At the risk of sounding too cliché, it is amazing to me how time flies. I can’t believe it is the end of September already. We seem to be so busy these days.
But, are we really?
Our perception of busyness is all about the scarcity of time. Time is finite. Our energy and abilities are finite. The amount of things to do in life is infinite. Our inability to fit an infinite list into our finite time and space is what makes us feel busy all of the time. There are always more emails, meetings, things to read, ideas to explore, shows to watch, games to play, activities to schedule, things to fix, youtube videos…. You get the idea.
So, how do we break that infinite list into a more finite one? A list we can actually control? A list that not only includes work, home, kids, family, friends, but also includes fun and vacations?
“My whole life is ‘have to.’”
One of my favorite lines from the movie ‘Parenthood’ is where Gil (played by Steve Martin) blurts out “my whole life is ‘have to.’” when his wife asks if he has to go coach his son’s baseball team. I remember that time in my life when I felt the same way. It seemed like every minute of every day was spent doing all of the things I ‘had to’ do and none of the things I wanted to do. Typically, I think that happens when you are working full time, own your own home, and are raising school-age kids. Keeping up with demands from work, taking care of the household chores, and all of your kids’ activities can be daunting.
But, reality is, it is all about choices. Time is all that we have and none of us know how much of it we have. I think if we all scrutinized how we spend our time, we could do better at taking time off in more fulfilling ways. So, let’s break this down a bit and start off with the real “have to”s in our lives.
Like it or not, money is necessary to live. One way or another, we have to pay for our food, water, heat, shelter. There are minimum requirements for these necessities of life and then we expand from there. Here in America, we have a warped sense of need. Material consumption is strongly habit forming. Humans have a frame of reference that adjusts upwards as their circumstances improve. Our closets, garages, shelves, cupboards and living spaces are filled with things that for the most part gather dust and clutter our lives… There is a reason that purging, simplifying, and tiny houses are popular trends these days. We literally accumulate too much stuff. And when you have stuff, you have to organize it, store it, clean it, maintain it. When you feel you need to earn that extra dollar for that next new shiney object, think twice….
Another ‘aha’ moment I had at work was when I took a step back and looked at all of the meetings, emails, and ‘stuff’ that was filling up my day and where it came from. I was a bit shocked to discover that a lot of the ‘work’ was actually created by me. Created by me in my quest to improve things, pursue new ideas, build new relationships… While, these are all noble goals worth pursuing, we really have to weigh that against focusing on the tasks at hand rather than multi-tasking ourselves to death. It has been proven time and again that multi-tasking is not efficient. You literally can only focus on one thing at a time – especially to do it well. It takes discipline to focus and avoid distractions. It takes courage to say ‘No’. Do it for your sake and the sake of your precious time.
Household and Home
When you own a home, there are a lot of things that demand your attention. Beyond the day to day cleaning and tidying, there is lawn to mow, maintenance to be performed, broken things to be fixed, driveways to be sealed, carpets to be cleaned, painting and upgrade projects to be done, etc, etc. There is an infinite list here. You can’t do it all, but there are some things that absolutely must be done. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. And, realize it will never be perfect, but it can be functional and habitable. Not keeping up with the neighbors on every little home improvement is one place to start. Again, there are choices here that we all need to analyze and do better at in order to find time for the fun things in life. The other point to make about household chores and tasks is that you don’t have to do it all yourself. Hire someone. Get your kid to do it – yes, they can do more than you think! And, teaching them these skills will help them in life. Sure, it may not be exactly as you like it, but won’t it be good enough? Especially when that beach is calling you? Let go of perfectionism and live a little…
How many activities do you have your kids signed up for? Is it really necessary? What if instead, you took them on grand adventures, investigations, and explorations? Will they even remember that math problem they solved, that soccer game they won, that ceramics class they took? Turn the focus on real experiences that build lasting memories, love for adventure and discovery, and quality time with loved ones.
Oh, and on the subject of kids, who can forget school? Don’t be afraid to buck the system a bit and take your kids out of school for travel and other life experiences. It’s really not going to hurt them, and will actually help build stronger, more capable adults. Trust me, I’ve seen it work first hand.
Always On, Always Available
These days, with cell phones everywhere, we have created an always on and available society. People are constantly answering texts and phone calls, checking facebook or craigslist, all while standing in line, driving (yep, still happens), “listening” in meetings, etc. We are bombarded by messages to “do it all” and being told a million different ways what we should be doing. We have an abundance of choices at any given moment, and we try to do as many as we can. This mentality has created an illusion of effective multi-tasking that simply does not exist. Turn it off, set it aside, focus on the task at hand – and it will all get done better and more efficiently. You really don’t have to be on and available 24×7. You don’t. No one is that important to others. Make sure you are taking care of yourself. How much time are you really spending on the phone, computer, game system, TV? Keep track for a week. Is this how you want to spend your precious moments on earth?
Ok, so I get it. We are creatures of habit and change is hard. Start small. Start with giving yourself permission to stop. I challenge you to do two simple things. (1) Schedule at least one hour a week to turn everything off and go do something you enjoy. Take a hike, bicycle ride, visit a museum, try a new restaurant, check out a park in your area, whatever trips your trigger. And (2) Schedule 15 minutes at the end of your day and review how you spent your time. Can you eliminate anything? Can you delegate? Is it something that must be done or could it have waited or not been done at all? And remember – activity is not value. Use this analysis to make small changes each day. Learn to say no. Learn to delegate effectively to others – including your children. Learn to let things go and not expect perfection. Use this to capture more and more time out of your week to schedule ‘get-away’ time. Make it a goal to be able to spend a half day, a whole day, even a weekend doing the things you really enjoy. Make it a priority in your life now, not ‘some day’.
Your goal is not to be perfect, but to be yourself and to find more time to enjoy the journey. Good luck and godspeed!
Thanks for reading!
Kristi (aka The Trippy Tripster)