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30 minutes

January 23, 2009

The 40-hour workweek and I are well-acquainted. Because I work for a public university, I don’t have room to manipulate my schedule the way some working mothers in the business world are able. There is no working from home (not a huge surprise given that our state offers only unpaid maternity leave). And there’s no smart way to try doing my job in fewer hours – either I work faster only to sit in my office, watching the clock, or I work faster to get my work done in fewer than five days per week but am also paid proportionately less.

I can’t much complain, though: I’m lucky to work in a pleasant, family-friendly office, where our children are invited to on-the-clock office gatherings, and no one complains about the timeouts I take twice daily to keep Jack fed in the best way I can. And I’m lucky to have a boss who’s supportive of as flexible a schedule as is possible.  Recently my department moved to allow an optional 30-minute lunch – so if I take a shorter break at midday, I can leave for home a half an hour earlier.

It’s a small victory, but a victory nonetheless. If I leave on time, I know it won’t quite be dark when I get home with Jack. I can have an extra 30 minutes with him, can be less hurried to put dinner on the table, can welcome D home.

Unfortunately, those same 30 minutes have so far also been easy to lose (say, to phone calls or television reruns). I tend to approach the weekday evening as already over before it even begins , so that my commute, reunion with Jack and D, dinner preparation and baby bedtime fuse into a dizzying blur – and before I know it, I’ve collapsed onto the couch, feeling at 9 p.m. as though it’s midnight.

So today, and again in the spirit of new year resolutions, I’m focused on making my half-hour bonus more fruitful. I don’t want to let those 30 minutes lapse on the couch or go unnoticed, not while I could  prepare a simple weeknight meal from start to finish; find a new recipe to try on the weekend; take a stroll with Jack; write a letter (does everyone consider non-junk mail a pleasant surprise and novelty these days, or is it just me?); work in the garden; learn to use my sewing machine; sort through my New Yorker collection…

So begins my 30-minute initiative, for which I’ll continue to add to this list of worthwhile things to do  in half of an hour.  It’s my hope that it’ll help me not only to use my bonus time efficiently but also to approach every evening with a little more energy and enthusiasm and as more than a single block of time that’s already spoken for.

If you work for Real Simple, have a miracle cure for the quicksand that a weeknight can be, or just  a helpful hint, I’m all ears.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Elizabeth permalink
    January 24, 2009 3:11 pm

    I, too, am so thankful for that extra thirty minutes! I’m looking forward to spring when it will be light longer and we can resume our nighttime walks. Good luck making the most of yours!

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