What Would You Like To Do Today?
A recent issue of O, The Oprah Magazine featured a quiz that used a pie chart to plot how you spend your day. The quiz was in two parts. Part one plotted what you actually do now and part two was a list of things you love doing. The last part of the task involved seeing where (or if) the things you love fit into your usual day. As I looked at my day the “things I love” and “things I do” sections didn’t match up as nicely as I’d hoped.
It’s easy to set a quiz like this aside and think, “Well ideals are lovely but someone has to work around here.” It’s surprisingly easy to dismiss our own happiness and say, “who has the time?” But the truth is I have the time. You have the time. We get the same 24 hours a day as Oprah and an Olympic athlete. It’s the same 24 hours my friend gets to raise her quadruplets. Yes, Oprah has help and an Olympian may not have to work the same hours I do, but the principle stands. I have the time; I just tend to put the priority on other things.
It’s hard to free up time in a schedule that is already set, which is why this time of year, these days leading into September, are the very best time to think about it. I don’t know about you, but for me September has always felt like more of a new beginning than January the first. September puts school back in session, church activities restart and volunteer roles pick back up. (If I’m being really honest, September is also when I start cooking again after a summer of cold cuts and salad.)
This is a great time of year to dream a little and see what could be. Not all options are going to be practical right now but there may be more room for joy than you realize. Years ago a friend of mine used to babysit once a week for a mother of triplets. The Mom was an accomplished sailor and every Sunday afternoon she would hire three babysitters to watch the kids and take to the water. Those brief hours kept her sane. If a mother of young triplets can find time, anyone can!
Putting more joy in your day can start with these three steps:
1. Find out what you want. Pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee and take some time to ask yourself, “What would be completely refreshing?” Consider the following:
- Is there an old hobby you’d like to pick up?
- Is there a skill you’ve always wanted to learn?
- Is there a skill you’d like to develop further?
- Is there something silly that always makes you smile?
- Outside of your work and family, what brings you joy?
2. Make it practical. Once you’ve got your list it’s time to think practically. You might be able to find time every week; you might only be able to find time once a month, or twice this year. Take a look at your schedule and see what you can start with. (Imagine this was something for your kids, what would you be willing to move to make space for them?)
3. Consider your options. Once you know how much time you have, start looking at options. Is there a class you can take? If that’s too much is there a one-day workshop that fits your interests? If your happy dream seems very far away, try to break it down into smaller parts. Going back to school full time might not be financially feasible but could you start by taking a class online?
Perhaps what you need right now is just some quiet time to dream. If that’s you, consider booking an hour, once a week that is just your time. (If your husband will be watching the kids during that hour, make sure he gets an hour off somewhere in the week too.) Find a quiet place and enforce the time.
Let me say that again: enforce the time. That means that you honor the time and you require your family to honor it also. If you have an infant you’re going to need to schedule this time around the child’s schedule. But once out of infancy, so long as there’s another adult watching them, they can wait.
It may be hard at first, but it can be done. Earlier this year I visited my brother and sister in law. They have three children under three and during my stay when I needed a little quiet time I would retreat to my room for half an hour or so. Often I’d hear little fingers knocking on the door and my sister in law would say, “Auntie Claire needs a nap. She’ll be out later.” Three year olds with younger siblings understand the importance of naps. She would only have to tell him once and he’d leave me alone. If a three year old knows the difference between “now” and “not now” odds are good that with a little coaching the people in your family will be able to see it too.
The things that give us joy are important. It’s a truth that can get lost sometimes in the tyranny of the urgent. The mortgage can’t wait and someone needs to make dinner and if you’re late for work because you were pursuing joy, odds are good it won’t go over well with your boss. But just in the same way that we need to make time to sleep and make time to exercise, we need to make time to do the things that make up happy.
So do a little dreaming and then get out your calendar for the upcoming year. What would you really like to do this year? What stories do you want to tell next summer? These memories and moments can start right here, with the promise of September just around the corner.
Take the next step: