When was the last time you met someone who wasn’t busy? The last time you bumped into an acquaintance in the grocery store or the neighborhood Starbucks and they were like “Oh, hey! I’m good. Just hanging out, not much going on…”. Here you go, how about the last time you got together with a friend and when you parted ways and did the usual “Oh we should do this more often!” they said “Well, I’m not doing anything tomorrow, all day. Or the rest of the month…” Was it never? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone over the age of maybe 10 who didn’t have a full calendar.
I’ve heard people try to explain this away as a symptom of our time, “this fast-paced world of technology and instant gratification”. It’s true that now our checks are instantly deposited, our movies are already “in” our TVs, our food is usually microwaveable in 3 minutes, and we can have text message conversations for seconds and accomplish what used to take 5 minutes of telephone pleasantries to accomplish. Let’s be honest though, our grandmothers were really busy too. When the plug-in hair dryer was invented they were all excited because now they would have time to iron their stockings or something. Now that I think about it they were probably busier than we are now.
So, we’re all busy, and always have been, and aside from one day a year when you might get “extra time” from the randomness that is Daylight Savings Time, none of us are getting more hours in a day. We all have 24 to accomplish everything on that ever-present To-Do List, or try again tomorrow. Take a minute to think through your day. Start with your morning and think about what you set out to accomplish today, what came up and how you did on crossing items off that to-do list.
The things on your daily list reveal who you are and what’s important to you. Waking up early or sleeping in, eating breakfast or choosing not to, starting your work day with email or chatting with coworkers, paper or plastic, they all are indicators into what you find most important.
If you woke up early you have placed greater value on whatever you woke up to do than getting a bit more sleep. Whether that be makeup, time with your kids, a specific breakfast, a workout, or getting in some news, at some point you determined that it was important for you to have that thing in your morning. As a result, sleep left the agenda for that time slot. When you got dressed in sweat pant joggers and a bulky knit sweater, you were valuing comfort or maybe ease of movement over formality. Maybe after running around picking up kids from this practice and that friend’s house you decided that simplicity and speed were the most valuable attributes for dinner and that led you to swing by the closest fast food shop. None of these things are better or worse, they simply illustrate that your values and priorities directly shape the day to day decisions that you make.
What about some things that you intended to do today? Maybe some things that were on the list but didn’t quite get done. Or maybe some things that didn’t even make it to the list but you have this guilty feeling about. It’s not usually a challenge to come up with a fairly hefty list of these, right?! There are countless floors that should have been cleaned, loads of laundry that should have been done, workouts that were going to be crushed, salads to be made, hard conversations to be had, teeth to be flossed… And it’s hard because every time you say ‘yes’ you are saying ‘no’ to a million other options.
Sometimes that feels really great. Sometimes we say ‘yes’ to brushing out teeth and ‘no’ to going to bed with a fuzzy mouth. We say ‘yes’ to salad and water and a workout and ‘no’ to chicken wings, Mountain Dew and YouTube.
At other times, it feels pretty crappy. Saying ‘yes’ to staying late at work and ‘no’ to going shopping stinks. Doing laundry because you’ve already worn this pair of undies for three days might mean that you use plastic forks and paper plates because the dishes don’t get done. There will always be something you say ‘no’ to, but as I said, the things you do reveal what is most important to you.
In the 24 hours we all get in a day, we each accomplish the things that are the greatest priority to us, the activities that we find most important, the “musts”. Whatever those things are, we ensure that they happen, no matter what. If the highest priority is that you ensure the safety and wellbeing of your children, that will be accomplished. When your highest value is that you are informed, feel connected to the world and have current events to discuss with others, you will ensure that at various points in your day you listen to the radio, read a newspaper, read some articles online, read Twitter posts, or consume news articles in other ways. People for whom health and fitness are the greatest priority, will prep the meals, do the workouts, and evaluate their goals.
When I first started thinking about my daily activities as mirrors of my values it changed my whole perspective. I felt a renewed purpose in each little task. Brushing my teeth became less mundane because I could link it to an end value of keeping my teeth. I could breathe easy when I walked past the basket of laundry yet to be folded because I could acknowledge and accept that having all of my clothing immediately folded and in my drawer, was not as big of a priority to me as having dinner on the table ten minutes later.
Please, do yourself a favor. Take a deep breath. Think of everything that didn’t get done because you decided it wasn’t absolutely necessary, and let it all go. Forgive yourself if you’re feeling guilty or angry about the way your day went. Acknowledge that the things that you intended to do were good, but something else was more critical. Let yourself be ok with that. Accept and appreciate that you accomplished the things that were urgent and brought the most value into your life. If you don’t care about keeping your shower clean, you let that shower mold grow to just before it becomes unhealthy. Ironing is the biggest bane to your existence? Steam clothes with the shower, send them to a dry cleaner, throw away everything that wrinkles! Your life is yours to create, and you get to choose what you value most, work toward and what brings you joy.
A couple of things about this. If you’ve read anything that I’ve written you know that this is not an encouragement for you to sit on the couch for the rest of your life, eating cake and feeling good about it, because you just don’t value health. This is me saying
“YO! There are a million things more important than cleaning your kitchen floor and making your bed, especially if you hate those things! You have a HUGE purpose in life and it is not to spend your days doing things that you think should be important to you because your parents or your friends or the TV has told you that they are important!”
Seriously. Because eventually all of those things we should do will probably become musts at some point. We’ve all experienced this. You walk past a piece of paper on the floor 145 times, but on the 146th time you finally give in to the voice in your head and throw it away. I find this every week between the specks on my bathroom mirror, the dishes in my sink, the papers on my desk, and getting groceries, there always comes a time that those things slide to the top of my values. I value seeing myself in the mirror instead of a wall of toothpaste drops. It’s important to me to have healthy, whole-food meals, so I will go to the grocery store regardless of how I’m feeling after a few days of random stuff from the pantry. And my favorite, if nothing else works to elevate household chores up your to-do list, there will always be the day that company comes to visit 😉
Sending so much love as you learn to think about your activities as expressions of your values, and to let go of everything that didn’t make the cut ❤