Back in July, I was listening to the Side Hustle Show podcast (highly recommend this one to any entrepreneurs, especially those looking to break into the side hustle scene) and one of the guests recommended using a time-tracking tool to better understand how you spend your time and therefore improve productivity. I’m definitely someone who gets to the end of the day and thinks “where did all the time go!?” and this guest stressed that it’s not that we don’t have enough time for our side hustle or ‘passion project’ but rather than we’re not prioritizing it. By tracking every minute of every day, it can become infinitely clear where you’re losing time (most likely in your inbox, social media, or other mindless scrolling). I was sold on what he said and immediately downloaded a free time-tracker called Toggl*. However, I was surprised by what this experience taught me.
For a solid four months, I tracked EVERYTHING—not merely work-related tasks but everything I did on weekdays from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed in inane detail (i.e whether my social media wandering was for personal use or for Sincerely, Spain engagement, whether my yoga practice was accompanied by a Youtube video or not, etc). I tracked and tracked each day (often spending an extra 20 minutes in the morning retrospectively adding in what happened after I shut off my computer the night before) and meticulously saved each weekly report email in its own folder so I could go back and analyze it all ‘after I collected enough data.’
I shouldn’t have been too surprised to find that, in my mind, I never reached that point at which I had ‘enough data’ and I never truly sat down and compared each week to see how well I was prioritizing the things I say are important to me. Instead, what jumped out at me each and every time I skimmed through those emails was just how many hours each week was going to my ‘Meal time’ category! I have to admit that I did not differentiate between time spent cooking and time spent eating but, regardless, the process was typically accounting for 8.5-11.5 hours per week (and considering this was only weekdays, that meant upward of 2.3 hours a day)!
Now, if someone who was incredibly business-minded and focused solely on productivity were to look at those reports, they would likely jump to the conclusion that this is somewhere I can easily cut down on ‘wasted time,’ perhaps by spending a couple hours on Sunday to meal prep for the week so I’m not cooking on workdays or to multitask by responding to emails or lesson-planning as I eat. However, I instead came to the conclusion that this is a BEAUTIFUL thing!
Like Claudia, I believe that food is an experience. Meal time is meant to be savored and shared with others. It is not something that I WANT to cut corners on. While it would be incredibly easy to buy more frozen meals or search for recipes that require very little time actually prepping or tending to the food while it cooks, I ENJOY spending this much time on nourishing myself and I have Spanish culture to thank for that.
Coming from the often fast-paced American schedule, it can be difficult for us to understand that people in Spain don’t eat lunch until 2 or 3pm and that this is typically a huge meal that family members go home to enjoy together (read more about Spanish-style eating and schedules here). Contrarily, in the US the typical worker or student will only spend 30 minutes to an hour getting lunch near the office or perhaps eating right at their desk while they continue to work.
Especially compared to the days when I was working evenings after school and scarfing down ‘half a meal’ before my shift and another ‘half meal’ during my 15 minute break, my eating habits have changed a lot. Not only has the time I spend eating here in Spain more than doubled, but my attitude about eating has evolved too. Thanks to the positive experiences I’ve had living with a host mom and later with Spanish roommates, I now also respect the midday meal as the most important one of the day and consider it a great privilege that I work from home in the mornings, meaning that I can seamlessly transit to spending half an hour or more preparing a nice meal to sit down to with my fiance. I cherish this time to step away from the computer, get up and move around, and know that I am doing something that’s important for our health and well-being. I’ll often listen to a podcast or enjoy conversation if we’re cooking together, so the preparation feels just as important.
When we sit down to our lunch, it’s quality time to spend together—sometimes we choose to enjoy an episode of World Towning or How I Met Your Mother but just as often (if not more), we’ll instead delve into an interesting discussion of current events, things we’ve heard/read, or just happenings in our own lives. Again, I recognize how fortunate we are to both work from home and have this opportunity to connect in the middle of the day (something that may not last forever) and so I choose to cherish this time rather than ‘prioritize it away.’ The Spanish culture has certainly taught me to slow down and to prioritize these moments with family and friends above…well, above most everything else!
Finally, what might be interesting to note about this time-tracking experiment is that any time I went out with friends to have tapas or a coffee—what many would also include in their ‘meals’ section—I chose to categorize this differently and so that is not even reflected in the 8.5-11.5 hours per week originally mentioned! Here in Spain, even more time is spent having lunch or dinner out than might be spent eating at home (although, I guess in my case of including cooking time, that might even out). If you’ll be living in Spain be prepared to have your time spent eating out (or in) with friends greatly increased and, instead of getting frustrated by this conflicting with your schedule, I encourage you to embrace this cultural difference and account for it whenever you can.
Before this gets any longer, I simply want to point out that I by no means believe everyone needs to spend as much time as I do eating. However, I would encourage everyone around the globe to consider how much time it is they are dedicating to their meals and, more often than not, consider expanding more upon that because it IS important. Perhaps my time-tracking didn’t teach me much about what to change in order to prioritize better but it taught me that I’m already prioritizing things I didn’t even realize I deeply value and that is good enough for me!
*Toggle has not sponsored this post (though we wouldn’t be opposed to talking about it…) If anyone would be interested in an honest review of this particular time-tracking tool or the experience in general, let me know!