As I race into work behind schedule I mentally tick off the items that didn’t get done. I never took the dog out, I didn’t leave the kids a prepared meal, I left scissors on the floor of the project room. Oh no, I may have left the door to my project room open and now the cat will go in there and eat the fabric strips on the floor and he’s going hack them up somewhere in the house! Ugh, I'll need to clean that up later! I didn’t upload class videos like I said I would, I didn’t respond to the emails that are a few days old and I never called anyone I said I would back.
Time is my most precious resource and it’s like holding water in my hands. Just when I’m about to take a sip, it’s managed to slip through the cracks and I have none left. Complaining to other people about it gathers little to no sympathy because we all experience this. It’s so common that there are hundreds if not thousands of apps to help manage our time, and even more books on time management, but yet with all these resources time is still something many of us struggle to manage.
Like many people I have to work, there’s no choice about that. So obviously that is going to take up a large amount of my time. I have children and pets that need my time as well, but here is where it gets a little fuzzy. Work is easy to prioritize because the time spent there is dictated by my financial needs, I don’t really decide when to leave. However, the amount of time I spend with my family is totally up to me. I actually enjoy spending time with my family and miscreant cat and I prioritize my day so that I get some quality time with them everyday. However, I also enjoy spending time with friends, dancing, teaching, volunteering, photography, writing and a slew of many other things.
When I first started dancing I realized that if I wanted to get better at it, I would have to dedicate more time, but I had a demanding job and a young family and I didn’t know how to juggle it. I struggled. I showed up to class unprepared, and if I did show up to class I would feel guilty about it! I didn’t practice, I didn’t rehearse, I would forget moves, and unfortunately as a result I didn’t improve. I started dancing as a way to heal from an injury and to take time for myself, but I was finding it to be more stressful than I wanted and I was ready to quit.
But then something happened that I never expected. I started to become friends with the people I was dancing with. I became part of a student troupe and they kept me motivated to come back. I felt I had an obligation to do my part in making the troupe look good and so I had to practice. I practiced with kids crawling under me, above me and sometimes they would just take over my practice sessions and tell me how I should dance! The longer I practiced at home the more normal it became and the kids started to see it was something that was important to me too. Instead of feeling guilty when I leave for class, my kids now wish me a good practice on my way out the door.
I’ve learned that if I want to get everything I have on my to do list done, I’ll never be happy. That list is too long to accomplish. It’s not time that I need to learn to manage, it’s my priorities! Some items can be done simultaneously, like doing dishes and satisfying my Netflix addiction. Or a grocery shopping date with a friend, it’s not ideal but I still relish the time spent together. I’ve found that as we get older our friendships are harder to maintain. People’s schedules are so full, I don’t understand how we can all be so busy and yet I’m also one of those people. I’m grateful for friends that don’t mind spending an afternoon together chatting as I fold laundry, or cook dinner. My priorities are no longer to “go out”, but to spend time together with the people I care about regardless of what we’re doing.
Time is still like water in my hands, I still struggle with trying to overfill my hands with more than I can carry. I’ve learned that being flexible with my priorities and expectations helps in trying to take a sip, but also having other hands to help carry that water ensures you’re never thirsty.