Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How much time...

Clock dial of the French Revolution, Photograp...Image via Wikipedia

MindSieve has filtered several posts this year with my opinion and/or response regarding "calls" I, and perhaps you, have received in our lives. I continue to circulate the ideas of what feeds me with an eye toward my personal scheduling of activity and the scheduling I observe of others around me. Visiting my list of regular blogsites, Abbey of the Arts contributed poetry and thoughts on the "caring for oneself" subject in September.

Last week, sensing the temptation to become over-committed in my volunteer activities, I pulled up in my mind an old business tool. It was presented to me eons ago in a time-management seminar and I've returned to it time and again to get myself focused once more.

It's a simple spreadsheet of a week's hours (7 x 24 =168) with my approximate recording of time I spend on daily and monthly activities. Here's a little sample below. You might want to map out a week for yourself.

1..Sleeping soundly as possible - I have no small children

2..Dining at home/out - I love out!

3..Creative Stuff/Collages/Poetry - this is my goal!

4..Bathing/grooming/patching - I require a lot of work!

5..Blogging - this is important to me

6..Prayer/Meditation - and so is this!

7..Gourmet Food Prep, sorta..

8..Yoga/Free Weights/Aerobic
I need endorphins & muscle and flexibility!

9..Attending Church

10.Creative Grocery Shopping -
including a list each time!

11.Movie Critiquing/Netflix:)
Takes my mind off everything

12.Tiptoeing thru Household everyday Chores - I am lucky to have some weekly help

13.Reading articles, theology, instruction manuals, reviewing others' artwork

14.Renovare Spiritual Formation Study & Group

15.Volunteer Boards - 3 of them

16.Feeding the Washer/Dryer

17.Volunteering Mentoring

18.Free Time

19.Mail devoted mostly to Receiving/Destroying Catalogues/Bill Pay


You fill in your own activities. Your worksheet categories will look a lot different than mine if you're a young, working parent/spouse/single that needs to add in ALL that's required in the young striving family category. The GOAL is NOT to take on more than you can reasonably handle! I know, easier said than done.

Another example of measuring what's important and taking up hours in my life is an exercise I've seen used in business seminars and actually during a children's sermon in church one morning -

A Philosophy professor one day picked up a large empty jar and proceeded to fill it with small rocks. He then asked his students if the jar was full? They unanimously agreed that the jar was full.

So professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He then asked his students again if the jar was full. Again, they unanimously agreed that the jar was full.

Then the professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

"Now," the professor said, "I want you to recognize that this is your life. The rocks are the important things: your family, your partner, your friends, your health, your children, and things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else. If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you."

So, what do the chart and the rocks exercises say or prove? My own recent time worksheet indicated to me that I'm becoming dangerously close to over-committing to more tasks, meetings, and scheduling than I actually have time for in a week. My chart called out to me the tasks I might really be doing because someone else wanted me to, or expected me to do, or that in a guilt-laden moment I might have been leaned upon to do. Those hours on the chart screamed out at me - "give it up!! - and/or don't take on anything else!" Give it up before my truly important relationships suffer, before my health takes a turn for the worse, before I find myself snapping at a slow driver in front of me, or my spouse, or even the poor doggies.

I want to feed my life with what feeds me, to spend time in those places and activities that are enriching to my soul, and to my one and only life. Before I head off to a place or activity complaining that "I wish I wasn't doing this or WHY am I doing this" I want to reflect on my worksheet of hours and say - THIS is important, THAT is not. It's such a simple tool to use and when occasionally I decide to balance myself, it is an excellent reminder of who, what, and why is receiving my attention, my honor, my heart and my soul.

Do you see places in your life that could benefit from a weekly/hourly examination? I'd love to hear if you've always used something like this, sometimes, or never?

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  1. oh my, i'm taken back to my "professional" days of using a dayplanner with all of the organizing tools, etc. i tossed that one out a long time ago :-) thinking about this wonderful line of yours:

    "I want to feed my life with what feeds me, to spend time in those places and activities that are enriching to my soul, and to my one and only life," i realize that my best gage is my gut which could be translated to my body. if i am exhausted - i stop to ask myself why. if i am anxious - same thing. if my body says "go to yoga or on a walk or..." i try really hard to listen. ironically (?) as i am learning to take better care of myself, i find that my care of others is expanding. there is SO much i want to do i have to reign myself in periodically and find that balance is a great word to aspire to.

    today included - a little art, some organizing of supplies, yoga, leaf raking, feeding the washing machine & the cat, facilitating a group in recovery, watching a dvd and a few other various details. it was a bit more spacious day since my spouse is out of town and my daughter is working... it helps balance out those days that have less time for self-care and is more focused on other-centered care...

    rambling? perhaps. i still come back to your line:

    "I want to feed my life with what feeds me, to spend time in those places and activities that are enriching to my soul, and to my one and only life." ...and i try each moment to make the choices to allow that to happen... sometimes, i even succeed :-)


    one more thought: changing my attitude about certain activities like taking out the garbage and sweeping the floor have turned even those mundane things into potential "soul enriching" activities. i thank brother lawrence for introducing me to meditative dish washing!

  2. Hi Lucy,

    I tossed my "scheduler" long ago also, yet, feeling a little crunched last week with the idea of any more volunteer commitments, I decided to take a look at how I'm spending my time. To a working Mom my days would be heaven and for me they are really wonderful. I don't want to mess up a good thing though thinking I can volunteer more at the expense of my writing and painting. It was a good check on my balance.

    I so agree that attitude is something at this time in our lives, yours AND mine that we may use to a better advantage than we might have when younger and more pressed.

    I had to slow myself down this afternoon as I was trying out a recipe and realized that I'd left the carrots needed either in my grocery cart or someone else's - started to get in a twit and thought, get a grip, leave out the carrots - luckily it wasn't a carrot cake!:)


  3. I woke up this morning, having gone to bed a bit earlier last night (sleeping with two cats that each want to share your pillow has been a challenge!), fed the kittehs, took out the garbage, and noticed there was frost on the ground and on the windshields. That's a significant omen of winter's coming. Then I took my cup of coffee to my computer and read your post today. I am going to fill out and reflect on my worksheet of hours and see where it takes me.
    I thought, too, of my calligraphy workshop yesterday. I was fretting over my stuckness and, to my mind, lack of imagination. Claire said she did not see it that way and encouraged me to take a walk, set aside sufficient space and time for my calligraphy work at home. Chimes in with your saying you want "to spend time in those places and activities that are enriching to my soul, and to my one and only life."

  4. SS, thanks for these wise words about tuning in when our lives are becoming too full. I have to admit, the listing of my commitments and the number of hours makes my head spin a bit, and I would find it a bit too challenging to even try to quantify some of my creative projects where the number of hours seems to shift with my energy over an idea. My practice strives to be very organic and I am most content and balanced when I have the time to check in with myself about what I need in a given day to feel more whole and energized. And I concur with lucy, when the dishes and other chores become exercises in mindfulness and windows into sacred action, my life feels much free.

  5. Hi Barbara,
    Thanks as always for the comments. I hope the time chart is helpful in seeing places where you're robbing yourself of true enjoyment, creativity, inner peace. I spent a good portion of the afternoon with paint, brushes and glue and feel like I accomplished so much for my inner self. It's something that makes me very does my blogging activity with blogging pals!

  6. Hey Abbey,
    Your list of projects and commitments certainly makes my head swim but you're in the prime, prime of life and your creative energy and creativity is full speed ahead even though it may be on simmer some days with regard to energy. I know you're intent on watching and keeping aware of what feeds you, so it's unlikely you were surprised to read about the tools that I offered in this post. You've made me more and more aware of taking advantage of those activities and persons who really energize me and feed my creativity as well. Thanks again for your comments today.