March 25, 2014

Thinking Differently About Time

Tick Tock | Grown-up Shoes

(photo by Cy Twombly)

Lately it can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. Even when I wake up early, I still end up feeling like I didn’t do quite enough when I go to sleep that night. I’ll come home from work and the house will be a mess or it will be too late for me to start dinner, or I’ll realize I haven’t exercised in like three weeks and it can feel discouraging. I want my cake and to eat it too: a job I love and a clean house. Time to exercise and work on the blog.

But lately I’ve re-framed the way I think about my time. It’s been a really helpful exercise and I’d love to share it with you.

I realized when I think about time that the feeling of scarcity keeps popping up. Even going back to the first sentence of this post, that feeling of not having enough time to “do it all” was running rampant in my head and making me feel depleted, “too busy” and beat down. Did I knock one thing off my checklist? Well great, except here’s two more things to add to it! Blech, no thank you.

So when I find myself in a tailspin of didn’t do enough, don’t have the time, feeling drained and defeated, I try to ask myself a simple question. Let’s say it’s late on a weeknight and I don’t have time to clean the house, cook dinner or catch up on Downton Abbey and I’m feeling bad about it. In that moment I’ll ask myself: Well, I don’t have time to do those things, but what did I choose instead of those things today?

And by that I mean, what did I choose to do with the time I would’ve spent doing one of those things? Maybe I caught up with a friend over a glass of wine after work. Or went for a jog or maybe I just read my book or had a bath after a long day. Reminding myself that I make choices with my time helps me feel better about not having the house in perfect order, or having a perfect dinner ready every night, or even posting on this blog as much as I once used to.

Doing this also helps remind me that sometimes I trade practicality for fun, and that that’s totally okay. Maybe I skipped a workout class because I wanted to go to Anthropologie after work? Great! I think leaving room for, and even prioritizing, fun in your schedule is a good thing, whatever that means to you. So something that I might feel guilty about previously (Internal dialogue when leaving Anthropologie: wait did I really just hit up the Anthropologie sale section over going to cardio kickboxing? what was I thinking? These abs aren’t going to tone themselves!) becomes more understanding, less harsh (That was fun! So I skipped a workout, but I got to do something spontaneous and out of my normal routine. Today I prioritized fun over exercise…and I’m totally okay with that).

It’s a simple reminder that I do actually get a lot done in the day, that I control how I spend my time and that the decisions I make are based on my priorities, which might even change from day to day. It’s also a reminder to do something fun everyday, whether that’s cooking a new recipe with Adam or going out to a fun lunch or reading my book at night. I get so in the zone with productivity during the week, but it feels so good to stop and make time for something fun, just for the fun’s sake.

What do you do when you feel like you don’t have time to do it all? Any exercises you’d like to share? I’d love to hear!

15 Comments

  • Chelsea  / 

    I really like this tactic for dealing with that end of the day guilt for not finishing a to do list. I have also been realizing lately that to do lists are never done, no matter what there always tends to be more that I want to accomplish by the end of the day. So instead of thinking about what didn’t get done on that list today, I like to think about what did, even if it is just one small thing like getting the bills paid. Or like you mentioned taking a break and enjoying life! And looking on to what I want to accomplish tomorrow! Thanks for sharing this post. It’s helpful to hear that you aren’t alone when it comes to juggling everything there is to do in life and learning what we can do to cope with everything that gets thrown our ways.

    (Reply)

    Ana Perkins / March 26th, 2014 at 8:02 am

    Totally agree on the to do lists! It can be disheartening at the end of the day to see one thing crossed off a long list. Love the idea of focusing on what you have accomplished vs. what you haven’t. Thank you for this thoughtful comment:)

    (Reply)

  • Natalie Melchiorre  / 

    Such a great post filled with wonderful lessons! You’re fortunate to have figured this out now, with so much opportunity for joy ahead of you. I try to practice most of what you mentioned, but I also allow myself to let things go. If something has been sitting on my list for a while, I need to get honest with myself and make a decision if I want to commit to getting it done. It also helps me to make those lists in the context of “lifetime”, “5 years”, “this year”, “this quarter”, and “today”. I revisit it every quarter (3 months) and shift things around as my landscape changes. I think the reality of what you can/can’t do and want/don’t want to do becomes more natural and feels comfortable as the years pass and you get to know yourself better.

    (Reply)

    Ana Perkins / March 26th, 2014 at 8:04 am

    What a great idea to make those separate lists. You sound so organized and focused—now I want to make those lists for myself!

    Completely agree about staring at something on “the list” and realizing you just don’t want to do it or it isn’t going to happen. Such a gift as we get older to be able to know ourselves and give ourselves more breaks around things like this.

    Love this comment—thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    (Reply)

  • Nomadic D.  / 

    Love this. And it’s funny because it’s been on my mind quite a bit lately, and I don’t think I’m the only one. I just listened to a great interview by Terry Gross on Fresh Air with Brigid Schulte about her new book Overwhelmed (http://www.amazon.com/Overwhelmed-Work-Love-Play-When-ebook/dp/B00EX0XYU6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395928486&sr=8-1&keywords=overwhelmed) and while I haven’t read it yet (no time, ha!) it’s next on my list and the interview itself was so enlightening. We really are just trying to be superheroes and our expectations of ourselves and our level of perfectionism are getting completely out of hand. So it’s time to reel it in a bit, to be a little nicer and more realistic, and to appreciate the small simple pleasures and even just taking a few minutes to stop and do nothing, or go shopping or watch tv, all that is good and useful in some way. And you’re so right about the idea of our Choice being important in this, it helps bring a sense of control and consciousness back into all this mess. Anyway, I’m rambling, but this post just really hit home with me. Thanks!

    http://www.nomadicd.com

    (Reply)

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  • Jessica @ The Mindless Musings  / 

    Wow I really never thought of time this way. This post really got me thinking. I’m actually in high school and there is so many things going on in my head right now like SAT’/ACT, college, grades, you pretty much get it :) I feel like there’s a never ending check list these days but your post really made me stop and think how it’s okay to just take a break, take a fun break.. thank you for this :)

    (Reply)

  • Occasional browser  / 

    Very interesting post, and spot on. Too bad we equate “busy” with happy and validated. I am coming around to see things in this same light as you describe here. We are often too busy checking items off the to-do list, dreaming of the day when we get everything done and finally have time to waste on online shopping or reading a novel or whatever. Now I try to sprinkle a bit of those “wasted moments” into my daily routine. I finally realized that the list will never get done, and I had better dip into those activities I put out there as things to do when everything else is done. Otherwise I will never get to experience those leisurely times. It’s a fine balance between getting tasks done and living the life we dream of living when all those tasks actually are done. Carpe diem.

    (Reply)

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  • Rachel  / 

    Seeing that sweet high school lady’s comment above really reiterated what this post is about to me. I want to tell her and my high school self (ten years ago now) to not worry grades or a to do list, just have fun and enjoy that time, and that the “wasted” time is probably the best part! And I’m sure my ten year ahead future self will be telling my now self the same thing.

    And I used to rewrite my to do lists as I crossed things off, but now I keep them and add on so I can appreciate how much I have already done :)

    (Reply)

  • Jen K.  / 

    Ugh this was spot on for how I’ve been feeling for I don’t even know how long. At night, I won’t even let myself relax until everything is clean and in order even though I worked all day, spent time with my kid, had good interaction with my husband and possibly cooked dinner or just a myriad of other productive things. If they’re not ALL done then it wasn’t a good day. Thank you for the simple reminder to just be glad in the decisions that I have made and know that I get to make more decisions tomorrow. So, tonight I will relax and get caught up on Scandal! :)

    (Reply)

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