I’m getting ready to set personal goals for 2015. I think about how many books I want to read and which projects I’d like to finish around the house. But then I start thinking, “How do I want to live?” Is it a priority for me to be efficient and cross things off a list? Will it make me happier and less stressed? Yes and no.
Recently I came across a comment online that resonated with me. It was #27 on this list.
“Spend your money where you spend your time, and cut the rest. If you’re a runner, you need good shoes, and if you spend a lot of time in the car, you should invest there. This kind of thinking helps you trim the superficial stuff that does not add value to your life.”
This got me thinking, and not just financially. How do I want to spend my time? How can I spend more time on people and things I value?
I am not the world’s busiest person. I work full-time, but I don’t have kids at home. When I’m not at work, my time is truly my own. I have the usual commitments: a spouse, pets, a house, a yard, a car – and they all need tending 🙂 I also love people who don’t live with me – my child (21), my parents, my nephew (13) and other family and friends.
Sometimes I grumble about commitments I’ve made, such as volunteer work or my book club. I have to remind myself they are choices I made, and ultimately they are optional. If I don’t “feel like” doing them, I can stop!
One of the best lessons I’ve learned in recent years was from the book Spousonomics (now re-titled It’s Not You, It’s the Dishes.) It reminded me that everything I do has an opportunity cost.
Each month I try to balance the time I spend on blogging and volunteer work. Those are my intentional priorities. They take all my free time unless I consciously choose otherwise. The opportunity costs are high, though. For example, if I spend the evening writing a blog post or updating a spreadsheet, I am not watching Netflix with Rom or chatting over coffee with my brother or playing a strategy game with my nephew. My relationships with real-life people are affected.
That being said, the people in my life are not demanding. They are very generous in allowing me all the time I need for personal projects, and asking for very little. But does that make it right for me to take advantage of their good will and to spend less time with them? Even from a self-serving point of view, I have to think about whether I feel better after enjoying the company of others, or spending another 4 hours in front of a computer or a book!
This is complicated (and enriched) by the fact that you, my blog readers, are real people to me, as are all the donors whose inquiries I field as a volunteer “accountant.” (I am the treasurer for my church, which involves a combination of interacting with people, and doing detailed financial work at home on the computer).
I have started the work of keeping things in balance. First of all, I have found myself saying no more and more often when it comes to volunteer work. If I keep saying yes, I get resentful and ripe for burnout. So I have set boundaries and held firm about not taking on more. Therefore, I haven’t found it necessary to renege on anything, and I can keep my commitments.
My blogging and blog reading have no boundaries and are pretty much “one” with my life, but of course there is give and take – read another book here, skip writing a post there. Not entirely consciously, I do set limits. For example, I don’t follow every blogger who follows me. It’s bad etiquette. But if I know I won’t read and comment on someone’s blog regularly, I don’t add it to my feed. I have even worked out a little system whereby I read some blogs daily, and others I bookmark to check from time to time.
Meanwhile I have only watched one movie with Rom in the last 3 months and I have three friends who literally have been waiting for an email or letter from me for a year.
I have to hold myself accountable, too. If I blog less or volunteer less, and I read more and watch more movies, will I be happier? My inclination is to spend time doing things that feel purposeful. I feel productive if I write a blog post, but not if I spend the same amount of time reading Hello magazine. But do I want to be current on celebrity gossip? Yes!
I am not a complete slug – I do all the normal things like groceries and housework and yard work, and most of the time I actually enjoy them. But when setting personal goals for 2015, I am going to be thinking hard about whether they reflect my values, and where and with whom I want to spend my time.
I don’t think you will be seeing any less of anexactinglife 🙂