Ignoring the 1% hoarding most of it, there is plenty of money in the world. We can earn it by going to work every day, picking up a second job, or just selling some things we don’t need anymore. Money is hard to come by, but for what most of us need (not want), it’s an infinite resource (if only it were easily accessible). Time, on the other hand, is a finite resource. We do say, after a bad movie, “I want that two hours of my life back!” but we can’t get it back. We waste so much time on things that are a complete waste. We waste it being frustrated, stressed out, or just doing menial tasks. We waste it dawdling. We waste it on a lot of unnecessary things, knowing full well that we all have a limited amount of time alive and, as we age, our quality of life declines. So why do we waste so much time?
Many people in the United States make New Year’s resolutions on New Year’s Day. They vow to quit bad habits, pick up healthy ones, save money, etc. I’m glad people use it as a way to make positive changes in their lives, but to me it’s an arbitrary new beginning. We can make positive changes every day if we choose to do so. I enjoy January 1st as a day to say, “How many miles can I run this year?” Or maybe next year it’ll be, “How many books can I read this year?” But to me, January 1st is maybe just a day to go snowshoeing since I have it off.
My “New Year,” the day I spend in quiet contemplation and introspection, set new goals, and reflect on the past 365 days, is coming up in two weeks: my birthday. Each year on my birthday I’m only one day older than the previous day, but knowing that I’m inching closer and closer to 50, or even 45, is… unsettling.
Anyway. It’s hard to get out of bed every day. I’m always late for work (they don’t care, but I do). Even if I can manage to get out of bed when my alarm goes off, there’s surprise cat puke to clean up. There’s surprise cat pee to clean up. There’s a fucking spider somewhere that needs killing, which for me, is quite an ordeal. There’s a dishwasher that needs emptying, trash that needs to be taken out, etc. There’s always something. I always feel like I’m in a deficit of time. Even after giving up Facebook all but one out of every 28 days, I still feel short on time. I would ask Dylan to help with the household chores, but I have this worry: Will I still be able to handle all of the housework myself after Dylan moves out and I’m old and alone? So to make sure I can… I do. I should ask him to help with daily chores to free up my time for other, more major projects, but I’m not quite there yet. Anyway, I want him to focus on school.
Because I did grow up in abject poverty and was a single parent and so poor for so many years, I’m adept at budgeting money. I suck at budgeting time. Managing my time is something I need to do better. I do have a decent amount of free time on weekends, and compared to some people I know who overextend themselves, I’m doing OK. However, I think I could do better and I need to do it in the name of “self care.”
Purging my email inboxes and taking the time to unsubscribe from all the useless emails was just the first step. Next came not using Facebook. That has freed up a lot of time. The next thing I’m going to do is make sure I don’t get on the HOA board of directors for next year. The emails flood my inbox, the attitudes are toxic, the meetings are stressful because of the negativity of certain members, and I just don’t have the time to devote to it.
Other things I need to be mindful of are chores. I need to let the dishes pile up in the sink once in a while because rinsing them takes just as much time whether there’s four or fifteen. I could only check my email once a week and the world wouldn’t end. I need to clean the litter box after dinner and let the clean dishes sit there in the morning and empty the dishwasher while dinner is cooking. I need to space chores out and multitask better. I should run in the morning and stretch or walk at lunch. I could even do strength training at lunch.
I think the key thing here, though, is to resolve to keep my calendar clear with the exception of doctor, dentist, etc. appointments and races. Don’t commit to anything but what’s necessary for good health both physically and emotionally.
Unnecessary things to do less of, overall
- Facebook (biggest time suck ever).
- Mindless scrolling on other social media like Instagram and Twitter (and even Strava).
- Hitting the snooze button.
- Researching every symptom, ache, and pain on Google because for me, Google is a rabbit hole.
- I think it’s finally time to stop logging all of my food on MyFitnessPal and just be more mindful of what I eat, how much I eat, and when I eat it.
Necessary things to do less frequently
- Checking email (once a day is enough).
- Loading the dishwasher (once a day is enough).
- Emptying trash and recycling (once a week is enough).
- Making my bed so neatly (I do this every morning and don’t want to stop, but maybe I could just throw the covers back over and call it good and only make it neatly after I wash the sheets).
Things to do at different times
- Empty the dishwasher while dinner is cooking to free up time in the morning and evening.
- Clean the litter box after dinner to free up time in the morning.
- Hands need washing after litter cleaning, so use this time to load the dishwasher.
- Take out the trash and recycling every Friday night after doing the usual laundry, vacuuming, and paying bills. Check snail mail first so the junk goes right out with the recycling.
- Start taking my 15-minute breaks at work and use the morning break to read/respond to/unsubscribe from/delete personal emails and make any necessary phone calls.
- Use my afternoon work breaks to check in with Dylan.
- I used to spend my lunch hour on Facebook. Now I can use that time to get some quick strength training in, a short walk, some stretching, or just read a book. (We have a small gym with some equipment at work, so I don’t have to leave the building for a simple workout.)
- Continue to do grocery shopping on Thursdays so we’re stocked up for the weekend, but I’m not burdened by it on a Friday night.
- Keep Sundays free with the exception of the occasional race so that I can run Saturday and rest Sunday.
- Do my long runs early every Saturday morning (and maybe food prep) and enjoy the rest of the weekend!
Notice the trend is to get everything done during the week so as to free up the weekend, but spread it out so I’m not so overwhelmed and exhausted throughout the work week that I’m too tired to do anything all weekend.
Things to do more of, overall
- Writing handwritten letters to family.
- Writing in general.
- Continuing education.
- Reading for pleasure.
- Getting out of bed when my alarm goes off.
- Sticking to my training plan; exercising harder, not longer– and with purpose.
- Healthy eating (cooking dinner more often as opposed to canned stew, chili, or cold cereal for dinner).
- Leisurely walks (in the rain).
- Hiking for pleasure, not fitness (also in the rain).
- More being, less doing. Spending a few minutes each day just sitting quietly and observing my surroundings and my thoughts.
- Nature photography, but only as a hobby (in the rain!)
- Having meaningful relationships with people.
- Doing a kick-ass job at work and adulting like a motherfucker, but outside of work and during free time– keeping my sense of humor, staying young at heart, and playing as hard as I work.
- When I feel I’m ready– purging unused items from my home and selling those with value for some extra cash.
I think I’m doing OK where finances are concerned. That is, I don’t have much money, but I’m not out squandering what little I have on booze, either. We hardly ever eat out. I’m drug-free, don’t smoke, and I’ve even been conserving gas. I am broke, but it’s not because I’m spending foolishly. It’s because I buy a lot of healthy food, feed two people and two cats, and I’m paying down student loan and credit card debt (from when I had to get my car fixed after hitting a coworker). I’ve spent a lot of money on running gear and races as well, but that will be winding down as I sign up for fewer races and my shoes still have a lot of miles left on them. Next year’s summer vacation won’t be in a national park, either. I’m thinking of going camping somewhere nearby to keep costs low.
I feel like I have a good handle on my health, home, family, and finances. Time is the biggest issue now, and how I spend it. Time needs to be spent more efficiently, more wisely, more mindfully, and with people who are a positive influence and just as motivated as I am. Those people are hard to find, which I suppose is why I don’t have many friends. I think I probably come across as elitist to most people because I loathe anti-intellectualism; want to feed my mind with intelligently written material; want to surround myself with positive and motivated people; bounce ideas, goals, and encouragement back and forth with those people, and realize that time and good health are things we can’t get back once they’re gone.
When my kids were little and screamed in the grocery store, meddling middle-aged women would give me their unsolicited opinions and advice (“pick him up,” “take him home,” etc.) I told them to fuck off. The reason I told them to fuck off was because 1) I was a single parent and when the hell would I get anything done if I kept my kids home all the time? and 2) I knew that to get the kids to stop screaming every day and in every situation, I needed to ignore the negative behavior and reinforce the positive behavior every day and in every situation. I took my kids out in various public places on purpose to get them used to what type of behavior is expected in public. On the days that my boys didn’t scream at the store, I bought them a Hot Wheels car. The days they did, I ignored them. Over time, they learned to stop screaming.
My point with this is, I may have looked like a jerk and a horrible mother during that 30 minutes of screaming (just like I look like a jerk when I complain about memes and mindless sharing of political posts on Facebook), but I didn’t care because I was the one to have to take those kids home with me and endure screaming every day and in every situation. So if someone thinks I’m elitist because I want to associate with intellectualism, positivity, and motivation– and people who are intelligent, positive, and motivated– so be it.
I am the one who has to go home with me and be alone with me every day and in every situation. I need to be comfortable with that because I’ve already lived through at least half of my life expectancy.
Anyway, I can learn a lot more about politics, history, and what’s going on in the world by reading a book than with a Twitter screenshot on Facebook. Reading increases vocabulary, strengthens spelling and grammar skills, and has also been tied to developing better empathy. You can’t go wrong with putting down the phone, getting off the computer, and picking up a book. I grew up poor, so reading books and playing outside in lieu of watching TV was just a way of life (coincidentally [or not] I got super stellar grades in school). I think it’s time to go back to the basics, at least for most of my days. Life has become too complicated and too busy and we’re all way too accessible.