Lessons in Scheduling

In my ongoing quest (OK, obsession) to maintain balance in my life, I’ve given a lot of thought to how I use my time and schedule my days. For a number of years, I’ve perfected a method that I like to call “making the most of small increments of time.” I try to do a little bit of everything, every day. Most days consist of:

  • Work, 5-8 hours
  • Housework, 45-60 minutes
  • Nap, 20 minutes
  • Get outside for a walk, 30-40 minutes
  • Pilates, 25 minutes
  • Reading, 20-30 minutes
  • Sleep, 7-8 hours
  • Etc.

For the most part, I thought this method was serving me well. But lately, I find myself wondering if this is really the best way to arrange my days. Although I feel like I’m staying on top of my daily chores and making slow progress toward some of my fitness goals, I also feel stressed if I don’t accomplish every little thing on the daily list, or if some items take longer than their allotted times, or (God forbid!) some unexpected turn of events causes me to deviate from my carefully-planned schedule. Downshifters hate rigid schedules! How did this happen to me?!

Ironically, I also feel like I’m using this everything/everyday scheduling method to avoid some important tasks that would require me to focus for longer periods of time, “go deep,” and ultimately achieve more personal satisfaction. (Seriously, when was the last time I wrote anything?!) Checking mindless tasks off the same to-do list every day doesn’t encourage my personal growth. And, while I derive more satisfaction from a clean kitchen floor than most sane people, it doesn’t even come close to the exhilaration of hitting “Publish” on a blog post.

I’ve grown to realize that, while I thought I was mastering the domains of time-management and self-discipline, I neglected to incorporate my deeper needs and core values into the program. I know that my happiness depends on allowing ample time for creative pursuits — learning, growing, and challenging myself. For that, I’m willing to make some of the mundane tasks a lower priority.

I will keep reminding my neat-freak self, “The laundry can wait. Today I write!”


It’s Time

Last May, I made a conscious decision to take the summer off from this blog, and from writing in general. I worked at the post office as little as I could get away with. We took a few short road trips to coastal Maine and the White Mountains, walked and hiked with the dogs, and enjoyed time with friends and family. We made leisure a priority.

But as much as I enjoyed my endless summer vacation, I really missed writing. I forgot my own advice. Downshifting is all about BALANCE, making time for the things that are important to you. For me, writing is absolutely one of those things. Without it, I felt like my equilibrium was off. I carried a vague sense of dissatisfaction, like I was drifting aimlessly through my days. Another lesson learned.

In September, my second cousin passed away from ALS. She was 52 years old. Until now, I had foolishly operated under the assumption that I had unlimited time. I’m 44 now. I plan to live to be 100. Plenty of time to accomplish all the things I want to do, right? No sense of urgency. No need to rush.

My cousin’s death really made me think, what if I don’t have as much time as I thought? What if my life suddenly ended next week or next year? Would I be proud of all that I had accomplished, or regret all the things I never finished, or even started?

The term Downshifting means slowing down, but it also implies that we are still moving forward, just in a more mindful way. Even if I only write for 15 minutes a day, I still experience a deep sense of accomplishment. Making steady progress toward a goal (like writing a book, perhaps?) is a fundamental part of happiness. Striving to live up to our potential is key to the pursuit of personal fulfillment.

Don’t we all deserve that?