We have three boys — ages 8, 4, and 1, also called Rogue One, Two, & Three.
When I woke up this morning (the morning I wrote this), my wife had already left for work. Rogue One and Two older two boys were in the kitchen eating breakfast — I assumed the older one had toasted the waffles for the younger one. Nope.
Rogue Two (age 4) made his own waffles in the toaster (which he started doing a year ago, without permission), unlocked the iPad, and was eating while watching cartoons. He was picking up his syrup-covered waffles by hand, because he was having difficulty cutting them with the knife he had procured.
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He had completed these tasks in the time between my wife leaving and Rogue One coming downstairs.
I admire Rogue Two’s independence and waffle making ability at such a young age — after all, I was in middle school when I set the kitchen on fire. It’s also frightening.
All things considered, it was one of the quietest mornings I’ve had in a while. I appreciated the few minutes of extra sleep, as quiet time can be difficult to come by in our house.
Goof Off Time
My father sent me a link to an article awhile ago — I think he referred to it as the “The Value of Goofing Off” — but I may have made that up as this was months ago. I started to write this post 6 months ago, then stopped and finished/re-wrote it this week.
The real title of the article, from Business Insider, is:
“I’ve adopted a ‘2-hour rule’ based on the habit that led Einstein, Darwin, and Nietzsche to brilliance — and it’s had the highest ROI of anything I’ve done”
It’s a bit of a mouthful, but the article itself is short.
The author discusses how he locks himself in a room for 2 hours at a time with no forms of distraction or entertainment. The unstructured time lets his mind wander places and lets him both reflect on things in his past, present, and future. It lets him consider ideas and solutions that otherwise would not come to him.
He says “I can quite honestly say that this is the highest return activity in my life,” and further mentions given the time we waste on social media and other things, we should be able to carve out a couple of hours to reflect and organize our own thinking/life.
I don’t know anything about the author (Zat Rana) — is he married? Kids? Dog? Does he live by himself? Is his primary job being a deep thinker?
It’s easy to scoff — frankly, that’s what I did internally when I read it 6 months ago. I saved the link so I could come back and write about it.
I work in a pediatric emergency department, a whirlwind of activity and distractions on most days. I have plenty of tamer, “office time,” involving work that sounds mundane, but is still busy most days.
When not working or asleep, the Rogue children expect attention as well — kids are demanding that way. Thus, true alone usually occurs after everyone is asleep. That’s not until after 830pm most nights, or if you include after my wife is in bed, then 930-10pm. I’m not the “wake up at 5am and be productive” type.
If I sequester myself in a private room with no distractions for 2 hours from 10pm-midnight, I’ll be found fast asleep in that room sometime the next morning.
Over the past several months, however, I have started intentionally carving time out of my schedule for myself. For the first time in an extremely long time. The article didn’t prompt it — my subconscious was craving it, and I started doing it without really thinking about it.
Because of the way my work in the emergency department and office line up, I often have no scheduled obligations on Thursdays. Unlike most ER docs who just do shift work, because of my other obligations (research, education, etc), I often have to “work” when I’m not in the ER. It’s part-office job, part ER.
When I had open days in the past, I often ended up in the office working on things out of habit, and because the logistics were easier based on the location of school/daycare and our home. It frankly missed the biggest benefit of being an ER physician — not always having to be at work.
I realized at some point that I was almost always the only person in my group in the office on Thursdays, apart from the administrators and research staff. I frittered away time, rarely productive. I definitely was not in possession of the unicorn that is “work-life balance.”
In 2016 we moved to a new home and the kids moved to a new school/daycare, close to home but all of it farther from work, it no longer made sense to travel 15 miles to work to sit in an office.
So I started scheduling myself what I’ll call “Silent Thursdays” — which I just made up.
Wife is at work and the kids are gone, and I am left to my own devices. Many times I am still working, with phone calls related to my admin work or working on research projects or other things.
However I now do it in shorter, more effective bursts. I can take the time to exercise, I can spend time writing this blog (almost all my writing is on Thursdays). I even joined an old man soccer league — men over the age of 40. I’m 37, but since I’m not in great shape, no one cares.
The Sound of Silence
Despite having the house to myself, I rarely watch television or listen to music when home alone. If I have down time, I use it to work, read, exercise, write this blog, or even take a nap. It’s time I allow my mind to roam free, have a break from the cacophony of sounds that are my three boys
As a side note — naps are wildly underrated, especially with shift work that screws up my sleep schedule and frequently leads to days with 3-6 hours of sleep. But even with a regular sleep schedule, I would probably still take naps. There’s plenty of evidence suggesting it’s a good idea.
So I’ve decided Zat Rana had it right — silence is golden.
While I often am using an electronic device during my Silent Thursdays, I use it the way he uses a pen and pad of paper. To bullet point out a manuscript or grant for a research manuscript, or to create a few rough drafts of blog posts.
Yes, the temptation of other things exists because The InterWebs are so easily accessible, so perhaps the next step is to unplug the router and hide my phone., but these are things that could not happen with others around, or if I set a schedule of activities.
My wife uses Monday’s to have time to herself. Sometimes I am around, but often I am not. We are both better off for it.
The ironic aspect of my father sending me the article that prompted this are his work habits. He’s the hardest working man I know. He’s 70-years old, and by choice works 6 days a week, often 10-12 hours/day. He simply never goofs off, but will not admit how hard he works. He takes Sundays for himself to sleep in, but that’s about it.
At some point he’ll slow down, and when he does, I think he will appreciate the silence.
By the way dad, all 3 kids are coming to your house this Sunday, so you may want to go elsewhere if you need a nap.
What are your thoughts on silence and goofing off?