My yoga teacher shared this quote with us in class today, and it resonated with me enough that I thought I’d use it to help me respond to Marie’s Wicked Wednesday prompt regarding time-management.
Not long ago, I’ve written several posts on planning, goals, and time-management over the past few weeks, and I do spend a lot of time researching what others have to say on the subject, trying hard to use my time in the most effective ways, set priorities, and plan and achieve all the right goals. It can be overwhelming, trying to keep up with everything I feel I’m supposed to be accomplishing. But I wanted to take a moment to respond to this quote in light of that, taking a step back and getting real.
After all of the books I’ve read and listened to, I’d like to point out that I find them valid and helpful in many ways. And during the years that ask questions, seeking answers outside of myself is simply research…collecting…filling the well, as it may be. But I feel that I am currently in a year that answers those questions, and that’s when I take what I’ve learned and build from what I know and feel to be right for me.
No one but me can determine my priorities or decide how I am going to spend my time. And how I spend my time says everything about what I value.
At the beginning of the year, I time blocked and goal-set, and now I’m at the revision stage, getting real (and honest) and making changes to create workable routines that meet the real demands of my life and the needs of my soul.
Simply put, I over-planned. Which is okay, because now that I’ve lived my schedule for a few weeks, I’m finding the holes and weaknesses. I’m find out what I can really handle. And I’m reasserting my priorities by being flexible and reworking things until I find what works.
For example, my morning routine was too tight. I realized that doing yoga every morning didn’t actually energize or center me. It stressed me out. I get up at 5 a.m. every weekday morning (or thereabouts). It’s something I’ve trained myself to do over time. I need that hour before everyone else is up to just wake up and be, and trying to place demands on that time failed immediately. I’m a happier person when I just use that time to drink coffee and catch up on my reading. I need to keep it simple. So my morning routine has gone back to normal and I’ve accepted that this is just what works for me…let the dogs out, get my coffee, read, check and set my day’s schedule, fill out my 5-Minute Journal. That’s it. It’s a time to take stock and set myself up for the day. And trying to demand more of it is just not going to work.
My daily schedule has also cleared up a bit. There is just only so much I can ask myself to do in a given day. With time-blocking (I do this using Google Calendar by color-coding and setting up repeated events), I schedule in the things I HAVE to do first (like sleep and work, meetings and my son’s events), then the things I need to do (like chores, errands, workouts, and appointments), and finally the things I want to do. If I don’t have time for things I want to do, I move stuff around to make it work. It’s important to have time for those things, and I try hard to balance things so nothing owns my schedule. Right now, work takes up the majority of my weekdays (as it does for most of us). And as a parent, I end up spending quite a bit of time being a taxi driver. So, I try my stack obligations and responsibilities. I can grade while I wait for his practices to be over, or walk around the track during his soccer practices. I can listen to books while driving or walking.
But just as important as scheduling in what needs to be done is white space. Time that simply isn’t scheduled. Time when I can veg out and do something that doesn’t matter at all (oh, but it does, right?). Time to play games on my phone or fuck around on social media. Time to binge watch my favorite shows or suck horribly at playing Fortnite with my son. I’m one of those people who feels guilty when I’m not being productive, so this is something I working on accepting and valuing. This down time is necessary.
I’d love to write more than I do, read more than I do, and accomplish more than I do. But, I only have so many hours in the day, and after careful deliberation of how I schedule that time, I’ve had to let some things go…and be okay with it. Even at work, I have to do that, since I’m not willing to make myself crazy there anymore either.
I want to enjoy what I do…and that means being able to relax and focus on one thing at a time. When I’m working, I want to be present and I don’t want my to do list to be a freaking mile long. So I’ve gone through it and cut everything that wasn’t essential. And guess what. The world did not stop nor did my boss come crying that I was somehow not living up to my end of the bargain. Less is more. Pretty much every time and in every situation.
I wish I liked to workout, but I don’t. I know I have to, though, so I’ve committed to doing cardio Monday and Wednesday for 30 minutes and one time for 60 minutes on the weekend. And I have yoga Tuesday and Thursday after work. It’d be nice if I had more time for it, but right now, I don’t. Especially if I want to read (and I run a book club, so it’s sort of an necessity) and write for this blog. I don’t have time to write every night, so I’ve had to be pretty ruthless about my blogging schedule, committing to certain memes only once a month or bi-weekly so I can keep supporting other bloggers and still keep my sanity. After all, it’s not just writing for the memes that takes time and effort, it’s reading everyone else’s posts and commenting like a good community member. I enjoy doing it, but I have to be realistic about how much time I can give it.
Revision involves three actions: adding, changing, or deleting…and usually deleting is the most productive thing you can do to a rough draft. Once again…less is pretty much always more when it comes to good writing, as it is when it comes to good prioritizing and good scheduling.
Pick the things you want to focus on and figure out how to fit those things in to your schedule. It doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible and switch things up from time to time, but it does make it easier to say no (I think). I find this especially true at work. Once I’ve chosen my priorities there, if what a colleague or supervisor is asking me to do is our of my priority box, I have a much easier time defending myself when I decline. No I do not want to head up another committee. No I do not have time to be an adviser for that after-school group. No I do not need to go to another training to learn 20 new gimmicks that are no better than the things I already do. There simply isn’t enough time in my day to add anything new, no matter how good it is. And if something amazing enough comes along, it’s going to have to replace something and that thing is going to have to go. And it doesn’t make me a bad employee. It makes a discerning one who values my own time and worth. I have no problem defending that, either. Which is, of course, why I’m the department head. People rely on my ability to do that for myself and for them. I’m a master at defending time at work, and I’m getting better at doing that outside of work, too.
Time is a valuable resource, and how we spend it matters. Managing our time well is self-care. But it’s important to give ourselves a break from even that. Sometimes we need to throw our schedules out the window and take an entire weekend to do nothing. Sometimes we need to call in “sick” and just hang out on the couch.
Just because we have a schedule doesn’t mean we are locked in. Schedules are guidelines. And we need to be flexible and open when it comes to changing them. Life happens, regardless of our schedules.
So back to that quote. “I have been a seeker and still am, but I have stopped asking books and the stars…” I’m not likely to stop researching better ways to do things. There’s a lot to learn out there, and I’m not about to paint myself the expert on most of it. “I started listening to the teaching of my soul.” The thing I am doing differently is trusting myself and accepting that what works for others isn’t necessarily what will work for me. And there’s nothing wrong with me if it doesn’t.
There’s a lot of advice sloshing around out there. So many things that we “should” or “need” to do, according to some guru or sage or motivational speaker. We don’t.
Deep down, all of us know that…in our souls. We are the curators or our own destinies. Maybe that sounds “foo foo,” but it’s true, and managing our time is how we do it. We have more control than we sometimes think we do.
Sometimes I need to remind myself of that. Or my yoga teacher does.