How Much Is Enough?

I find myself thinking about this a lot right now. It feels like there’s not enough of me to go around. I’m plugging away, working hard at work, working hard at home, but there’s not enough of me to move the dating thing forward. And there’s not enough time for me to move writing forward. And there’s not enough time/energy to move working out forward. And it feels like there’ll be less of me all the time, as I get pulled in more directions.

But I wonder about that. In Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies, I’m an Obliger, so I find it easier to keep my obligations to others than I do to honor commitments to myself. This is why I’m sleep-deprived, and the idea of getting up an hour early to work out and an hour before that to write is almost a physical impossibility. I manage 6 hours of sleep if I’m lucky, most nights, so an hour earlier is not really an option. I could go to bed an hour earlier to get up an hour earlier, but that shift doesn’t actually net me time— it basically means the kitchen doesn’t get cleaned and my teeth don’t get brushed before I go to bed. Not realistic.*

But that is the thing all the things I want to do but am not making progress on have in common— they’re commitments I’ve made to myself, not obviously for the greater good. The truth is, me working out is for the greater good because it protects my health, which makes the rest of it all go. And me dating makes me happier and easier to be around, and could just get me some help, now and again. It’s a whole quality of life thing. And writing— well, the writing was kind of the point of a lot of how I set up my adult life, not that you can see that in my daily schedule.

So I’m wondering if I’m trying too hard to make everything a daily thing. What if I could set aside 30 minutes a couple of nights a week, or a lunch hour twice a week and a couple of hours for writing the things I’m not writing but that I want to. Or what if I start by getting more active on the weekends, both in terms of exercising and in being social in romantically-target-rich environments? What if, in the immortal words of a friend of mine, some is better than none?

* All that said, I recognize that there is downtime in my schedule, I’m just not making it work for me— we all think we’re busier than we are because it’s the age we live in, and we round up on our busy-ness because it equals significance, culturally.

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10 thoughts on “How Much Is Enough?

  1. I think that Beethoven was not only deaf, but he was a prolific creator of complex music…. and he had the same 24 yrs/day as the rest of us. Given his productivity, I must deduce that it comes down to priorities. Why don’t you make a list of everything that you have to do, and add everything that you would like to do. Then retreat somewhere secure and ask yourself “Am I being as productive as possible in my available time?” Not only may you find some additional time, but you can also determine what you REALLY want to do vs what you are currently doing. 🙂

    • Except that setting priorities will not get around the fact that Beethoven’s full-time job was writing music. Those are not hours that can be reclaimed when there are bills to be paid, and the bills aren’t currently paid by the writing.

      • Setting priorities is exactly what you need to do if you are juggling with a full time (bill paying) job because you have less hours as a resource to do other things. I’ve been there! Are you using “private time” for you job? Do you really have to work late or is that your choice? Can you create additional available hours by getting up say 1 hour earlier every day (there is 7 hours a week currently available)? Where is your free time currently going? Is that all necessary? If you have analysed your typical week and simply cannot find any available time, then you have to stop wasting time thinking about it and start planning for retirement.

    • There’s definitely some truth to this. It is a matter of priorities. I could, for example, choose to deprioritize walking the dog or cooking fresh and healthful meals at home. And those are choices I have not been willing to make. I could choose to hire someone to mow the lawn, a choice I may yet make.

      And there is also a level on which it’s an oversimplification. My life right now feels (whether it is by any relative measure or not) pretty complex. And I think it should feel that way— I’m in various stages of several transitions, and things that are unsettled feel complex, even if they seem simpler when you’re not going through them. I’m being pulled in a few directions simultaneously, and some of what I’m talking about is living in the tension of that. Without a desire to over-complicate things, I think it’s fair to say that we go through times when our priorities feel clearer and times when they feel less clear. And this is a less-clear time for me, that hasn’t be resolved no matter how many lists I make. But I’ve been through less-clear times, before, and I know that pressing through them, I’ll figure something out that takes me on the journey to greater clarity.

      I think I was really wrestling more with “how much is enough” (hence the title)— and deciding that I was going to stop trying to force this tension to be one thing— I’ve thought through and discarded the easy solutions, like getting up an hour earlier (given that I’m at the least amount of sleep I need to be functional) and am starting to approach it in some different ways. I think that’s really all a part of my process. In most cases, I think I’m going to start smaller— not an hour a day, but incorporating when I can. Weekly, at least. And from there, I’m hoping that by starting smaller, certain things will grow, and my commitment will grow with them, and then I can more appropriately allocate my time and energy.

  2. You hit on what I was going to suggest- not really cutting anything out, just scaling back the amount of time you spend on it. If that doesn’t work, it might be time to re-evaluate your priorities and see if there’s something you might be able to let go of.

    • I think this is a big part of the solution for me— but not scaling back what I do now, just scaling back my expectations of how much I need to invest in any of these new things. I can’t find an hour a day to point at dating, or fitness, or writing, right now. Maybe it’s a question of priorities, maybe it’s that I don’t currently have an hour or three to spare, or maybe it’s somewhere in between.

      But what I do have is moments. This weekend, I took some time and started a longer-form piece I’ve been thinking about. And then I took some more time and wrote some reflections of a different nature, that wound up not being as long as I thought they might be. Next weekend, I’m doing something that sounds fun with a singles group that I’m counting as “dating.” Over the weekend, I made it a point to go play outside with the dog and to play with my new volleyball.

      I resisted the idea of every one of these as an obligation on my daily planner, but they all feel like joy coming in stolen moments. (There’s a great podcast episode or two on this here, especially episodes 7 & 8: http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/magic-lessons.) I maybe took 10 or 15 minutes outside with the dog, I took an hour or two with the writing. Even though I didn’t do them daily for an hour apiece, they brought me joy and fulfillment.

      I think what I’m inclined to do is not to prioritize them as to-dos, as long as I do them. And there’s more to come on this, because as I saw the conversation developing here, I experienced a bit of a sea-change in the way I was thinking about it, and want to share that.

      • I think the key component is that you are finding time for them. I’m sure that as time passes, the time required for other things will shift and you’ll find more time them. 🙂

  3. Pingback: The Eye of the Beholder | Adventures of Auntie M

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