Researcher Life – ‘My’ 100 blocks a day

I have had a few hectic weeks which left me little time to prepare a detailed blog post. Although one of the things keeping me busy is going to make a really cool post next month. I’m gonna be a Soapbox Science speaker and I can’t wait to share the details with you in the next post. In the meantime, for this post, I’ve managed doing an activity I’ve been wanting to for months, if not years – seeing my day in 100 blocks of 10 minute slots.

There is a really cool blog out there called Wait But Why. If you don’t know it, I highly recommend checking it out. My post here is based on Wait But Why’s post – 100 blocks a day. The idea, as explained by Wait But Why, is – “Most people sleep about seven or eight hours a night. That leaves 16 or 17 hours awake each day. Or about 1,000 minutes. Let’s think about those 1,000 minutes as 100 10-minute blocks. That’s what you wake up with every day….It’s always good to step back and think about how we’re using those 100 blocks we get each day. How many of them are put towards making your future better, and how many of them are just there to be enjoyed? How many of them are spent with other people, and how many are for time by yourself? How many are used to create something, and how many are used to consume something? How many of the blocks are focused on your body, how many on your mind, and how many on neither one in particular? Which are your favorite blocks of the day, and which are your least favorite?”

A lot of these questions require a whole lot of introspection and would vary from person to person. Since I have written on work-life balance in the past, I thought of visualizing an ideal work day for me, i.e. a day with good work-life balance, and a stressful work day for me, i.e. a day where work-life balance is tossed out the window.

Image A : An Ideal Work Day

Image A shows what my ideal work day (not a weekend or holiday) would look like. Image B shows what my day looks like when I am very stressed. The colors divide the day into 4 categories. Black is work – career related, job related goals. Red is chores – things I have to do but rather not. Blue is people time – activities I do for important people in my life, or do to feel closer to people in general. Green is me time – activities I enjoy alone, activities that I think make me physically, mentally, spiritually better.

These categories are obviously not very well defined and I have marked them based on how I feel while doing something rather than a general categorization based on common assumptions of the task. For instance, on an ideal day, cooking or travelling to work for me is a blue/green activity, rather than a red chore. I simply enjoy cooking for myself or others, and I usually use travel time to cycle to work, or catch up on podcasts or reply to messages or talk to people. While I strive to have a day that looks like image A, and most of my days are pretty close to it, I do have many days that land up looking like image B.

Image B : A Stressful Work Day

Lets now compare images A and B, to see what differs:

  1. There is a lot more black in Image B. Of course, this is a day with long working hours, and therefore lesser time for family, friends and self.
  2. There is also more red (11 blocks in Image A, 15 blocks in Image B). This is because things like lunchtime with a friend or colleague and podcast time while traveling have turned into chores of eating at the desk (while unsuccessfully trying to work) and just getting to work (while problem shooting in my head)
  3. There simply are more coloured blocks in Image B. I was working till late, which meant I had to finish chores and reply to people/messages later in the day and then I still need some down time before I could sleep. If there was a colour for quality of sleep, that would also have differed as well.

The point I’m trying to make here is that a day where I over-worked is not just bad because I didn’t have personal time. Its also bad for my quality of life in general, for the people in my life and perception of things that I experience throughout the day. A mind that should be a combination of red, green, blue and black turns into a black and red zebra that clouds every chance of a blue-green activity.

Hope this post has given you some food for thought. If you wish to try this out yourself, there are printable blocks available on the original blog post. Do share your thoughts, comments and your 100 block grid! 🙂

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