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I’m terrible at making plans.
Well actually I’m terrible at keeping plans. Specifically plans to spend my time writing, or time for things I enjoy – like reading or hanging out with friends.
I start out with the best intentions – tell myself in the morning that I’m going to get something done that night, or finish that chapter of my new book, no matter what!… But inevitably a what comes along that sure seems to matter.
Like sleepiness. Or the fact that my boyfriend turned on Netflix and it’s that one episode of The Office that I’ve seen a million times but I need to watch it again right now.
It’s the same way every year with Christmas shopping. “I’m gonna get all my shopping done in November this year so then I can send things out and not have to stress about last minute buying!” I say that every year. And then it’ll be the middle of December and I’ll have only bought like four things for people that weren’t myself.
But the truth is, it doesn’t matter what my intentions are or the plans I make in my head. What matters is my priorities. If these things were really important to me, really high on my list of priorities, I would make the time to do them. I’d get them done before letting myself fall asleep on the couch to reruns of silly TV shows.
Sure, life happens and you can’t always control every minute of your day. And yes, a certain level of procrastination is bound to be expected. Especially from a writer (sometimes the only thing we want to do more than write is literally everything else).
But when it comes down to it, you’ll make the time to do the things that matter to you. Or you’ll realize that they don’t matter. OR you’ll spend your whole life wishing you had tried.
I know – this is not a new or novel idea. In fact, it’s incredibly obvious. But for some reason knowing that you need to get your priorities straight is infinitely less helpful than actually straightening your priorities.
And I think that’s due in part to two big things:
#1 – It’s hard. It’s a lot easier to get home from work, sit on the couch with your feet up and watch a mindless television show about work scenarios that are, believe it or not, actually worse than yours. But in the long run, is it really easier to do nothing every evening and then constantly wish your life was different? Or is it easier to spend a little time now working hard, so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor later? I think we both know that it former is, frankly, terrible.
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”― Roy Disney
#2 – You don’t actually know what your priorities are. You hear people talk about priorities and values and you think things like family and loved ones and maybe health and financial security. But do you really stop to consider what it is that’s important to you and how to achieve or protect it? For example, I never once stopped to realize how much I valued my time until I accepted a job that essentially robbed me of my time. Had I considered that value first, I might have done things differently.
For me some other values are health, financial security, and a platform for creative expression (i.e. this blog).
I’ve got health way up there on my list and it’s obvious – I leave work every day and go straight to the gym. I don’t even give myself an option. It’s a part of my day, every day. Now why can’t I do that with writing? Why can’t I squeese in twenty or thirty minutes every day to sit down and write?
That’s a trick question of course – I can do that. It just seems hard when I feel like I’m not even in control of my time to begin with. But the truth is, one hour less of sleep probably won’t feel like much, but one hour of writing a day would certainly amount to So Much more content for this blog (and that ever elusive book).
Financial security… that’s another tricky one. I thought I had a handle on that but I didn’t really think it through before accepting a job that doesn’t pay me enough to save anything from my paychecks. Again, had I thought that through, and realized how important it was to me, I might have done things differently.
“Nobody’s life is ever all balanced. It’s a conscious decision to choose your priorities every day.”– Elisabeth Hasselbeck
There is of course a secret third reason. A reason you probably know all too well…
#3 – It’s scary. We’re afraid of investing the time or the money or the energy into the things we want for fear of missing out on something else. Or things not working out the way we’d planned. We’re afraid that if we actually try, we’ll transform that elusive “what if” into a “well, that failed”. And let’ be honest – change is scary. Changing your routine is scary. Changing your life, even if for the better, is scary.
To be honest there’s not much I can offer on the fear front, because I know that risking failure is still less scary than never trying at all. I don’t want to look back one day and think “If only I had tried just a little harder…” or “man I was miserable, but hey! At least I had health insurance!”
So I guess what I’m saying is…. It’s time to start thinking about the things that I value, prioritizing the actions that will achieve and protect those values, and then spend my time accordingly.
Nothing is going to change unless I first figure out what needs to change. And blog posts and books aren’t going to write and read themselves – I need to prioritize the actions that will get me there. After all, I don’t want to get so busy making a living that I forget to make a life.
“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” ― Dolly Parton
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