Can a 30-Year-Old Man Change His Worst Habit?

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership train travels.

S2: No not even not even radio like 945.

S3: Yeah that’s what I like to do it wasn’t going to be a little. That’s me getting caught on a hot mike by my producer Cameron. He caught me walking into our taping an hour late. Which sucks. I’m that guy who’s always late to everything not just to tapings but to meetings missing deadlines. Even when we plan to hang out afterwards I can’t make it on time.

S4: It’s gotten so bad lately that even though we were scheduling this taping Cameron is giving me that look like yo you sure you’re gonna make it so it’s not that I’m lazy it’s that everything I planned to do and I plan to do a lot ends up taking way longer than I expect. Take this morning for example. I didn’t feel like I got to spend enough time with the wifey the night before so I waited for her to get ready so we can commute to the city together. It’s not my fault. I legit didn’t think I was gonna set me back that much and I wonder about this a lot. I want to be a reliable worker and a good husband the type to bring home that had bacon. You know what I mean but I also want to be present too and not be in that constant scramble. So I got to know is it too late for me.

S5: A 30 year old guy who’s been like this since he was a teenager. What can I actually do to fix this.

S6: Hello and welcome to man up. I’m your host a minister made and this episode I’m going to try and be on time for the first time in my life.

S1: So a quick google search for work life management help. And it already feels like I’m going nowhere fast. But Cameron did say he found someone who he thinks could help.

S7: My name is British Shorty and I’m a journalist and author and I read a book called Overwhelmed Work Love And Play When No One Has the time about time pressure and why it’s so hard to have work life balance.

S1: I can’t believe you didn’t include the fact that you won a Pulitzer in your bio. How would start with that. Personally Brigid is now the director of the Better Life lab a New America where she’s trying to solve all of the problems she wrote a book about she blocked off an hour to talk to us already feeling like I’ve got a lot I can learn from her. So I mean we were supposed to start this interview at 930. You wouldn’t believe it but before we were planning it all of my producers were just glaring at me in the meeting there like a man. Are you going to get here on time but did she just give you a little bit of insight into the disarray that my life is currently in.

S8: Well I have to be perfectly honest. You know I wrote a book about time because I guess you write books about the things that you that you most need to learn about and I’m delighted that I was here on time this morning so I struggled with that myself.

S4: Before Brigid wrote the book she felt like she was being pulled in every direction by all of her responsibilities even though she was by all standards overachieving. She finished every workday feeling guilty and inadequate for a piece for The Washington Post Magazine. She talked to a time use researcher who told her that as a woman she had 30 hours of leisure time a week and that men had 40 hours a week. When she told him that that couldn’t possibly be true with her life he challenged her to keep a time diary and to share the results.

S7: I hated it. I did not want to do it. I’m not really a detail type person and I never wanted to plan and I wanted to be open to life and spontaneous and part of why I resisted it is here is this guy. This time he’s expert telling me that I had 30 hours of leisure a week and if I didn’t feel like I had it I was really afraid that that you know he would be right and he did find 27 hours of what he called leisure and I literally burst into tears because it was like 10 minutes here and five minutes here and little bits of garbage time after she posted her piece.

S4: She got waves of mail from readers who said they had the same problem that they felt like they had too much to do and not enough time to do it. It’s exactly how I feel all the time.

S9: This inner conflict that I have between my work life and my home life clash often and one of the ways that I try and extend my my home life is I’ll just stay up later. I’ll just want to I don’t want to go to sleep because I know that when I wake up I’ll have to go to work. So a lot of the time I’ll just stay up until 1 a.m. sometimes 2 a.m. just watching TV or just you know sitting on the couch maybe in silence or or writing notes or whatever.

S10: So what you’re describing is what people would call work to family conflict you know when work gets in the way of time wet home and family. And it’s really it’s unfortunate. It’s very common it’s common for men and for women. I think it goes back to the culture that we’re living in and what we get rewarded for. You know we haven’t figured out how to measure good knowledge work you know. Is it five podcasts or is it a certain number of audience clicks. It’s very hard to measure good work. And so oftentimes we default to kind of the old factory method of hours hours worked and hours I’ve presence in the office. So you kind of got this internal clash between what you think you should be doing to be excellent at work and what it might really take. And I have to tell you what it might really take is pushing against the status quo and that’s very scary to do. And it’s hard to do on your own.

S9: So what are some things that I can do here. I feel like I’m finally in a place where I want to have like a radical change to my lifestyle. Can you give me some actionable tips on how I can do that.

S10: So a couple of things. What behavioral science would say is that we have a present bias that we as humans the present moment is so real and salient for us that even though we may want to be well rested the next day even though that might be we know that that’s a good goal in the present moment it’s so much more powerful to sit there at 1:00 in the morning watching TV feeling exhausted and stressed out and like dreading going back to work. And so it’s like we’ve got this clash between our present and future selves. And so to first be aware of it. And then secondly to set defaults that help us make the right choice in the moment that will really help us in the long Ron and so that might be something that I would suggest you think about doing. Like what would be a default that would work for you. That would help you leave work at a certain hour. That would help you you know get to bed at a certain hour. Yeah.

S9: One of the things that I was thinking about trying was really trying to fulfill the five daily prayers that Muslims are supposed to do. So in Islam you’re supposed to pray five times at five specific windows of time every single day.

S7: Well it’s a beautiful tradition. And so when is the last time that you would pray.

S9: Is there like an idea kind of prayer between between eight thirty and nine thirty.

S7: So could that be kind of a signal to you that now it’s time to get ready for bed. Could you do your eight thirty or nine thirty prayer and then that’s when you shut down your screens. That’s when you maybe make a cup of tea. Maybe you connect with your with your wife. You have conversation or it’s time to read but that’s the signal that it’s time to kind of start shutting down. Yeah. Yeah. You know I hate to say this because I’m so not a planner but but planning is an incredible ally at this point. So clear be clear about your priorities and then put them in your calendar actually schedule them. And I you know that I’m a work in progress on this as well. But you know we we start on Monday and we’ll think I’ve got this big project to do. And then if you don’t actually create the space for it in your calendar you like what we’re going on a wing and a prayer that we’re actually going to do it. So if you begin to more intentionally schedule it actually bring so much of the stress levels down.

S11: Wow that sounds like it might actually work.

S12: So it’s 11:00 a.m.. You were late to work so we’re off to a bad start and 15. Okay so I need to rewrite the monologue for this lunch at twelve thirty. Are we squeezing any prayers into this. Yes. 115 150 I will pray though. Maybe this will be a good time to call wifey. I mean we also should record that monologue. Are there any other obligations. Yes. I got to drink a tall last glass of water. I should pray ask four o’clock at four o’clock. Okay. Okay. And then at 7:00 I got to head to Maplewood. I guess I should eat dinner at nine thirty and then my day over Nope I have to do a video edit Oh I also. Have to edit some photos. You have to do that today. I have to do that tonight. Yeah. Do you have bedtime scheduled 1:00 a.m. 1:00 a.m. yes. Oh there it is.

S13: I had to scroll till like the next day.

S9: To be honest with you I’m still super paranoid. I do. I struggled to get to places on time and I am constantly not wanting to turn down opportunities that excite me because I genuinely want to go and participate. But what I end up doing is disappointing other people because I don’t end up going. I just can’t. Sometimes and I feel like I don’t necessarily have control over my time.

S7: So you really need to think about yourself take that time to pause you know and and and whether it’s like take a couple breaths but like what’s really important to you. You know if you’re if you’re just always looking for the next bright shiny thing there’s there’s hundreds of shiny things out there.

S14: You know if you’re say my person you know if you’re afraid of that well but if you’re so much of the time we’re afraid like if we say no to this one it will never come back around again and I can say now that I’m you know old enough you know what it does come back around again you know take a week where you don’t say yes to anything and see how that feels and then maybe next week say yes to one thing try one thing that whole week that was that that would be the bright shiny thing just pick one thing and give it all of your attention and time and say no to everything else.

S15: So I made this list of priorities. Check it out. Number one be present for my wife running around. I feel like I’m rushing phone calls meals and evening time and I need to learn how to ignore everything else when it’s her time. Number two. I had to come to work on time. I got to hit deadlines. I can’t give Cameron any more reason to try and catch me on a hot mike. Number three I got to eat real food not just trash and not let any of my other priorities get in the way. And the before this was going to sound a little lame but I cut up my Instagram followers. You probably don’t know this but in another life I was a street photographer and I still sell prints on the side on Instagram so I got to keep track of them. So I have a total of 20 items blocked out on my calendar.

S16: I’m feeling confident maybe a little overconfident but we’ll find out how I did after the break.

S17: So if you couldn’t tell by now we’re going to be doing things a little differently for season 2. We need your help to figure out what we’re talking about next. We’re looking for folks who wouldn’t mind coming on the show to explain how the two are a work in progress for a future episode. We want to hear from fathers of teenage daughters. We’re trying to figure out how to talk to their daughters about dating and sex and how to deal with their own feelings about it too. If that’s you or someone you know contact us at 8 0 5 6 2 6 8 7 0 7 that’s 8 0 5 men up 0 7. Or you can e-mail us at men up at Slate dot com Okay so how did it go.

S18: Yes it’s awful Cameron awful. How do you think it went. I don’t know.

S19: I missed the DOT prayer. We I didn’t get the monologue rewritten on time. I didn’t do the thing that I had to do right after it either. So what happened after work.

S20: Everything started to fall apart and I went to my first appointment and that that went well. I was only 15 minutes late. I I tried to get back some of that time by skipping the prayer. I was planning on going home praying first. Okay. So I was like okay I’m not going to have time to do this now. I’m going to try and just make it to that appointment. Yeah. While it’s on the way. Wife you called that ask for a favor. She wanted to get picked up from the train station. Yeah. At seven thirty something. Okay. Well that means I’m gonna be late to the next appointment. Yeah. Maybe I can pick her up. That’s what I thought maybe I could pick her up. We can go together. Picked her up. She kind of had a rough day. So we started talking about it that took some time. Mm hmm. At a certain point I had to just call it and decide that I wasn’t going to make it to this thing and that my priorities at that moment changed. Yeah. That it wouldn’t have been reasonable to say I got to stick to this plan because I have to show to this thing because it’s written down. Yeah. It felt like at that moment it felt more important to spend some quality time with wifey everything just took more time than I thought it would.

S21: Okay as soon as one thing got lost like dislodged from the schedule everything started to fall apart. It was really weird. So absolute trash estimating how long it takes to get anything done. I got almost everything checked off my list but writing took twice as long as I wanted it to and so did my extra curricular work. Brigid actually knows why this keeps happening.

S10: The second behavioral science kind of horrific or whatever that that I want to talk about. It’s actually one of my favorite ones. It’s called the planning fallacy. So we as humans we don’t plan very well. And when we do plan we are really terrible at it. We are terrible at estimating how long something is going to take. We are terrible at figuring out when we’re gonna finish it. And I am so guilty of this. I embrace the planning fallacy. It is my thing. So. So that’s an issue that is totally empowering to realize wow i suck at this and that’s ok so stop over promising things. So what you can do you know to recognize that you’ve got the planning fallacy is when you’re looking at what your priorities are you know figure out where they go in your calendar but then also create an hour or two or however long you need every week of what’s called slack. Just create open space in your calendar. And that’s to catch all the things that you thought you’d do by Tuesday and are still not done by Friday afternoon or if there was an emergency that came up Wednesday. So whatever you were gonna do on Wednesday didn’t get done. So kind of create that flexibility just build it and build it in as a default into your calendar so that you’ll be much more likely.

S22: Come Friday evening to be able to say I got everything done.

S23: So back to the experiments. I decided to try again with planning up my day and like the first time I started with thinking about my priorities then putting everything that I had to do that day on a calendar. But this time I scheduled in time to slack. Yeah I know because I’m trying to make myself more productive it sounds counterintuitive to schedule lazy time. But it actually ended up making a big difference. How’d it go yesterday compared to the day before.

S24: Okay. So I feel two things about this.

S25: Yeah the first thing is I got a lot less work done huh. Sure.

S24: Right which I don’t know if I’d count that as a win. But on the other hand I felt much better about it. Was interesting.

S25: Yeah I booked a lot more time for things than I did the day before.

S24: Yeah. So for example I was like I’m going to take an hour for lunch instead of 45 minutes or I’m going to spend two hours on this script instead of just 45 right. And I was able to get all those tasks done for the most part everything I had more garbage time in between. Yeah. And I think because I scheduled that I felt better. I wasn’t as anxious.

S25: Do we need to adjust the priorities list and add like well-being to it.

S18: Yeah but that also sounds soft right.

S26: It sounds soft but I don’t know. I think you’d like prioritizing that.

S15: If I had to give myself a letter grade for how my days went. I’d say the first try even though I got more done would get an average C I still felt rushed and was showing up late to everything. But for the second try I’d go with the better than usual B. I wasn’t on time with everything but I’m improving. I’m also thinking a little differently about what I consider to be a successful day. So that may have more to do with it than I originally thought. But Bridget still had one more piece of advice for me.

S7: You know what some of the best advice that I ever got is you can’t manage time. You know don’t even try to manage time that’s a misnomer. But you can manage your priorities and your expectations. And honestly that’s what I struggle with the most is like I know what my priorities are. But man do I have outsize expectations of what I can really do and what I want to do and you know so it’s so I guess the last thing that I would leave you with. And I’m probably the most important thing that I’ve learned is compassion. You know somebody asked me What’s your best time management tip and that’s compassion. Because this is hard and we live in a country that doesn’t make it easy. And so we’re going to fail over and over and over again. And the most important thing is to forgive yourself and get back up and try again.

S27: Well I’m gonna print that out and hang it above my cubicle. Do you think I’m kidding. But I’m not actually going to print.

S28: And that’s the show. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed it please hit us with that good rating in your podcasting app. It’s a free show so come on it’s the least you could do. Also we still need help figuring out what to talk about next. We’re looking for folks who wouldn’t mind coming on the show to explain how they too are a work in progress. So if that’s you call us at 8 or 5 6 2 6 8 7 0 7 that’s 8 0 5 man up 0 7. Or you can e-mail us at man up at Slate dot com. And if you want to help Bridget with her research on work life balance of the Better Life lab we left the link in the description so make sure you took that out and also do not forget to make sure you subscribed because we’ve got new shows every week. And believe me you don’t want to miss out. Man up is hosted and written by me a minute’s mind. It’s produced by Cameron Drews our editors are Jeffrey Bloomer and lo and Lou Gabriel Roth as editorial director of Slate podcasts. June Thomas is the senior managing producer of Slate podcasts. We’ll be back next week with more man up.