Best Use of My Time and Energy

by justine

Monday was a day off, thanks to the marathon in Boston. I used to panic about days off. Work used to equal worth. Now, a day off is savored. Sometimes I make a list of all the fun things I want to do and other times I just let my brain pick the next thing on a whim.

This day off was a bit of both. This week, I want to accomplish a few “big rocks” each day and balance them with rest. For instance, more bridal shower gifts arrived and our bedroom feels dusty, but both take time and energy I am not willing to give right this moment. Note that I didn’t say “both take time and energy I don’t have” because in reality, I do have time and I do have energy. That’s the issue with my old mantra “I’ll rest when I’m done”.

The fact is, we’re never done.

So Monday involved fun and errands. I woke up on my own time, wrote morning pages (as I do now every day), biked with the dog and ate a quick snack. The first item on my agenda was a coffee date with two friends, Mike and Manny. The day was so gorgeous, we found ourselves walking and talking for over 2 hours. We covered almost 5 miles. It was splendid.

After that, I returned home to eat leftovers, read Harry Potter, shower and nap because I could. Napping, like taking baths, is another self-care item that I sprinkle about my days. Why deny yourself such an easy pick-me-up?

After all of that fun and resting, I did finally want to do some “work”. Post-office for wedding invitation stamps, library for books, the bank for deposits and finally, groceries. When the grocery store is empty, I find it the most relaxing thing ever. (It’s the dragging the grocery bags in from the car and unpacking them all that sucks).

And then I was back home – unpacking, checking Twitter, feeling a mile pressure to “accomplish” the next thing. But I took a step back and thought, “What would be the best use of my time and my energy?“.

Shoulds came out:

  • Run laundry
  • Check email
  • Cook dinner
  • Clean the bedroom
  • Change the sheets
  • Line the cabinets with contact paper
  • Clean the bathroom
  • Finish writing thank you notes
  • Unpack bridal shower gifts

Wants arrived as follows:

  • Blog
  • Read Harry Potter
  • Cook dinner, so we can eat dinner
  • Read the new books from the library
  • Watch the NHL playoffs

I share this with you for a few reasons. One, even a year ago, “blog” would’ve hardly made the list and certainly wouldn’t be acted on but that was, in fact, what I chose to do first. Two, I’ve come to learn that the “shoulds” become “wants” when it’s the right time for them, either when I have the energy reserves to accomplish them positively or when they really do become “urgent”. Three, I’ve also learned to find middle ground. Like, maybe I will change the sheets, but I won’t clean the bedroom. Maybe I will buy groceries and then we’ll eat a frozen pizza. Maybe I will write up 5 more thank you notes but not press myself to write the remaining 18. The point is I allow myself to mix relaxing activities into with the “work” and I in no way pressure myself to do it all. Because, really, there’s just no way. And by allowing myself that space to rest / recover / chill out, I have energy to do things that need doing. And it becomes blatantly obvious which things I just have no patience for on most days (see “line cabinets” or “check email” – yes, I do these things but only when I know I have the positive energy reserve to accomplish them – or else I find myself trying to reach a bar that is completely unattainable).

What would be the best use of my time and my energy?

It’s a key question, but I’m asking it from such a different mind-frame than I used to that my answers now make sense. My old answers would fit the mold of the “shoulds” and the rest would be some dangling carrot I would never allow myself to reach. Now, it’s a bit of both.

And if you’re not getting my version of this message, I encourage you to watch Shawn Achor’s TEDTalk about how happiness inspires creativity. Love it.