In her engaging book “The Not So Big Life” one of the observations author Sarah Susanka makes is about how she hates conflict and avoids it at every turn. Hating conflict is an easy character trait to recognize in oneself. I know a lot LOT of people who hate conflict. The repercussions of this hatred are what surprised me though.
Hating conflict is common
One way many people (including me) avoid conflicts is by anticipating problems and then fixing them as soon as humanly possible. I don’t even give a fella a minute to ask for help. I am all up in your business fixing the problem you don’t know you have. Oh! Wait! Now there it’s gone. Nonni handled it. Isn’t she great?
Added incentive: I love praise! I have always gotten a lot of kudos when I do this trick — this fix-a-problem-before-it-is-a-problem trick. And now as a middle-aged person, I am still doing it. I do it for kids, for men, for friends, for clients.
Fixing problems — or really just perceived, would-be problems — is what fills my days.
Let me restate that. Fixing problems USED to fill my days. After spending some time with my lady-friends reading and journaling about this book, “The Not So Big Life”, I have taken a few steps back and decided that I don’t want to spend my days putting out fires and fixing everyone’s problems.
Stepping back a little I now realize that the catastrophes I have been fearing — a dirty countertop, a fight between siblings, an unmade bed, a day without milk — are not really that scary. And the real kicker is that sometimes the catastrophes don’t even happen!
My personality didn’t change
I still love to fix a problem. I still love to clean a countertop and fold other people’s laundry. And I still get to do this stuff. But once I noted this pattern in my life of immediate problem solving, I could begin to recognize it easily and stop being its slave. I can do helpful things more purposefully and, ideally, when asked.
I can solve problems when I chose to solve them. Just because someone is texting me or emailing me for some information does not mean I need to stop reading my book or practicing piano with my daughter to answer them. It can wait. It really can.
Schedule what’s important
Last year I found myself jealous of my mother because she reads so many books. I thought to myself, I can’t wait to retire so I can read! I don’t have time for that now.
Then I heard someone say—for the 1000th time—you have time to do whatever you want if you make it a priority. Click To Tweet
So, I decided to make reading a priority. I took inventory of my time and found that I was spending a lot of minutes every day on immediate (perceived) problem solving. Creating an actual schedule for my days helped me cut out more of this wasted helpfulness and prioritize reading.
If I take control of my time and schedule a time to answer emails, a time to play around on instagram and a time to take care of business, it is truly ASTOUNDING how much time there is left in my day. Sometimes, I even feel bored. CAN YOU IMAGINE?
Create a space
Now a few months later, I am happy to report that not only have I found some time to read–I have read completely through the stack of books by my bed. I have read a few from the library and I am getting into the books that have been waiting downstairs for me for years! I made time for reading. I set up a reading area on my porch and I started reading. It is so simple I am embarrassed by how long it took me to realize this and just do it.
It’s at times like this when I am so happy to be getting older. My birthday is approaching and it isn’t exactly a sexy number. But when I think about this revelation with the reading and how much more peaceful and relaxed I feel because of this simple thing I am so grateful to not be 29 anymore. To not be living my life in fast forward trying to go to every party and seize every minute of the day. I’m pretty happy to enjoy my day’s minutes.
How about you?
Your turn, lady
Think of something you have been wanting to do. Dance lessons? Lunch with your bestie? Go back to school?
Think about what you are waiting for. Retirement? The kids to grow up? Your husband to clean out the garage? HA! Stop waiting and start scheduling. You have just as much time in your day as everyone else does. The difference is in how you manage it. Schedule some reading on your calendar, or yoga or some hiking — whatever it is that you are waiting to start doing. It’s time.
Bonus points: take a picture of your new thing and tag me on Instagram. (getorganizedalready)
More great posts about making the most of your precious time:
- Prioritizing happiness: 4 steps to time management
- Doing it all
- Doing it all: Home care ideas from a professional organizer
- Take a day off
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Also published on Medium.