What To Do At 4:55PM

For me this is as close as it gets to holding onto time
For me this is as close as it gets to holding onto time

It’s 4:55pm. I woke up at 5am today to send Mei to her freelance gig nearby and went home and slept for two more hours after, read some books and articles on the internet, met Mei for lunch after her hairstyling exam, indulgently window shopped the aisles of Marks & Spencer’s food section before heading home. Then I woke from an afternoon nap by showering in cold water (leaving Mei sound asleep), and it’s 4:55pm.

I think about what to do now, the time I actually have to myself till dinner at about 6:30pm, which I think I’ll be cooking, and a list quickly emerges from the top of my head:

  • Write (this)!
  • Read one of the books I’ve started on (Adam Grant’s Originals looks good)
  • Stock my Kindle with 2–3 books for our month-long trip to the US (Mike Tyson’s autobiography has to be in there)
  • Read up the histories of the cities we’ll be visiting in the US so that we know what we’re looking at while travelling (sitting on our coffee table are 4 guides about cities, national parks and road trips)
  • Read more about Muhammad Ali and the fascinating world of boxing that I’d just learned about
  • Make a list of other things that I ought to be doing to prepare for the trip, like “buy microfibre travel towel” and “change money”

If I were to be honest, some of those sneaked in there as I was thinking of what to write, but that fact too lends weight to what I’m trying to articulate. I have so many options, choices and responsibilities as an adult that deciding what to do when is actually a struggle. What a darned problem to have!

It didn’t use to be like this when we were still in school. School work preceded everything else most of the time. Structure was forced upon us as students. But adults just starting out don’t have such structure, and without some protocol to prioritise decisions, they are tough to make.

I can see how this could be the source of stress for freelancers and solo company founders around the world. Life is short and time is limited; what shall we spend today’s currencies on?

Right now I can’t say I’ve successfully developed any way of forcing structure back into my life. I’ve tried a few things from paying for a ‘hotdesk’ to work on my original startup idea (did that for 6 months but started to feel its structural effects diminish by the fourth) to telling people about the projects I’m working on to supercharge their significance in my schedule. Being comfortable with being offbeat and unorthodox, the latter doesn’t work for me. Or perhaps I haven’t shouted loud enough about the projects I’m working on for the social steroids to take effect.

Common ‘hacks’ I’ve found people preaching:

  • Doing the same thing at the same time everyday, like meditate at the same spot every morning after waking up, to create a habit
  • Doing trials using time differently for a few days and comparing which one works best for your personality and biological rhythm
  • Figuring out and falling back on a default activity (say, reading a book) whenever you’re asking yourself “What should I do now?”
  • Use the 7 Habits way of listing everything on a Important-Urgent diagram and doing the important and urgent tasks first

I’ll give some of these a shot soon, though it’s starting to feel dreadful. Going about these meta quests of finding out what works for me is always a tiring affair to me. I don’t know how self-fashioned life hackers do it!

At least I’ve checked off ONE thing on that list so far. Onward to more! After I decide which one…