Counting the Hours

Once again, it’s a non-school day for me; once again I’ve spent much of the day wondering what I should be doing.

Not that there aren’t an abundance of options. I’ve already run some personal errands, and I’ve critiqued a draft flyer for Alpine Valley School‘s annual fundraising push. I could now move on to social commenting for AVS (browsing local media sites and leaving comments directing people to the school); writing messages for my new Google groups, CASE Collaborations and Sudbury School Families; researching funding sites like IndiGoGo and IncitED; and/or proofreading a concert program for my choir, the Ars Nova Singers. I could scout out some freelance writing/editing work, or work on figuring out how to establish a freelancing business of my own.

Instead, I’m blogging. Why? Because writing is just something I do whether or not I know what I’m doing. Because I still harbor this hope that hurling words into the blogosphere will somehow lead to a sense of direction, whether through new-found connections within my own mind, feedback from readers like you, or some combination of the above.

On the one hand, my inclination is to trust my passion and intuition, go with what feels right in the moment and summon the faith too see it through. I can’t know for certain what I should be doing at any given moment, so it’s better to be doing something, anything, as long as it holds some promise of forwarding my overall quest for sustainable income from work I love…right? After all, passion and intuition are cornerstone features of Sudbury schooling, two key strengths our alumni and long-term students apply to their daily lives. So I ought to be able to rely on them myself, yes?

On the other hand, it seems equally sensible to supplement following my instincts with some sort of arbitrary guide or schedule. If there’s no way to know how much time I should spend working on this or that, then it might very well be useful to declare some parameters or benchmarks. And so, for instance, I’ve cultivated the habits of running five miles three or four times a week, and writing (whether that means blogging, scribbling in my journal, or both), reading, and meditating (thirty minutes of zazen) every day. I don’t have to stick to this plan, but it helps me navigate my days, ensuring I find time to do things that are good for me.

Deciding how to arrange my working hours, however, is trickier. Lately I’ve been toying with the formula 30 (15 + 15) + 10. That is, 30 hours of Sudbury work each week, divided evenly between Alpine Valley and CASE, plus ten hours of freelance foraging. I doubt that 40 hours per week is sufficient, but again, I have to start with some arbitrary quantity, and if I’m to have any hope of pacing myself, stopping when needed and not burning out, I must adopt some rule for when to take breaks and relax without drowning in guilt or fear.

The real problem, as I’ve blogged previously, is that almost none of my current work generates income, and it’s even difficult to know which activity is a waste of time or an investment in a viable future. (One prime example: should I be writing this blog post, or using the time to find work that pays?) Even counting the amount of time I spend in various pursuits is more challenging than you might think. After all, when you’re drawing a paycheck at a regularly scheduled job, you may be spending 40 hours per week at work, but how much time do you actually spend working, as opposed to daydreaming, browsing the Web, etc.?

Neither am I sure how I might measure my productivity. I could set goals, like [x] social media comments per week, or [y] messages in my Google groups, or [z] percent of my expenses covered in a given month. But it all feels like a shot in the dark, like playing piñata with my future and hoping enough candy will fall out before I starve. All my strategies and schemes seem little more than a trail of bread crumbs I can scarcely expect to last, should I need to retrace my steps.

So what do you think? Do you have any ideas or suggestions for me? Because I’m getting a little tired, a little nervous, about wandering semi-lost in the woods, searching for sustainable, passion-driven work. Yes, Beginner’s Mind is a virtue in the Zen tradition I practice: but even beginners need a sense of direction, not to mention the resources to procure food, shelter, and clothing.

1 Comment

Filed under My Quest

One response to “Counting the Hours

  1. Pingback: The Goldilocks Rule for Idealists | Write Learning

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