Earlier this week, my friend Kevin shared this link on Facebook. In it, Tim Urban outlines all of the ways to consider our time left – in terms of years, weeks, days to go; books left to read, dumplings to consume, time to spend with our parents.
It’s not hard to do the math and see that he’s probably right, but the realization of our time being limited and what that means in tangible terms is startling.
And, more importantly, it forces you to think about your priorities. Have I made good decisions? Am I enjoying the time I have here? Am I focusing on what’s really most important to me?
If I’m not, what can I do to get my act together?
This all, conveniently, tied in with a lot of things I have been thinking about in the past few weeks – and really over the past year.
I skimmed through my notebooks and old calendars to see what I have scribbled in summers and Decembers past about what my values are and what my goals are and how I think I’d like to get from where not-there-yet to there. I scrawled through Facebook’s On This Day posts to see what I’d done. I looked at my blog for the One Little Words of the past. Did anything I had planned make sense in my priorities? Did it fit with how I want to spend the second half of my life (life expectancy for women in this country apparently is 81 years – I have 40 to go, so I guess I have officially hit mid-life?).
Here are the things I noticed:
- As I have gotten older, I have become more specific with what I want – “write 500 words a day” versus an arbitrary “write more.”
- After I became a mother, my wording was far less about personal accomplishment and more about how meeting this goal would be good for those around me – “I want to exercise more so I can look better in my bathing suit/wedding gown/favorite outfit” versus “I want to exercise more so that I can have more energy to play with my son or go do things with my family.”
- Most of my goals post motherhood involve the desire to get more organized – I have created lists and forms and planners that would make famed efficiency experts Frank & Lillian Gilbreth* swoon.
- The word BALANCE shows up at least a zillion times.
- I have renewed and revisited and rejuvenated my goal-setting to happen at least 3 times a year – every January, every June, and every August.
- I haven’t really been all that successful at any sustainable changes no matter how much I try to create positive new habits.
The more I looked at the amount of time I have and what that means in terms of my priorities, the more I looked at my past resolutions and my track record for what worked and for how long, the more I realized that the one thing holding me back is plain old self-handicapping procrastination.
Case in point: I got up and, before took my son to swim practice the other day, I got dressed for hitting the gym myself. After all, it was a 90 minute practice and I had more than enough time to log whatever amount of time I could on the elliptical or whatever. But I didn’t do it. Never even signed in. I sat in the lobby and read or scrolled through social media first – I wanted to check something first and then I got distracted with reading my book (also on my phone). Then I never bothered to get up and go sign in. When my own kid called me out about it after his practice, I gave him a lame excuse about not having my membership card. “Mom,” he said, “just sign in. They’ll look you up.” He’s right. But it was easier to do this than start working out again.
This isn’t just confined to working out or starting something new. Or even doing things I’d really rather not do .
I have lists of blog posts I could write about (I like to write!). I could finish all sorts of projects I have sketched ideas out about (I only make notes about projects I think would be enjoyable). My house could be clean all the time if I didn’t wait until I was trying to procrastinate on something else before I had the desire to dig out the cleaning supplies (I really, really love a clean house…though if you have visited my home lately you’d probably not believe me…).
IF I JUST GOT STARTED…
There are lot of good things I want to do for me, for my family, for my students, and for the bigger world. I can’t get any of it done if I don’t get started.
So the word I kept coming back to over and over and over again as I pondered a goal this year was DO.
I want to DO the work, DO the things I find most important, DO my best.
The most important thing I can DO for myself is to find a way to consistently get started.
My current plan of attack is to plan small. Ten minutes of exercise daily. Ten minutes of cleaning/organizing daily. Ten minutes of homework before dinner. Ten minutes of writing before school. I can do just about anything for ten minutes – so this could be what pushes me through my procrastination to productivity. Success begets success; just starting creates a momentum of its own.
*If you don’t know the Gilbreths, they were the parents of the family in the book/1950 movie Cheaper by the Dozen. I’ll probably write more about this article later, but I have always thought they were fascinating.