Yesterday I talked about how important it is to say no to in order to free up more time to focus on your goals. However, I’ve also learned that while it’s important to say no, it’s equally important to say yes to the right things. You see, when you get a taste of the extra hours you gain by managing your time well, saying no becomes easier and easier. Too easy in fact, if you’re in the throes of creating something great or seeing direct results of time well spent. Saying no can become pretty darn addicting. Soon, though, you might find yourself saying no to people and things that matter.
When I was consumed with writing my book, people around me began to complain that I’d dropped off the planet. They asked for more of me, which they were used to getting easily before. I waved them off with a friendly “no,” and got back to work. My book marched along at a nice pace, and the two-three hours a day I’d carved out for myself began to become four . . . and even sometimes five or six or seven (gasp!) on the weekends. But hey, I had goals! I was managing my time! I was producing! I was going to have a finished book to celebrate!
One day, I realized that I was bent over my computer like an aged troll, my fingers in an arthritic bent position. My body felt creaky and old, as if none of it but the fingers had moved in a very long time. My head hurt and eyes swam with too many words and thoughts and characters and plot lines. How long had I been that way, hunched over my keyboard? Based on the seventeen book pages in front of me on the screen, a very long time. I looked around to see nothing but a dark, vacant house and an empty cereal box on the desk beside me (I didn’t remember eating Clifford’s Crunch for lunch, but I must have). There was a note from my husband saying he’d taken the kids to the beach. I’d vaguely remembered him saying he wished I would join them as it was a beautiful day, but I’d waved them off with “no,” my newfound powerful word.
I finally came out of my writing stupor to a messy, empty house with no laughing kids around; no hubby nearby; no food in the refrigerator; and nothing to keep me company but two yowling, needy cats. Was this what I wanted? My dreams realized at the expense of my life? Was I destined to become that “lonely cat lady” sitting alone in front of her computer with the blinds drawn on a beautiful sunny day while the world went on around her? It appeared so. It was at that moment I realized I’d taken “no” too far.
I drove down to the beach and joined my family. They greeted me like long-lost relatives. My kids actually looked taller. We began building sand castles. We ate watermelon and threw the Frisbee. I gave the boogie board a try (ending up “washing-machined-whirl-pooled” by a huge wave, but that’s another story). We laughed. We spent time together.
I spent the rest of that day enjoying my kids, my husband, the beautiful outdoors. I forgot about writing for a while, forgot about my goals. I came home happy and with my creative well filled, ready to tackle my goals again the next morning. But I’d learned something huge. Saying no to everything isn’t managing your time well. Saying no to important things is especially not managing your time well! Yes, you may get things done, but at what expense? It’s the balance of time and priorities that is the key to success. Putting a time cap on your hours spent pursuing your goals, even if you have to drag yourself away from the computer after a certain number of hours, is key. Sometimes saying no also means saying no to yourself when you want to say no to the world. Does that make sense?
So in short, I’ve learned there are certain things you should never, EVER say no to in life because it just isn’t worth it.
Things Never to Say No To:
1. Time with Your kids. They grow up quickly. These hours with them are precious and never to be replaced. When you have an opportunity to be with them, seize it. Fit in your goal-pursuing hours around the times when the kids don’t need you as much (when they’re sleeping, involved in sports, at summer camp or school, reading). As I said in my blog post yesterday, time in not an ever-abundant resource. Use it wisely.
2. Getting Outside on a Beautiful Day. While pursuing one’s goals is good, doing so in a dark room on a beautiful day is insane. ‘Nuff said. Get outside and breathe the fresh air. Move your body. Enjoy the beautiful world around us. Then you can write about it when the sun is down and your soul refreshed.
3. Time with Spouse/Family/Close Friends. These people are your lifeblood. They support you. They love you. They deserve your time. There are plenty of other people to say no to (such as Chatty Cathy who calls to gab for an hour about her poodle’s bowel movements). Say no to those people, not the ones who matter.
4. Housework. Yes, you heard me right. Please let me qualify this in a big way! Housework is definitely one of those things you can say no to much of the time. I mean, it’ll always be there, right? But there comes a point when you just need to get it done or you will be staring at a trail of ants leading to a sink piled high with dirty plates encrusted in beautiful, vibrant mold colors. You’ll be faced with mountains of dirty laundry and no underwear, hoping the wind doesn’t blow up your sundress. Your sheets will smell like a football locker room, which of course your husband won’t notice but you will. And worst of all, you will resent your free time away from goal-pursuing because it’ll feel like all you’re ever doing is catching up with thankless chores and cleaning. This will lead you to want to spend even more time in your cave away from the world, which will of course create a vicious cycle and possibly get you on the hoarders show.
5. Anyone bearing chocolate. Duh.
In summary: love first, goals second. Balance everything else.