Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Earlier this month the leader of my church challenged the members of our women’s organization to participate in a 10 day fast from social media. The goal being that we would take the time we would have spent on those mostly mindless tasks and devote that time instead to serving others, reading scripture, and bettering ourselves and our communities. I took the challenge to heart and was amazed at the results.
I was also amazed at how often I pick up my phone to ‘check in’. I found myself looking at my phone the first few days and not knowing what to do with it. It just goes to show just how much time I spend/waste doing relatively unimportant things! Lessons learned: I do not miss Facebook. More often than not it’s full of negativity and meaningless trifles. I did, however, miss Instagram. For now, at least, it’s filled with more positivity and uplifting images. But they all have a tendency to suck you into a time warp and so I’ve instituted a daily personal media fast from 9pm-9am going forward. And I’ve mostly stuck to it! 🙂
While pondering all of these thoughts I was reminded of this book that I read not too long ago. It talks a lot about the idea of opportunity cost in relation to our time management. (Not being a business major I wasn’t super familiar with the concept, but basically when you make a choice to do one thing you automatically make choices to NOT do other things–ie, if you have $5 and spend it on candy bars you choose to NOT spend that $5 on rent–roughly.) And then it introduced the idea of a “stop-doing” list. As one who lives by my many “to-do” lists I was intrigued. In order to accomplish any goal or make progress toward something (particularly something new) in your life you have to choose to stop doing something else in order to make room/time for it. To start a new exercise program you have to stop sleeping and get up 30 minutes earlier. To learn to paint you sign up for a class which means you have to cut back on the time you watch TV. You get the idea. It’s all about priorities and what you are willing to sacrifice in order to do/be something better. (This is a fabulous talk on the same subject.)
I continually fall prey to this. There are so many things I want to do with my life that I dip my foot into as many pools as I can but I never actually go for a swim in any of them. My book is a prime example. I tell myself I really want to write and I even go so far as to take a class every now and then, jot down a paragraph or two when the ideas strike and drag a notebook around with me wherever I go. But I haven’t taken the firm step yet of cutting something out of my life to make room for it. I’m still not truly making it a priority. And that’s just one example. I’m a great dabbler and often pride myself in being well-rounded and interested in many things. And for the most part I’m really okay with that. But I sometimes forget that it comes at the cost of never truly excelling at anything. And one day I won’t have any more somedays to hope for. Am I going to look back and wish I’d done something different?
This video made the rounds on social media a few years ago. I was just as impressed re-watching it now as I was when I first saw it. It’s a rather startling visual…and I do love visuals! How much time do we all really have left? And what are we doing with it?
I also found it really interesting to read the comments section on the youtube page. They tend to fall into two basic categories; some people found the video/facts depressing while others found them motivating. I think it’s safe to say that those who were depressed by it all probably spend less time doing what they love than they’d like. Looking back at years spent scrolling through facebook versus actually picking up that guitar and learning how to play has got to be discouraging. Those who were motivated either realize that they need to seize the day and finally do what they keep talking about or have already found a way to do it and really enjoy and savor the time that they have.
The key, for me, is balance. Set some limits for yourself along with some goals. There’s nothing wrong with vegging on the couch catching up on Netflix to unwind after work. But if that’s all you ever do then you’ll never get anything else done. Limiting your veg time to say one show each night will give you time to focus on something else. Make it something that really excites you but also start with small, manageable steps. When you find yourself succeeding at those you’ll be motivated to take the next steps and pretty soon we’ll all be clamoring to see you perform or buy your book.
Another key is appreciation. Accepting and savoring what is instead of wishing for something else can be invaluable (especially when those things are outside of your control.) Spend time with those you love doing the things you love and you’ll be able to look back at your life with very few regrets. This is a great time to practice this as we move into the holiday season. Instead of jamming your schedule so full of things to do and places to go, take advantage of the moments you have to slow down and enjoy. Cuddle up and watch movies together, buy some fancy hot chocolate and really taste and savor it, marvel at the first snowfall or bring out your inner child by starting a snowball fight. ‘Tis the season for hygge! (Check out this past post about hygge and Hobbits for some more ideas!)
My challenge to you (and myself) over the next couple of weeks is to find 3 things you can put on your “stop-doing” list, be they big or small. And then use that re-claimed time to try something new, start a new project, or re-focus on a goal you’ve set that keeps getting put on the back burner. You only have so many hours in a day and nothing you do will change that, therefore you can only change what you do with them. What are you doing with yours? I want to hear all about it in the comments below. 🙂
P.S. Want a great kid’s book connection to go with the video? Check out How Many Jelly Beans? by Andrea Menotti.