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Discipline and freedom in the use of time

A little while ago, I wrote about struggling with dividing my time between my academic position and freelancing. Before taking up the most recent non-academic project, I was accustomed to having a lot of choice in the way that I spent my time. Suddenly I needed to find six or seven hours every weekday to keep up with both my academic and freelancing hours. This is still fewer hours than I worked in a full-time job, but in my new mode I wasn’t sure where those hours would come from.

A few weeks later, I’ve found my pattern of work and I feel like I have free time again. I have less flexibility than I did and I’m sometimes annoyed that I can’t just go shopping or make appointments whenever I like; but the discipline of working certain hours of the day is precisely what allows me to relax when I’m not at work, knowing I’ve done everything I promised to do.

Of course something had to give: I’m reading books much more slowly, I walk to work rather than along the beach during week, and most of the writing that I’m doing is the writing that I get paid for. But my weekends and weeknights are still free, and I still do the things during the week that were most important to me before.

I do feel more tired than I did, such that when I get home after work I often don’t feel like doing much more than catching up on e-mail or reading a book. But I’ve found in the past that overcoming that is itself part of the art of using time well: I may feel exhausted immediately after work, but taking some time out to eat dinner and read a chapter or two has me feeling ready to take on one of my writing or programming projects.

Sometimes I wonder if I should allow myself to do my paid work in the evenings or on the weekend so as to free up time during the day; but I suspect this would mean making even less progress on my personal projects, and possibly a slippery slope into long (paid) hours. So, for now, it’s six-or-seven hours every weekday, while reminding myself that I used to do seven or eight in my previous job.

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