In my first real post on this blog I muse about finding time in a busy schedule to write. I was contemplating all the things I have to do in a regular week, and it was a little disheartening to realize that there wasn’t much room in my schedule to set aside for something that was personally important to me, but which did not figure into the responsibilities I had as an employee, student, husband and soon-to-be father.
But I learned something this week, a lesson taught me by my wife, although it’s a lesson that I will need to practice if I’m going to perfect it. On one of my last days off from work for the holidays, I asked my wife if she thought it was okay that I spend a little time writing the story I’m working on. She said “sure”, but then she quickly reminded me of a long list of “to dos” that I still needed to take care of. I grew momentarily discouraged, and offered to start working on the rest of my list, instead of spending time writing. But my wife quickly changed my course. “No,” she said, “Spend a little time writing first. But then spend time on those other things as well.” After a little while writing, she turned to me and asked: “So, how much time did you allot to writing, before moving on with what else has to be done?” I was taken aback. I hadn’t considered that I ought to set a time limit ahead of time. But when I saw how long I’d been writing by that point, I quickly realized that I’d given myself more than a fair amount of time to write, and that it was now time to move on to the rest of my list.
The lesson, I learned, was this: you have to set your priorities and work on those things first. But you have to set your own structure and pace yourself if you’re going to get everything done. Writing is important to me, so I might need to spend time doing that. But that doesn’t give me a free pass to spend as much time as I want on it. I have other responsibilities that I need to attend to, as well. Reconciling the two, I can meet both needs by scheduling my time up front – deciding before I write how much time I can spend on it before moving on to other things.
My wife tells me it’s like a lesson she taught at Church. A jar is filled with rocks: the rocks are our priorities, the things that important to us and for which we need to make time. In between the rocks, you can fill the jar with rice or sand. These are the many little “to-dos” that fill our days. If we schedule our big items up front, we’ll find the time for these little to-dos. Finally, you’ll find there’s still room in the jar for a glass of water (or a cup of coffee in the old version of this object lesson, except neither my wife nor I drink coffee) – the glass of water is the time we spend unwinding and relaxing. For me, she suggested, writing is one of the rocks. I just need to schedule it, and stick to the schedule.
So, if you invest a little time upfront, you can make the time you need to get done everything that you still have to do – whether that’s writing, or whatever other hobbies or paths to self-fulfillment you must follow. Do those first, but don’t let them get out of hand, and take over your time and your life. Find a balance, set a schedule, and stick to it.