Reflect, Rethink & Cherish: How to Transform Your Time
This is a guest post by Caroline McGraw, who writes about ‘how to see disability as opportunity’ at A wish come clear.
When I opened Katie Tallo’s Life Cleanse Starter Kit, I balked at the first exercise. Yes, that’s right. Me, a person who loves motivational material and workbook exercises. I write about ‘disability as opportunity’, and I believe in small changes making a big difference. But still, I didn’t want to do that exercise. I felt an internal resistance to the idea of tracking my time.
As many of you know, the first exercise/”eye opener” in the Life Cleanse Starter Kit is a time log. It’s a simple (but pretty!) chart that lets you write in how you spent your time each hour of the day. On the surface, it’s not intimidating.
In actuality, it’s a fearsome thing.
This fear– which arose within me at the sight of this time log– led me to believe that it might be a very important exercise for me to actually, you know, do.
You should know upfront that I’m a person who keeps lists and writes schedules. I fill my Google Calendar with both work and personal appointments. My calendar includes entries such as, ‘30 minute run’, ‘Provider Coalition meeting’, ‘nap’, ‘coffee with Sarah [my best friend]‘ and ‘dinner with J [my husband].’
As such, I didn’t need to physically write out a time-log; I could simply look at one of my hyper-detailed Google Calendar days and analyze it. I had the data.
What I didn’t have was the nerve.
It turns out that I wasn’t afraid of Katie’s time log (with its lovely lavender border) as much as I was afraid of the “take away” questions that followed.
I’ve discovered a paradox within myself, and I don’t think I’m the only one. We live in an age of organization, and yet there’s a distinct absence of reflection. I can track my schedule and routines with the best of them, but I have trouble with sitting down and considering how my schedule made me feel. Am I happy with the way I’m spending my time? Do I feel that my time commitments reflect my deepest values and beliefs? Do I bend over backwards to make things work for other people, and disrupt the rhythm of my days in the process?
These are intimate questions. These are questions that get us to the heart of the matter. They require you to spend some time actively listening to yourself.
Reflect: Are you afraid to spend time thinking about your schedule, to consider what’s serving you and what’s not?
That said, I’m in a much better place to answer these questions now than I’ve ever been. I’m spending a lot of time writing, which gives me energy and gladness. I’m fighting for and guarding time alone with my husband, because that time is precious to me. I’m keeping up my family and my relationships within the L’Arche community, because these are foundational for me.
However, there are a few areas in which I know I could be spending my time more wisely. First, I sometimes hesitate to make plans with friends. I tend to assume they’ll be too busy and so I put off making contact. Or I imagine the worst and think they don’t want to talk to me. Once I recognize this attitude as a false assumption, I start reaching out to my friends and initiating plans to spend time together.
Rethink: Do you wait for others to reach out? Do you assume the worst when your friends don’t get in touch?
Next, a commitment I had trouble keeping was my ‘Artist’s Date’. If you’ve read Julia Cameron’s classic The Artist’s Way, then you know that she recommends setting aside at least 2 hours per week to do something playful, something that feeds your creative spirit. It can be anything from browsing an antique store to running a new route to listening to a CD and dancing like crazy. The point is to do it alone, to cultivate creativity in whatever way feels right to you.
An ‘Artist’s Date’ is really hard for workaholics to handle. Give me a freelance assignment that involves 6 blog posts a week, in addition to my own site’s posts? Done. Tell me to keep our apartment as tidy as possible? You bet. But tell me to go out and have fun for a few specific hours each week? Now that’s a real challenge.
When I let myself take time for those ‘dates’, I usually love them. The main difficulty lies in holding that time sacred. I allow myself to schedule things that conflict with my time. I leave my phone on and check my texts. I self-sabotage.
Rethink: How do you self-sabotage on commitments you’ve made to yourself?
Finally, I noticed that, though I’m usually a punctual person, I typically arrive late to one regular event in my schedule: a Taize prayer service I attend each Monday evening. (Taize prayer is a meditative form of Christian worship, one that involves a good deal of silence in addition to simple chants sung in many languages.) I love the service, I’m loved and encouraged by the people there, and I’ve been attending for nearly 3 years. Why the tardiness?
Again, it was a question of intimacy. My experience in Taize calls me to go deeper into who I am and who God is. Some days (all right, most Mondays), it’s easier to stay ‘on the surface’ where the to-do lists are, where I know what’s expected of me. It’s easier to be late and thereby avoid that intimacy a little longer.
But I don’t want to settle for that. I can fight for what I know is important to me: my relationship with God, my relationships with people. I can commit to arriving on time, even though it makes me face my fear.
Cherish: What is there in your life that’s worth fighting for?
Today, I challenge you with this quote from Katie: “Reflect, rethink and cherish [your time], then don’t waste another minute of it.”
If you’re scared, well, same here. But it helps to know that you’re not alone. It helps to make lavender borders on your time-logs. It helps to realize that, whenever you balk at doing a self-reflection exercise, you’re on to something important.
Fear not that you have wasted too much time hesitating. Your journey is just beginning.