A few days ago I celebrated Christmas with my family, and we had our traditional Christmas food, which is called “julbord”.  It’s essentially a smorgasbord with traditional Swedish Christmas dishes added in. And traditionally we all ate to much and ended up – also traditionally – promising each other that we are going to do this differently next year…

I’ve gotten better these last few years at not overeating generally. But seeing all those different kinds of food flips some kind of switch in my brain, and instead of thinking about how hungry I am and how much I need to make me pleasantly satisfied, I look at every single dish and my imagination tells me how great it will taste, and I take some of everything on my plate – and once I’ve had a taste of them all, I go back for my absolute favorites once more. And end up very, almost unpleasantly, full.

My mind sees life as a Smorgasbord. I have a brain that is hardwired for seeing possibilities – which is a good thing. But I also have this time-optimism, which makes me want to do far more things in the day than is humanly possible. Add in my fatigue-syndrome, which makes my energy levels drop very low very fast if I forget to rest and take care of myself, and I have a real problem.

My mind often turns “this would be possible” into “I should do this” and then puts the action on my subconscious to do list – without me consciously making any decision at all. And soon I’m feeling a bit stressed out that I haven’t done something about it yet… Never mind that I’ve never really decided to do it, it’s on my to do list!

No matter how much time I save by eliminating time-thieves or how much “blanks” I schedule into my week – unless I can somehow set a limit to my enthusiasm for new projects and ideas to try out, I’ll never be able to live that simple life I’m dreaming of. I’ll be to tired and stressed out.

I think the first part of a solution is awareness of the problem. That I have, at least. Since I know that this problem is one of excess, I  also know that the solution involves moderation – I can’t do everything, so I need to choose what to do. The third part is to find criteria to select by, and use them often enough that they become instinctive. I have made my priorities clear to myself, so what I need now is to create the criteria or rules to follow when I decide what I should devote my limited energy into. Not to many rules, just a few guidelines.

So, when I have the impulse to take on a new activity, or am trying to decide whether or not to continue with an old one,  this is what I’ve decided to ask myself:

* Does this activity add value to my life? (Is it aligned with my values and goals?)

* Does this activity add joy to my life?

And if it’s a new activity:

* What am I prepared to stop doing in order to make time for this?

If it’s neither valuable nor joyful, there is no point in wasting my time on it. And since my schedule is full,  if I’m not prepared to give something up the new activity is obviously not valuable enough to me at this point in my life. Life and priorities change, though, “not now“ doesn’t have to mean”not ever”.

Therefore I’ve also decided to create a wish list for things to do. I’ve kept wish lists for things to (maybe) buy for a very long time. It’s a great way to save money! Whenever I get the urge to buy something, I put it on my wish list. And it has to stay there for at least a month before I actually buy it. The things I finally buy have often been on that list for many months – and a surprising amount of things just get taken of the list after a while because I’ve lost interest in them. (Saves me both the money I didn’t spend, and the trouble of getting rid of them later.)

I’m hoping that the activities wish list will work in the same way. A place for my possibility-focused mind to put my ideas. It’s important though that I remember what it’s not: not a bucket list, not a todo list – just a wish list, a someday-maybe list.

Hopefully these strategies – rules to choose by and a wish list for things that I can’t do right now – will help me to handle the Smorgasbord of life more like a gourmet, picking and appreciating only the dishes that suits me best. (Like the children in our family do at the julbord – it’s the adults who end up with overstuffed bellies…)