Lain Chroust Ehmann thought that after she had a baby and started working part-time, her life would somehow get easier. Ha! If anything, she is busier now than ever before. After unsuccessfully trying to organize her life with a variety of different planning techniques, she finally tossed them all and found a little time for herself.
I tried to wrest control over my schedule by seeking a newer, better, more efficient way of managing my tasks. I shelled out over $100 for a Franklin Planner, a heavy, stain-proof leather binder with lots of neat tabs and goal setting sections, each day laid out on its own page. The instruction booklet promised that by spending fifteen minutes each evening, entering the next day's schedule, I could sit back and relax as I effortlessly achieved my goals -- losing weight, creating gourmet meals, winning the Pulitzer Prize.
So what did I do? Cut some low-priority items off my list? Hire extra help around the house? Treat myself to that massage? No. I bought another planner -- a slim, lime-green Filofax. If nothing else, it had a spray-and-wipe cover and was a heck of a lot smaller than the Franklin, and the almost fluorescent color would make the binder hard to misplace. I invested precious hours copying the information from the Franklin Planner into the Filofax. I felt good -- for about a day.
Then I resumed not having enough time to even look at my to-do list, let alone set weekly, monthly and yearly goals. If I haven't got enough time to do everything I have to do today, how could I possibly justify spending the rare minutes I do have worrying about tomorrow? I continued to operate by the "squeaky wheel" method of time management -- whatever screamed, yelled, rang or stunk the loudest got my attention. Everything else had to wait.
This worked well for things like feeding the dog and changing the baby, but friends I'd meant to call, magazines I'd meant to read, changing the oil in the car - these I sacrificed in favor of the tasks my Franklin Planner instruction booklet called "urgent, yet unimportant." So back to Office Depot I went.
My life essence seeped from me, stolen by hours of reincarnated laundry and gulped-down meals that no one really tasted. I was slowly sinking in a marsh of books to read, letters to answer, bills to pay, articles to write. I was so busy doing the things I thought I had to do in order to survive, that I lost my ability to really live.
So I've decided that enough is enough. It's time to cut back, to cut out, and to cut loose. I simply don't have the time to live this way anymore.
And "simply" is my motto from now on. Instead of finding a way to do more each day, I'm finding a way to do less -- by eliminating things unessential to my family's well-being, or to my happiness, and focusing on those events that really make a difference in the long run.
And I've made resolutions before. But this time I mean it.
I've learned my lesson -- no secret potions or planners will magically transform my 24-hour day into 36. To fit all the important things, I have to cut the unimportant ones and stop adding new ones. So here's to a new philosophy, one of simplicity, clarity and focus. No more added responsibilities or activities, no more saying "yes" to any opportunity that comes my way. No more filling the blanks in my schedule with yet another seminar/activity/club. I am going to enjoy that white space, allowing it to grow and to dissipate my stress.
Just the other day I read the description for a beginning meditation class. It explained all the damage that stress does to your body, mind and spirit. People who meditate, the flyer said, find that meditation is more than just another thing in their already-crammed life. Meditators become more effective, relaxed, and focused the rest of the day, thereby actually accomplishing more.
Sounds interesting. I've got some time Wednesday nights. I think I'll sign up.