My little secrets of time management

As wisely said by Sheryl Sandberg, it’s not about having it all, it’s about not doing it all.

Office – flexible schedule

Usually I work from 8 a.m. till 19 p.m. including about 30 minutes commute and a short stop at Diana’s school. I may stay in the office until 20 or 21 p.m. once a week and normally take a few calls or answer e-mails (especially longer e-mails involving some analysis or detailed documentation review, which is hard to do in the office in the middle of confcalls) later from home, after dinner and/or workout. Time difference with Seattle or San Jose works just fine. At least once a week, if not traveling, I am going out for lunch with friends or former colleagues. Dry-cleaning, formalities, pharmacies and other errands happen before work or during lunch break, rarely on weekends. If not going out, I bring a small lunch to the office and eat at my desk, checking personal e-mails or Facebook. About once a week, for example, if I just came from a business trip or if it is going to be a day with back-to-back 6 hours of phone calls, I may work from home. Flexibility in the schedule and results-oriented corporate culture at both Amazon and now PayPal allows me to be very productive, focus on what’s important and not waste time on hypocrisies (such as “nobody leaves when the boss is in” or “I am sick and probably useless, but I come to the office to show off my fake dedication” or “I sit in this 2-hour department meeting every week with nothing to say, because this is what we do every Monday”)

Travel – plan ahead

I made about 30+ trips in 2014, most of them just for a few days. For every interesting business destination, I usually check out what’s on in the city’s cultural agenda and plan my evenings accordingly. This is where I also do a lot of brick-and-mortar shopping, sightseeing and other forms of touristic cardio. I prefer to stay closer to the office location or otherwise optimize for commute and sleeping time as opposed to luxury/pool/fitness facilities. I learned to take a couple of Jillian Michaels DVDs (the ones where you don’t need any equipment) on all business trips, so I can workout in a hotel room.

I am the one who plans, selects and books all holiday trips for the family. Some consultancy may be involved, but everything around dates, airlines, hotels, price comparison, Tripadvisor, Yelp is usually my domain. And yes – I always use up all my vacation days. Decent spa and fitness center at the holiday destination is a must.

TV – rarely

I don’t watch TV as a routine. Sitting in front of the TV just doesn’t exist for me. In 95% of the time the TV-set in our household performs the babysitting function. I may switch it on once in a while for a special occasion, such as a royal wedding, World Cup or Eurovision. I watch shows on DVDs or Netflix, usually on weekends. The point is that I always know what I want to watch instead of browsing what’s available.

Housekeeping – delegation

We have a housekeeper, she comes in once a week for the day and does everything but cooking. I don’t normally do housekeeping. (And if I do, it’s a stress release, usually taking form of un-cluttering and throwing old things away). Otherwise I set rules (no food outside of the kitchen and no mess outside of your room), remind others (whichever child comes my way) to take out the trash or unload the dishwasher.

I “sort of” do the cooking, if you could call lousy risottos, basic pasta or grilled salmon a cooking. Maybe, twice a week, if I feel like it. We order in. I may buy sushi on my way back from the office. The only reason why I actually cook is out of curiosity to try an interesting recipe. These experiments fail (not safe to eat) about 50% of the time. Otherwise the family is trained to open the fridge and help themselves.

We don’t have family meals apart from celebratory occasions. Nobody waits for anybody to start or finish their meal, there are no family lunches or dinners. Whoever is hungry goes to the kitchen.

I don’t do anything with cars, household machinery, electricity, furniture assembly or lampbulbs. This is the men’s world.

I spend time on home improvements projects – selecting contractors and micromanaging them, reviewing catalogs, confirming budgets. Quite frequently, I am also the one who said those projects had been necessary, to start with.

Childcare and extra activities – DYI

Diana started kindergarten at 3 months full day when I came back to work. She is at school now from 8 a.m. until 18-30 p.m. This is a common practice in Luxembourg, where usually both parents work. Anna was in various after-school clubs until about 9 years old.

I don’t take the kids to any after school activities; all these classes, clubs and lessons exist only when and if a child can go there alone and only as long as he or she wants to go. If I am expected to do anything at all (leave the house on weekend, cook, wait or buy decorations) I decline all playdates and never initiate them. I also turn down as many kids’ birthday parties invitations as I can find plausible excuses for. Again, parties can begin when the kids are old enough to go and entertain themselves. I don’t enjoy other people’s kids company and see no reason to pretend. I am sure all these kids are very nice and their parents are even nicer and there are many advantages in early development, but there is just so many hours in a week and spending my free time on something I don’t enjoy or don’t consider necessary or useful, seems like a bad choice. When spending time with others, I must have something in common with them: work-related activities, seeing friends, teaching, networking events, even online.   Schools, teachers and other parents have never been a part of the network I tried to build or maintain.

I did put some effort in selecting schools, and, in my opinion, curriculum at Diana’s and formerly Anna’s and Pavel’s elementary schools have been more than enough until the age of ~10. They all have always been at the top of their class and I did not notice anything missing in their development. Sometime between the age of 10 and 12, we helped the kids researching available activities and then we let them try and quit hobbies as they please. We also spend substantial time on family debating society (aka arguing fiercely about politics in the kitchen), because it’s fun and because we believe that having an informed opinion about social issues is important.

I have never been a part of any parents’ association and rarely go parents-teachers meetings. With Pavel I can recall 3 visits during his whole school history, with Anna and Diana, one for each thus far. Pavel ended up going to his own parent-teachers conferences from the age of 16, when he wanted some feedback or had an opinion. All I need to know, that the grades and behavior are good, that’s what report cards are for. Again, not a sign of disrespect towards the teachers. I simply do not expect these meeting to reveal anything new, I have no intention of telling the teachers how they should do their work, because I’m not an expert. I am not interested in learning more about teaching methods or class averages or available charities. As I have not found any reason to go yet, I keep skipping them.

As you may have guessed by now, I never check the homework, unless one of the kids specifically asks for help. The homework is 100% responsibility of a child. Never had any issues with that – for some reason the homework gets done without my involvement and I strongly prefer to keep it that way.

Shopping – online

For grocery, apparel, small household items, electronics, toys, shoes, cosmetics, even some furniture, I shop online. I may decide to go to a physical store  to by a nice wine, cheese, fruits, cake or something else that’s not available online. Never for milk or washing powder. Alternatively, I may go to a brick-and-mortar-store to try things on, just to see how it fits, and then I will buy them online on sale. Online shopping is a huge time and budget saver.

Hobbies – everywhere

I love learning. Every year I take some classes – languages or profession-related (CPA, MBA, compliance certification, accounting and banking seminars). I try to convince my employer to sponsor some of the classes and they usually agree.

I am also a big fun on self-learning, be it search engine optimization, internet security or researching social trends. About a year ago I decided to learn more about modern art, subscribed to a few magazines and blogs, started attending important exhibitions, made connections with knowledgeable experts. There is still a long way to go, but at least I was able to maintain an informed conversation at FIAC.

I love reading, writing and talking, hence, teaching, blog, facebook & other social media presence. It’s fascinating to analyze traffic data and see what other people do in that area.

Most of my hobbies, apart from classes, are very time-flexible and can be done on mobile, so I definitely take advantage of that. I can read waiting in line or write a blog post in a plane.

Fitness and beauty – either home or far away

I try go to spa once a month, usually on Saturday, and do “everything at once”. My favorite hair stylist and dermatologist are both in Dusseldorf, I visit them  3-4 times a year with  appointments made few months in advance. They are both magical.

I workout at home, 4-5 times a week, sometimes in the morning, mostly in the evening, we have a small gym in the basement plus you already know about Jillian Michaels DVD.

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2 Responses to My little secrets of time management

  1. Ina Goldberg says:

    Thanks for sharing – very interesting! What do kids do in summers? How the laundry is handled? Besides your work-travel extensions (and some vacation days going towards that), do you take your vacations in bulk (i.e. few vacations a year, 1-3 weeks at a time) or small increments (i.e. many vacations a year, 2-3 days at a time).

    • Yana says:

      For summers kids either go with us or, when old enough, can travel alone, with friends or visit the Finnish side of the family.
      We usually take 2 longer vacations a year ( 8-14 days each, one in Europe and one far away) and do a few city breaks.

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