168. The number of hours in a week. We all get the same amount. What happens from there is up to us.
I get tired of hearing “everyone’s just so busy.” Why? Are these conscious choices to participate in activities that bring us joy or help us grow? Or have we drifted into this schedule because that’s what it’s like for those we know and so we just assume this is the was it has to be for us too?
Certainly, there are things we must do like work, household chores, and caring for children (and sometimes parents). Beyond that, we need to identify what is necessary and helpful for our physical, mental and emotional well-being and be diligent about making those activities a priority.
We all need friends and real human connection. If we are too busy to get together with people then I think that’s a problem. There are also people with the opposite situation, that of having constant superficial interactions that they never spend quality time with anyone. They’re like social hummingbirds, always flitting about from one social contact to another without ever really getting to know anyone or being known themselves.
If you want your social life to be more than empty calories then you will need to invest time in people, and this will take effort. How do you make time for this? You may have to get creative in order to make use of small pockets of opportunity—meet for lunch on your break, have someone over for tea when the kids are down for a nap, or go to the gym together.
You could invite others to share in your hobbies, like hosting a knit night. Or involve them in your projects and have people over to address postcards for a charity fundraiser instead of slogging through it yourself. You can even rope people in for your obligations, as long as you make it fun. I’ve had a good time helping friends prepare to move (although in one instance I did need to step outside as I was getting loopy from the oven cleaner).
Another thing that we need to carve out time for is pursuing our interests. This could be a hobby, a sport, a skill we are trying to learn, or reading about something that gets us excited. We need this mental stimulation and a chance to express what makes us unique individuals. I have found that when I don’t get to be creative then I become depressed.
The best situation is when we can allow ourselves to become lost in an engaging activity and really get into the flow of what we’re doing. The creativity pours out of us and everything just seems to gel together by itself without it feeling like work to us. I love it when I can become so engrossed in a project that I forget about the pizza in the oven until I smell that it’s burning. A total bummer for dinner but awesome for the mind.
I think we need to be on guard against time wasters, things that suck us in and sap our energy. This stuff is what we do when we want to procrastinate until we have no motivation to do anything and then it’s almost time to go to bed so we might as well sit here and succumb to inertia. I’ve been known to play solitaire (the old fashioned kind, with a deck of cards) to relax for a few minutes in the evening and then two hours later I realized that if I were going to stay up that late anyway I could have done something of value, like finish one of these articles before the deadline.
An easy way to identify a black hole in your day is to see if it relates to the things you say you value. I talk a lot about how much writing means to me but if you look at how I actually spend my time then you’d think that watching Jane Austen movies is way higher on my list of priorities. Put your money where your mouth is and don’t fill up your schedule with junk food activities.
You may have to learn to say no a bit more often—but remember that this gives you the freedom to say yes to something else. Those 168 hours are yours to do with as you will. And if you mess up then you get another chance to get it right next week.