In a revival of an old-school blogging pyramid scheme, my friend Dan Mall wrote about his typical day and tagged me and others to do the same. What follows is a mix of both the aspirational and the factual, and the distance between the two suggests that if life is time management, I’m not especially skilled at life. If you’re not either, read on for sweet, sweet validation.
My alarm goes off at 7:00. These days, I’m usually awake before then, thanks to my brain’s own self-styled push alert, whose content is always the same: What now? What constitutional crisis is brewing? What do I need to know about the freshest hell wrought by the goblin king and his minions? What will its repercussions be? I grab my iPad for answers. I’m one of the few privileged keepers of the knowledge that Google Reader’s demise didn’t take RSS with it, and my RSS feeds are a cherished, orderly alternative to the chaos of social media, even if the last few years have largely reduced them to another form of doomscrolling. I give myself an hour in bed to gather everything of interest and either read it or send it off to Instapaper for later reading. That allotted time is often exceeded. Until recently, I’ve also tried to find the pangram in the New York Times’ Spelling Bee every morning, but I never know how long that will take, and I can’t stop once I’ve started, so I’m trying to avoid it.
Whenever I manage to get up, exercise comes first, though it’s hardly a habit. Ideally a three-mile run along the Schuylkill River on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the 7-Minute Workout on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. (I’m currently doing the latter but not the former). Cereal or oatmeal for breakfast most days. The daily showers of my pre-pandemic life have been cut in half; I usually shower every other morning unless filth factors like weather or exercise demand more.
From there it’s a question of how best to spend the remaining time before the workday starts, and there’s a lot of competition. I tend to do my best writing in the morning, so it might be a blog post, or research for a home improvement project, or chipping away at another project like my site redesign or the new zine I’m starting up. It’s also entirely possible I’ll get distracted by Twitter or the news or some other internet tomfoolery.
Leah and I both work from home, as would be the case even if there weren’t a pandemic. My workday starts in earnest somewhere between 10:00 and 10:30. If I had consistently good work habits, I’d be sitting down to a tidy schedule of achievable objectives I had established for myself at the end of the previous workday. The needs of the day’s meetings would already be percolating in the back of my mind from when I had looked at my calendar shortly after I woke up. My earlier RSS ritual would have set aside the items most relevant to my work (e.g. blog posts about web design) to be read during a handful of breaks peppered throughout the day. But I’m more likely to just sit down and resume my current work task from wherever I left it, intermittently being reminded of tangential requests from coworkers I’ve forgotten to address, and batting away distractions with varying levels of success. I keep my personal and professional web browsing segregated to different browsers, and I use a plugin to block Twitter, news, and other productivity draining sites during work hours. But those fortifications have proved to be no match for the berserker news cycle in these last dark days of the goblin king’s reign.
I’ll have lunch sometime around 1:00. Before the pandemic, when I still lived in NYC and worked in SoHo, lunch was almost always takeout. After the office closed and everyone started working from home, I made deli sandwiches on the regular. Buying a house in Philly with Leah has unsurprisingly changed my lunch habits even more, since she directs the weekly Philly Foodworks order that fills our fridge, and does so far more responsibly than I would. So lunch is more varied now, and tends to be healthier too. One weird thing I seem to keep coming back to is scrambled eggs with a side of sliced apples smeared with peanut butter. I typically make lunch for both of us. Some of the aforementioned articles sent to Instapaper are read while I eat.
When the workday is done, Leah goes for a walk around the neighborhood, and I’ve been joining her more frequently, trying to chase away the doldrums induced by my unfortunate pandemic custom of staying inside for days on end. It does me good, but I’ve found the circuitous nature of these walks is a poor substitute for having an actual destination. The prison yard may be a nice change of scenery, but it’s only a momentary reprieve from the cell.
Leah makes dinner most nights, and I’m so lucky she does. Much of the cooking happens on the weekend, while I’m doing laundry and cleaning the house, and dinner throughout the week is often a matter of reheating and recombining. We’ve gone vegetarian for this month and there’s been a surplus of kohlrabi, which Leah’s innovations have made more tolerable than I ever imagined possible. We’re otherwise lately eating a lot of root vegetables, kale, spinach, mushrooms, tofu, and rice. Maybe some noodles in a curry. Maybe we’ll treat ourselves with some gnocchi and red sauce. I’m trying to be more helpful by doing cleanup as needed while she’s doing prep, rather than just cleaning up whatever dishes are left after the meal.
Dinner is 7:00 or 7:30ish, and I’m ambivalent about the fact that we eat in front of the TV every single night, but when our vegetarian stint ends in February, our no-TV stint will begin. The wisdom of doing that in the middle of a housebound winter remains to be seen. We recently finished Schitt’s Creek and have now moved on to Pretend It’s a City. Movies on weekend nights. Pizza on Fridays.
After dinner, I’ll get back to whatever personal project I was working on in the morning. In days gone by, this would be when I practiced guitar and studied music theory. I hope to make those days return. These are precious hours and there are too many things I want to make of them.
Bedtime is around 11:00, and it’s back to my never ending Instapaper queue, or, if I’m feeling charitable, whatever book I’m currently picking at. Right now that’s the first volume of Obama’s presidential memoir, A Promised Land, but I’ve also got an old Richard Stark pulp novel I’ve been meaning to start. As with Spelling Bee in the morning, I’m trying to wean myself off the Times’ sudoku offerings at night. My eyes always get heavy sooner than I want them to. There’s so much to read.
Lights out around midnight, to dream of a day whose ample, well-spent hours will withstand malign forces and bring about prosperity and peace.