Taking Time to Make Time

Last week I wrote a bit about being busy. At the time, it seemed like I was paddling upstream in an inner-tube using a broom for an oar. After my post, I decided to step back and take a hard look at all of the things on my “to do list” that just weren’t getting done. There were several sewing and gardening projects, a language class I had purchased last year that was set to expire this month, items to be posted to Ebay for our decluttering project, and items already posted on Craigslist that needed to be dealt with.

As I sat with my list in hand, I channeled my inner Marie Kondo and asked myself if there was anything on the list that I even wanted to do – things that would actually bring me joy. That’s when a lot of the list fell apart.

I wanted to make an insulated bottle holder for those quick walks in the park where carrying a backpack for the sake of one water bottle was just too cumbersome. I, however, did not want to make curtains for the kids’ new house. I definitely wanted to work in the garden but I absolutely had no interest in taking the language class. I wanted to declutter, just maybe not now. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with crazy Craigslist buyers making appointments and never showing up or packing up things for Ebay.

With my now scratched out list, I began to take action. I cancelled all of the ads on Craigslist. I put the Ebay box back in the closet. I jotted down the curtain sizes and put them in my purse so that I could search Goodwill or Big Lots this weekend for something on sale. And I decided to let the course expire (I had purchased it through Groupon for $5 last March so it wasn’t a huge loss).

When I said last week that we were going to put busyness out of business, I meant it. I don’t like the overwhelmed feeling that comes with having too many things to do and not enough time to do them (or more aptly, the perception of having too much to do and too little time to do it). There’s always time when you make time.

So Angie and I sat down on Sunday to take time to make time. At the top of our brainstorming list I wrote – if we weren’t busy doing things we don’t want to do, what would we do instead? The ensuing list took up an entire page in my bullet journal! We surmised that we would:

  • Go outside more often,
  • Work in the garden,
  • Have planned play dates with our little niece, and
  • Simply relax!

As minimalists, we had already spent years paring down our possessions and responsibilities so that we could do just those things that were now on our list. So what was the problem? Why weren’t we doing them then?

We spent a little time talking this out and concluded that we had inadvertently adopted (or adapted to) the ways of the culture we were living in. You see, in Florida, we were surrounded by laid back retirees of all ages whose to-do lists consisted mostly of…well, those items on our list. Folks didn’t stress over a whole lot and they certainly didn’t keep score of accomplishments the way our family and friends here in Tennessee do. Busyness, you might say, is the state pastime here. Just yesterday morning, one of my neighbors posted this on Facebook:

You can’t see the comments but they all contain lists from other people of what they had done that day. It’s almost like a competition!

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with having a productive day, the glorification of busyness is what I find bothersome. The fact that so many people that we know and love equate taking time out to simply do nothing with being lazy (or worse, doing something for yourself with being selfish!) is absolutely sad. This is something that, as a culture, we need to change.

Being idle is perfectly okay. Taking care of yourself and fulfilling your own needs first, is more than just perfectly okay. It is necessary.

“If you aren’t good at loving yourself, you will have a difficult time loving anyone, since you’ll resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren’t even giving to yourself.” – Barbara De Angelis

We decided that the biggest change we need to make to be content while living here is to exit the busyness highway. We don’t need to compete with our neighbors to see who did the most with their day off and most importantly, we don’t need to feel guilty for doing things for ourselves. To facilitate this change, we took the list of things we really wanted to do with our time and wrote them down on our April calendar. We planned them into our life. We made them our highest priority.

You can take a peek at our calendar at the top of this post. Note how we didn’t put any activities down for Work-Free Wednesday. We left those open to be spontaneous – to do absolutely nothing if we so desire 🙂

What are some of the ways you make time for yourself?

If you want to read a fun article about the joys of being idle, check out 10 Ways to Enjoy Doing Nothing

PS – the calendar we used in the photo was among a stack of freebie calendars given to us by a friend and wasn’t intentionally selected to promote the particular charity listed on it. We chose it because the monthly photos are all of birds. 

The Business of Being Busy

If there’s one thing I hate more than anything, it might be being busy. More specifically, being so busy that I don’t have time for the things that matter most to me. Aside from the week we spent in Florida (which was busy in a different way), the whole month has been busy, busy, busy. And what exactly have I been busy doing? I’m not all that sure.

Yesterday was International Day of Happiness and I completely missed it. I was busy with work. It was also the first day of Spring. I didn’t realize that until today. Yep, that business about being busy again. In fact, I’ve been so busy that this is the first time I’ve had a moment to write in over a week.

Some folks might think that busyness is a good thing. It certainly prevents boredom and ticking things off the to-do list does tend to make you feel accomplished. And if your busyness is connected to a vocation, there’s a good chance you may even be doing something important.

My mom is one of those folks that likes to stay busy. When she sits down to watch her favorite show, Chopped, she often tells me that she feels guilty for “wasting time”. Generally I fuss at her about this, making sure to hammer home the point that it’s okay not to be busy all the time. Kind of hypocritical of me, huh? Tell her one thing, then do another myself? Yes, I know, I need to do a better job.

My busyness this month has been the result of two things – first, I didn’t prioritize and second, I failed to make space for my own self in my schedule. The art of not being busy is serious business and requires a bit of effort to accomplish.

Some of my favorite minimalist bloggers – Joshua Becker and Leo Babauta – have a lot of good things to say about freeing oneself from the business of being busy. As a reminder to myself (and anyone else who suffers similarly), I’m paraphrasing some of them here.

Tips for Being Less Busy

  • Make a conscious choice to stop being busy. Busyness is a fool’s game. The more  you do, the more pops up to be done. If you want to be less busy, just decide to stop.
  • Establish priorities. Busyness is often a matter of misplaced priorities. Decide what things are most important to you (or the work you are doing) and schedule your time around those things.
  • Schedule time for yourself. Whether its an hour a day or a full day every week, everyone needs downtime and the best way to make sure you get it is to put it on the calendar.
  • Just say no to the things you don’t want to do. It’s absolutely okay to decline an invitation, refuse extra work, or avoid responding to a distraction (like a ringing phone or text message).

Tomorrow is Work-Free Wednesday for us. It’s the day we’ve set aside each week to do only those things that we want to do. No work allowed. Last Wednesday, we made the mistake of agreeing to babysit on our free day. Not that we don’t love and enjoy the little one but we spent the rest of the week feeling that we had missed our time-out time. I’m hoping this Wednesday is a reboot, a chance to reconnect with our less busy selves, and remember what it means to be unhurried (and unworried about it too). Starting tomorrow, we’re putting busyness out of business…one day at a time.

Weekly Progress to Happiness Goals Report (week ending 3/18)

    • No Spend Days = 5
      YTD = 39/200
    • Meatless Days = 5
      YTD = 34.5/144
    • Miles Walked/Hiked = 18.6/0
      YTD = 140.2/1,000 and 20.8/100
    • Decluttered Items = 0
      YTD = 217/2017
    • Side Hustle Income = $14.00
      YTD = $413.53/$1,825