour-plus this all took me (not to mention the time I spent at the mall -- though that's kind of fun).

* Kid product maintenance. Jasper needed more wipes at daycare. We will probably make a big shopping trip this weekend and buy loads of wipes and diapers in bulk. But he needed the wipes Wednesday. So...I went to Duane Reade and bought them. Unfortunately, this involved waiting in line for 5 minutes, in addition to the 5-10 minutes stopping in the store required. It's not much time, but since I'll be buying more this weekend anyway, it's completely lost time. Lesson: buy in bulk and monitor levels. I never seem to know when Jasper will run out of wipes and diapers at school. Another lesson: Don't waste time monitoring levels, just order diapers and wipes online every 2-3 weeks regardless.

* Picking up.
Part of having a 19-month-old child is the constant mess created by a sharing a house with a tiny little force of destruction. Over the past few weeks, Jasper has broken Christmas ornaments, torn apart a garland, dumped a bag of pretzels on the floor, dumped an entire box of Lucky Charms on the floor, thrown Cheerios all over the dining room, scattered blocks into every corner of the apartment, dribbled milk in little swirls everywhere he goes, hidden the remote control in cupboards, and so forth. One evening I was trying to pick up the blocks as he was getting ready for bed and he came over and immediately dumped the tub over again. Lesson: Don't bother. We pick up before the cleaning lady comes, and before company comes, and will at other times once Jasper is, say, six.

* Web surfing. Oh dear. I was recently obsessed with a handbag which, miraculously, Santa will be bringing me for Christmas. Unfortunately, to do this, Santa decided to compare prices on six different sites, check out other handbag collections while he was there, look at the outfits at Net-a-Porter for a solid half an hour, fantasize about the Christian Louboutin shoes he will not be bringing me (I haven't been that good) and then spent another half an hour dithering over color. These are not your core competencies, Santa! You have elves. And one of these days, I'm going to try a personal shopper.

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