COVID19 Planners

Day 159: Give Every Minute A Job?

August 21, 2020

Do you?

I don’t, really.

I think it’s interesting advice, though. It comes from Cal Newport. You know that I’ve written about him before and while I don’t always agree with everything he says, I find a lot of it very thought-provoking and useful. I highly recommend his podcast, which I have been listening to consistently. His episodes are long (there was a recent 1 hr 40 minute one!) and my podcast time is rather limited these days, so it means a lot that I still find them worthwhile.

Anyway, I have also discussed my devotion to YNAB, the budgeting app where you “give every dollar a job”, putting all of your income into tentative spending and savings categories. I LOVE this approach and have been tracking $$$ spent for several years now (since 2015 with a little break in 2019, according to the blog).

Over the years, using YNAB has definitely helped Josh and I become more intentional spenders. It wasn’t an instant lightning bolt sort of transition, but it definitely has shaped us and probably influenced some big money-related decisions in our lives.

But time? I love the idea in theory, but in reality I find time a lot more . . . slippery. Especially with kids. Especially with kids AT HOME. Especially when I am home with them.

Sometimes I am successful with time blocking, though it’s not an entire-day-of-blocked-time situation. More like: 10-12pm – WORK ON XYZ PROJECT BECAUSE IT IS NECESSARY! For example, I am currently starting to approach the deadline for an ACGME reporting project and have already marked Tuesday on my calendar as “DIRE, DO NOT PUT ANYTHING ELSE THERE BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO GET THIS DONE.” I suspect I will be successful with time blocking that day because the urgency is pretty clear in my head.

Other times though . . . I love the idea of allocating minutes to different things in an intentional way (hello, obsessed with planning/planners!?) but am not always entirely successful with follow through. My day spent somewhat distracted in Annabel’s room, for example. On other days, I just find the process unnecessary because my calendar is blocked for me (patient appointments, mandatory GME meetings, etc).

as one might imagine “help A with school” definitely took longer than 30 min on day 1. I am happy to report that day 2 required very little parental involvement/intervention, however!

Finally, I wonder about time blocking and leisure time. I’m not sure I can look to Cal as a role model for this because he has declared pretty definitively that he doesn’t really do much leisure time aside from “thinking walks” and reading. But I know I’m not alone when I sometimes regret spending an evening on Insta when I could have allocated those minutes towards something else. Would I be better off actually making a plan to spend those few minutes on reading / a manicure / no-phone kid time / etc?


I also think there is an interesting intersection with habits here. If you have ingrained habits that work for you, it sort of negates the need to formally time block. Example: my morning routine. Up, coffee, read/blog, workout, etc. I am usually quite happy with how I spend the first ~2 hours of my day, with no formal planning/blocking needed. I guess in a way I feel like the autopilot approach is more effective for me, but it does sometimes make the days blend together. I will acknowledge that it’s important to assess habits form time to time to see what adjustments need to be made.

(Maybe certain habits are just time blocking on autopilot?)

ANYWAY! Some Friday musings for everyone. This week went so quickly for me — I guess that’s what jumping back into work does! C&G start school in a little over a week and I am greatly looking forward to that, masks and all.

Random side note: I have to record a recruitment video in the hospital today and it just occurred to me . . . will I be on video wearing a mask and goggles!? I feel like I’d be better off just self-recording on my phone from home if that’s the case! Hmm.

Ooh! And new product alert!

Speaking of budget . . . I am totally going to order some of AmandaRachLee’s new washi tape (and probably a dotted journal too, who am I kidding).

It goes on sale 8/24. Something to look forward to 🙂


  • Reply CBS August 21, 2020 at 6:35 am

    I think it’s really interesting. I’m kind of in the opposite situation to you, since lockdown, I have had very few fixed meetings, maybe one or two a week, so I often need to schedule my time to avoid falling into a research rabbit hole and avoiding “hard” projects.

    One thing I’ve found helpful is to give myself a schedule, inspired by Rowena Murray’s writing retreat schedule. I have two long days a week where my husband and son are both out of the house (nursery only gave us 2 days – sob!) and I make a schedule to help structure the day, including breaks: ie. 9:00-10:30, Work on X writing, 10:30-10:45: Break, change over laundry, 10:45-12:00: read research articles, 12:00 lunch and cycle ride.

  • Reply Racheal August 21, 2020 at 7:22 am

    I do think certain habits are time blocking on autopilot! I am like you in that I feel successful with the first few hours of my day, and also the last few out of child activity/bedtime routine necessity. It is the middle of my day where I need to develop a “routine” which I am sure can be challenging depending on your job.

    I am also a huge fan of YNAB and giving every dollar a job. However, the idea of giving every minute a job seems much more overwhelming. Something to think about though.

    Happy Friday!

  • Reply omdg August 21, 2020 at 7:57 am

    It is probably unwise of me to post this, but really… do you WANT to spend your evening time playing with your kids? I know this is what you are supposed to want, but… at that time of day I have found that it is not nearly as fun as it seems, and often closely resembles work. There’s a reason you’re scrolling. Not every moment needs to be productive perfection. Sometimes just sitting, +/- scrolling, is what we need right then.

    • Reply Rachel August 21, 2020 at 9:29 am

      If you don’t see your kids all day, that’s probably a reasonable goal.

  • Reply Alyce August 21, 2020 at 8:02 am

    Honestly, even though I like the idea of giving every minute a job, this is the exact sort of thing that I wouldn’t be disciplined enough to follow through with. Even following through with time blocking is hard for me, unless I have a very clear deadline. The lack of follow through is actually one of the rare things that actually makes me feel bad/disappointed in myself, so I kind’ve avoid ever pretending I’m going to do it.

  • Reply Hannah N. August 21, 2020 at 8:54 am

    This is likely a personality thing, but I think I’d find “giving every minute a job” extremely frustrating and disappointing if that minute weren’t spent on the job I gave it. I may be thinking about this more literally than conceptually and perhaps I’m missing some context and need to listen to the episode. Interruptions happen in every job/workplace/home so how would one factor that in? I find general time blocking effective for me, but more than anything, I live by my daily to-do list. I find that I am much more productive if I just have a clear idea of WHAT needs to get done rather than the exact amount of time I need to do xyz (not that time should be ignored of course, just not my personal productivity driver). And, when there are interruptions or things go off the rails for whatever reason, I find I can usually steer myself back on track by just focusing on my list.

    • Reply Katie August 21, 2020 at 9:05 am

      I agree. When I was younger, very detailed scheduled really appealed to me, but the older I get the more I value flexibility as much as routines/schedules.

  • Reply Cate August 21, 2020 at 8:58 am

    I feel like Gretchen Rubin would have a field day with this post – and while I seem to remember you are an upholder, there are some strong obliger tendencies here.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger August 21, 2020 at 9:05 am

      Oh interesting! I think the fact that I find this idea intriguing but don’t actually do it fits my Upholder nature. (And yes, I am quite confident that the Upholder description fits me best).

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns August 21, 2020 at 11:19 am

    I’m a hard no on giving every minute a job. I think the ability to do that depends on the kind of work you do. I don’t really have a lot of control over my workday because I work in financial services and my day gets dictated by client requests and things of that nature. But if you were self-employed and have total autonomy, maybe that would work better? I do kind of time block my weekends – like I try to get meal prep for the week done mid-day so I can nap while our son naps (naps are life right now with me being pregnant and slightly anemic). But besides that, I don’t really do the whole time blocking thing, and I don’t write it down anywhere. But our weekend schedules are pretty predictable. I know my husband is going to grocery shop on Sat am so I try to take our toddler for a walk/to the park during that time to give him some fresh air.

  • Reply ehartung7 August 21, 2020 at 6:43 pm

    I have to say thank you so much! After a long hiatus from actual planners. I do lean towards the bullet journal I started back this week based on your inspiration and I am loving it!! I have also been inspired by you to start habit streaks. Just wanted to let you know that you have inspired me!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger August 22, 2020 at 6:08 am

      Yay! So excited it has been helpful.

  • Reply Sherri L McConnell August 22, 2020 at 1:09 am

    I am really enjoying your new podcast! I found it through your podcast with Laura which I also enjoy. While my kids are all grown, I do work from home writing quilting books and patterns and designing fabrics. I’ve also been blogging since 2008, so while we have totally different lives, I really find your blog and podcasts helpful 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger August 22, 2020 at 6:08 am

      thank you so much Sherri! My sister is a great quilter (she is very into all kinds of fabric arts and owns a yarn store!). So cool that you are in that field!

  • Reply Sonia August 23, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    Hmmm… I listen to Cal Newport’s podcast too, and he did NOT agree that every minute should have a job. He gave tons of examples of when you definitely would not want to do that.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger August 23, 2020 at 7:20 pm

      Maybe I misunderstood! That was my take home though I am not sure which episode it came from. I thought that’s how he was defining time blocking and then talk ed about all the ways you can revamp it if you get derailed ?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger August 23, 2020 at 7:24 pm

      Like this:

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger August 23, 2020 at 7:49 pm

      True that he was talking mostly about work. His idea just made me think – I hadn’t thought about time like a zero sum budget before.

  • Reply Sonia August 24, 2020 at 1:55 pm

    He talked about it in yesterday’s episode around the 25 minute mark. You may be taking a much more rigorous interpretation of his approach than he takes.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger August 24, 2020 at 2:15 pm

      I haven’t listened to that one yet but I will!

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