My challenge to myself this month is to find a minimalistic approach to how I handle my time. Since time doesn’t come in an endless supply I don’t want to rush through it, and I don’t want to spend great amounts of it on things that aren’t important to me. I’m not looking to be more productive, or find a way to squeeze in more things in my day -I’m looking for ways to live life in a simpler, less complicated way.
I’ve had a look at my priorities, and now the time as come to weed out some of my time-thieves. Things that just zap away time, without giving me value of any kind. (Once I started thinking and writing about them, this post got very long, and I decided to split it in two. This is the second part, obviously, the first is here if you missed it.)
There are things I often do that I don’t need to. Habits are just like things: you get them because they are useful (or you think they will be). And then when life changes, the habits (and things) are still there. It requires an effort to break a habit once it’s created, so it’s just easier to keep going like before. That’s my focus for today: my unuseful, timeconsuming habits.
One of them is overchecking our finances. When I was 23, I was a single mother of a 2-year old son, and had irregular work. Planning ahead and keeping track of every single coin was essential and what made life manageable. But now that the cildren are grown (we even have grandchildren now), both my husband and I have regular income and both have fairly frugal habits, I really don’t need to keep that kind of track anymore. Still I do – out of habit. And when I do a check-in, I often get caught up in finetuning and planning ahead – even though I’ll have to redo it next time. There is a part of me that is full nerd and loves playing with Excel, creating diagrams and making forecasts, and time really flies – but I realise that it doesn’t add any real value to my life.
So this month I’m putting all the bills I can on auto-pay, arranging our savings to be automatically transferred, and then restricting myself to sit down once a month only.
Another habit I’m overdoing is todo-lists. When I was in late 30’s I was very active – working fulltime, two teenagers at home with school and sports-events to keep track of, active in groups for parents, for the environment, local politics… You name it, I was doing it. And since that was kind of impossible to handle, I tried to find ways to handle it anyway – enter time-management models of all kinds: 7 habits, Getting Things Done and a score of variations thereof. And with my trusted Filofax and later PalmPilot I kept lists and lists of the lists… And then came the burnout, the fatigue syndrome and now this older and wiser me who realises that I was aiming for the impossible. But guess what? My lists are still there… With recurring tasks and everything. And stealing time, since I need to rearrange them according to reality pretty often, because when a task reccurs it never seems to be at a convenient time.
Or they were there until I cleared my phone of all todo-apps along with a lot of other stuff recently. I’ll try staying completely without them as well. My life is a lot less complicated nowadays, and I’m guessing that the really important things will get done, and that if I don’t clutter my mind with all the unimportant things the important ones will be easy to remember without lists. If I’m wrong I can always go back, but then to a much more elementary approach I think.
Another timeconsumer is my habit of comparing prices. That’s a good and frugal habit to have, and once I’ve checked out reviews and compared prices and gotten a god deal we’re generally good with the purchases for years. The problem is when I use a lot of time to compare things that have no great value. The other day I spent hours – literally! – on checking up notebooks for my daily writingsessions. The thing is, since the writing is a process, not something I’ll want to show anyone and rarely even come back to myself, I don’t need a nice or expensive notebook. So I actually spent hours of my life comparing stuff that cost a lot less than an hours pay… I guess it’s that nerd-part of me again, the part that loves charts and procentual gains that gets me hooked. But I still think the time would have been better spent doing almost anything else (reading a good book, writing a blogpost, phoning a friend, taking a walk… sleeping!).
The habit of comparing is good in some ways. But I need guidelines for my inner nerd… I’m thinking a maximum of 15 minutes per SEK 100 (about $ 10). My inner nerd gets to play, and the more costly item, the more reason for time spent comparing. I’ll set an alarm when I begin.
So that’s a start. Hopefully these relatively simple actions will give me more time for the important things, the ones I’ve decided are my priorities. (Naturally, what I consider a time-thief may be someone elses well spent time – these are my thoughts, based on my life at present, not ment to be a general rule.)
But there is still that problem of wanting to do to much, and how to choose… Still working on that. I will share what I come up with in a later post!