We all have twenty-four hours in a day. Some of us have the resources and wherewithal to leverage that time more effectively than others. While we may not all be on equal footing in that regard, we all make choices about how we spend our time. For too long, I viewed my days as an hourglass that sat next to my to-do list. On good days, the list would be finished before the sand ran out. On most days, though, the list would spill over into the next day.
For the past few weeks, I’m trying to reconsider how I budget my time. Instead of simply tackling whatever is on the list first or whatever habit is ingrained so deeply in my subconscious that I don’t even have to put in on the list, I’m prioritizing my day. I’m also trying to change the way I view my time. Instead of simply thinking to myself, “I don’t have time for this,” I’m swapping out that phrase for “I don’t value that right now”. Harsh? Maybe. But very few eye-opening truths aren’t. Time is finite, so I’m going to attempt to spend it more wisely.
About a month ago, I was rushing through a phone call with my parents. I still had to make lunches, empty the dishwasher, and tackle the never-ending stream of grading before crawling into bed. I hurried the conversation to the end and we said our goodnights. I knew I’d talk to them again tomorrow. But here’s the thing: it’s great to plan for the future, but that’s not actually where life happens. Today matters most. It’s all we really have.
I could have let myself off the hook really easily. I could have said, “I don’t have time to talk to them right now.” That’s completely understandable, easily forgivable. Everyone knows time is precious. But what my actions were really saying was that I didn’t value that conversation as much as I valued…what? An empty dishwasher? 10 extra minutes to dink around on social media before bed?
The act of comparing items on a to-do list with a value statement has been a game changer for me. No more grading or checking work emails during dinner with my husband. “Sorry, hun. I don’t value conversation with you as much as I value this map of the Middle East.” No more skipping a walk around the neighborhood or a quick yoga routine. “I don’t value my health nearly as much as I value checking blog traffic for the 47th time this week.” A to-do list is far more than a bulleted list of tasks. It’s a roadmap to the future. Why shouldn’t we all reconcile those actions with our values? As near as I can tell, it is a much more effective way to get where you really want to be.
Because time is such a finite resource, there are some things that I have simply had to eliminate. I don’t follow TV shows anymore. If I have time, I’ll watch a DVD from the library while I jog on the treadmill. If I’m lucky, I might convince Mr. P to watch How to Get Away with Murder on On Demand as part of a weekend date night. I’m also working on eliminating other timesucks from my daily routine. I took my personal Facebook off my phone. I’ve stopped replying to work emails past 6 PM. I don’t flip through junk mail. I’ve unsubscribed from most email lists. I decluttered my phone and said goodbye to every last app that didn’t bring joy or utility to my life.
Everyone has twenty-four hours in a day. Instead of letting my days be driven by obligations and mindless habits, I’m going to let my values take the reins. I’m going to make time for what matters.
So Tell Me…What else could I cut out from my day? What do feel adds the most value to your day-to-day living?