There’s Always a Clock Ticking in My Head

I’m counting down my day

Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash

It starts on the drive home. If there are no unexpected traffic hold-ups — and if I don’t leave work late — I arrive home at more or less the same time every day.

My mind wanders on the drive and I think about what I’ll do when I get home.

Or more accurately, I’ll start thinking about the tasks I must do.

OK so if I get home at 5.30 the washing up will take 10 minutes, cooking and eating tea is an hour, taking the bins out is two minutes, feeding the cat is five minutes, preparing lunch for the next day is ten minutes…

And it goes on like this.

Sometimes there are other, not necessarily everyday tasks — laundry, vacuuming, grocery shopping. I also have to fit in things I wouldn’t describe as “tasks” because I enjoy them — spending time with my wife and daughter, catching up on my writing, maybe checking out one of the few TV shows I keep up to date with.

But no matter what, my head has a ticking clock that’s counting down and I’m mentally cataloging everything I have to and want to do to make sure I can fit it all in.

If something unexpected comes up that I haven’t allocated time for then it throws off my whole schedule and stresses me out. If the unplanned task takes me half an hour, then I have to extend my day by that long to get everything done before I go to bed — or else cut something from my schedule, which then bleeds into the next day.

It’s very difficult to live in the moment like this.

I could play with my three-month-old daughter but in the back of my head I’ll be thinking: to stay on track I need to start the washing up in the next thirty minutes.

The frustrating thing is I’m always having to adjust my schedule. Unexpected things always come up, or tasks end up taking longer than the time I’d mentally allocated to them. It often means I’m running late, giving off the impression of disorganisation even though I’m always mentally organising my day.

How to beat the clock

I realise this is unsustainable. I can’t live my life scheduling tasks day by day, hour by hour. As my daughter grows, more and more unplanned for events will happen, and I don’t want those things to cause me — or her, or my wife — stress.

So how do I get around it and beat the clock?

Ignoring it isn’t really an option. If it were, I’d already be doing it.

Maybe it’s about rearranging my priorities. On certain days, it isn’t a disaster if the washing up doesn’t get done, or if laundry waits for another day.

What would happen if I focussed on scheduling time for things I enjoy instead of “tasks”, or leave an hour with nothing scheduled? I’m going to find out — because I need to stop the clock.

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David is an author and freelance writer. He has two short story collections available, and his non-fiction work has appeared on The Mighty, WhatCulture and Just Football, among others.

Navigating parenting with a disability and trying to write a novel. Email: davefox990@hotmail.com

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