Have you ever worked late, had a seemingly endless To Do List, and arrived home just in time for your next full time job (laundry, dishes, paying bills…)? If this scenario sounds the least bit familiar, take a moment to hit the PAUSE button.
Think about what matters most in your life. Likely, it is none of the aforementioned “necessary” tasks. Often, we are so busy running around trying to keep up with the barrage of items that fill our email boxes, our desks and our agenda. How many of these things are emergent? Truth be told, I’d venture to guess that a good 90% of them are non-important, non-urgent.
Breathing room, space to daydream, be creative and spend time with meaningful people is what NEEDS to be on our To Do List. I have a habit of writing things down on Post-It notes; I gain satisfaction from seeing the black pen marks slashed across things that I’ve accomplished, tasks that have been taken care of and can be let go. However, none of these things really matter in the context of one’s higher self or emotional wellbeing. Fortunately, I also have a habit of writing to people who inspire me. In late 2005, I received a college newsletter from the university I attended, in which several alumni were profiled. Among them was a guy who truly stood out to me. In addition to coaching companies and executives on time management and leadership skills, he traveled to Africa each year to donate medical supplies and set up soccer camps for HIV positive children. I wrote to him and basically asked, “How can I get involved in what you’re doing?” We traded emails back and forth for several months, and, over the next two years, we flew twice to Nashville to volunteer with the Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation’s Young Adult Cancer Survivors Retreats. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to shadow him in New York City, leading a time management seminar. Come on, who could not use a little help in the time management department? (OK, maybe it’s just me.) During this training session, he gave us each a quote that made fridge status in my home: “Is this the best use of my time right now?” I think about the time spent on the computer, not really necessary and not fulfilling. To me, it’s no cliché that the most important things in life are free. Time spent with family and friends, enjoying a run outdoors, reading a great book, picnicking at the beach, feeling connected to others and to the earth—this constitutes a meaningful LIFE. It’s times like these that serve as a friendly reminder that the dishes can wait. Don’t let those special moments slip away. Instead, take a break from your email’s inbox and call your best friend. Put the laundry aside and go for a hike. Spend more time doing what matters most and the time that you do have will matter more.