I use the phrase “I’m Busy” when I don’t want to commit to something. There, I said it. And luckily for the person on the receiving end, I very rarely say it. I might also say “I’m so busy”, to make myself feel better for not actually achieving what I set out to do. Because, if I’m so busy, I clearly don’t have the time to concentrate on something or someone that might require a large investment of time, emotion, and commitment. I might also face failure or have to work outside my normal routine. So, I make myself busy with other things, the easy wins, so I don’t have to face the truth.
But the truth is that I do actually have time, and being busy is a choice.
Parenthood is a series of decisions - some small, some not-so-small. As our expertise is still developing, choosing the right motivations can help. When we commit to making our choices based on compassion and our best efforts to help, we can be confident we have brought our best qualities to our quandaries. We need to try our best at making the right choices for ourselves and our families, with an open heart and a devoted mind.
With that said, I have to ask myself, am I living my life according to my own values and choices? I will answer that I’m nearly there, but I know I can do better because I want to live every day I have on this planet purposefully. Accomplished Author, Writer, Public Speaker and Mother of four, Laura Vanderkam writes in detail on the subject of living intentionally by asking her readers to examine and prioritise what they do with their lives. Her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, debunks the ‘time crunch’ myth and offers practical ways to start making better use of time.
Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time’, try saying ‘it’s not a priority’... changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently. - Laura Vanderkam
As a Producer, I’m game for anything that makes me more efficient at achieving positive outcomes, so this book was a page-turner for me. Now that I’ve finished reading 168 Hours, here is what I’m taking action on first:
Tracking my time spend. A lot harder to do than I thought! I managed to do a week of tracking (168 hours worth) and I had at least 20 hours unaccounted for. So, I did it again a couple weeks later. What the combined results showed me, is that I have a pretty good distribution of time spent on activities that I like doing. What it also uncovered, is that I had at least five hours a week during my daily commute to work, that I used surfing the web on my phone when I could have been using that time to write more, do more research, or plan for the next events I would like to be at to further my WMM journey. So, I’ve acquired a laptop, tap into free wifi (and if I can’t, I make sure I have working copies on the desktop), and get lost in my work. Since I’ve started, I’ve been way more productive and less frustrated when I get home when I know I have limited time to work, once the kids are finally in bed.
Making a list of 100 dreams. Now that I can see how I spend my life in 168 cells, I’m looking at how I can use some of that time differently - If I had a choice, how would I fill those cells? Yes, money might be a constraint to live out some of the loftier dreams I have (living on a yacht in the Mediterranean), but how can I fulfil some of the more tangible dreams right now, and work up to some of the bigger ones later? I’ve started my list and I’m at number 10, I will commit to working through them in little sprints. What would your list look like? Have a go at exploring your possibilities!
Understanding my core competencies. This is something that took longer to do. Primarily because it required me to let go of my more loftier (and frankly less attainable) aspirations and to focus more on getting even better at what I am already kick-ass at. I’m a producer by trade, but I hate building formulas in excel. I’ve spent countless hours reading books and watching youtube videos on the matter, with little improvement of my skills. So what have I done? I’ve taken excel learning off my “To Do” list and have outsourced it to way more capable people. All I need to do now is work on the strategy and fill in the blanks. Job done, and done better than I could have. In turn, I have more time to do what I’m good at - connecting with team members, problem-solving, scheduling and making great content.
I reached out to Laura, inspired by her courage to call us out on our ‘busy lives’, and grateful for her practices that have helped me take stock of how I’m living my life. I wanted to know more about what makes such an inspiring woman tick, and asked if she was tasked with taking inventory of her own beliefs and dreams, what would she find? She graciously replied:
That we have enough time for what matters to us. When we say "I don't have time" that often means "it's not a priority." If that's true, fine! But best to acknowledge that much of time is a choice, with the understanding that we must accept the consequences of those choices.
That people won't limit their lives based on cultural narratives. Pundits think they're being profound when they lament that "no one can have it all" but I'm not sure how they're defining "all." It is quite possible to build a fulfilling career, raise a happy family, enjoy your own pursuits, and get enough sleep. Plenty of people do all these things.
Is to continue to write most days. I think of myself primarily as a writer, but my career has evolved in many ways, and it's amazing how easy it is to let non-writing work crowd out the creative stuff. I now put writing 500 words of purely speculative stuff on my to-do list every work day. I've kept up the habit for 3 months, and plan to continue.
A piece of wisdom...
Relax. Most of us can't remember what we were doing on today's date, two years ago. Maybe if it's a particularly special day (e.g. a child's birthday!) but probably not. Few things matter much in the long run. We need to keep our eyes on the big stuff and let the smaller pieces go where they go.
Laura’s Bio & Other books
Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books, including Off the Clock, I Know How She Does It, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, and 168 Hours. Her work has appeared in publications including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and Fortune. She is the co-host, with Sarah Hart-Unger, of the podcast Best of Both Worlds. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and four children, and blogs at LauraVanderkam.com.
Laura Vanderkam is the author of the forthcoming book Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done (Portfolio, May 29, 2018). Based on a time diary study of a day in the life of 900 people, this book looks at why some busy people feel relaxed about time, while others feel rushed.
You can check out Laura’s TED talk, "How to gain control of your free time," here: https://bit.ly/2muLgM2