Don't Just Count The Days....
In these times of monotony and discontent, I find myself having particular difficulty viewing each day as a gift. I need the constant reminder that each of the days that pass is gone for good. Days, and the time they offer each 24 hours, are a limited resource that I can’t have back. As I confront my own challenges with making each day valuable I created a list. Some of these seem to help:
1. Multitask. There is great value in doing multiple low-level things at the same time in order to get them off of the list. I can fold a load of laundry while I speak to my mother. I can march around the living room to get in my steps while I’m reviewing spelling words with my daughter. I can get in 10 burpees while the microwave is heating up my lunch. Or not. Having a productive day does not mean doing everything that I do, or filling your days to the brim. But a productive day often includes a gentle juggling of what is required of us so we can see that something got done. Multitasking for me gives me a shot in the arm, reminding me that “I can do it” when I’m feeling a bit less than successful at getting larger projects done.
2. Set a timer. If you set out to answer just a few emails and it should only take 15 minutes, then setting a timer for 20 keeps you honest and gets you to close the books on that item so you can move on to something else. With kids, I find that a timer (along with a little music) is a great motivator for cleaning up a space or bringing an activity to an end. When the music is done or the timer sounds, everyone knows that means time for moving on has arrived. No arguments, no fuss. Again, the timer is not there to take you through an obstacle course of antics before the buzzer rings. The timer is simply there to keep you accountable for the time you are spending on a given task. Time can be so elusive. When I set a timer for tasks I am gently reminded to use it wisely.
3. Do at least one thing you enjoy. Your ability to truly enjoy one aspect of your day should never be dependent on finishing everything that is on your list. That sounds like a terrible recipe for putting your own happiness and peace on hold. Building in and planning for a small bit of time dedicated to you, by you, can have a huge impact on how you feel about your day. I can hear the chorus singing already - “I don’t have time!” But you do, if you make it part of your daily schedule. What could be more important than taking care of you? It’s not cleaning the closet. It’s not answering the phone. If you don’t make yourself a priority for the tiniest bit of your day, how can you possibly expect others to respect your time in turn. My family is clear - I am going to work out every day. It is a given part of my day. They respect that time as mine. And they have adjusted to whatever other things might not get done because I am spending that time on me. And in turn, I respect their “downtime”, too. Making the days count is not a race to finish everything you have on your long and never-ending list of tasks. The days count when we can look back at them and feel fulfilled. That means something different to all of us.
4. Stop crawling down the rabbit hole. We have all of the information we could possibly need at our fingertips at all times. And while it usually is extremely helpful to have conversions for measurements right on my phone when I’m cooking a recipe, it can also serve to distract me and allow me to waste my time chasing information that I just don’t need. A few weeks ago, I was searching YouTube for an instructional video about cleaning the iron. I started searching and found something useful. And then I noticed that this video was one in a whole series of cleaning things around the house. Oooh - cleaning the keyboard using gel? And then I clicked on the author of the video, who happened to also dance to videos of BTS. And then I watched a new video of BTS. And read the Time Magazine article about them because I was curious about their names. And that same Time Magazine had a list of the most influential people of the year. And it was fascinating to read about the lady who helped create the vaccine. And the guy who spent last year working on addressing the fire dangers in wine country. And….and…..and…..and…..rabbit hole. Welcome. Just stop. It is such a waste of your energy. And it is a pretty sad way to spend the most valuable thing you have - time. When I resist the urge to go down those rabbit holes, inevitably a reflex for not wanting to do something else that needs my attention, I feel better about how I have spent my time, and I feel better about my day. If “rabbit holing” is something you enjoy, then by all means, set aside time to do it. But don’t just mindlessly tumble into it and still expect to feel energized and fulfilled on the other side.
5. Laugh. I can’t imagine a day going by without laughter. I have kids so there is never a shortage of opportunities to laugh either with them or ever so discreetly at them. But laughter is not reserved for only parents and should be enjoyed each day. The funny paper (for those who still get a newspaper), the tweets of the day, a favorite television show, or a book - laughter is everywhere. Better yet, seek out the company of a friend and laugh with them. The suggestion is not to laugh away the day, but to feel light enough to laugh throughout your day. Living responsibility is serious stuff, but you can live your life without being serious 24/7.
6. One thing. Make that your motto. Just one thing to help you reach a goal. One day of strength training. One sugary drink exchanged for a glass of water. One paragraph added to your book project. One drawer cleaned out in your overflowing spare room. One old dress added to the donation pile. Make no mistake - progress on big things is built by tons of little steps that are taken one at a time. Taking the time each day to focus on just one little thing allows you the freedom to rejoice in making actual progress. Each day counts when we take action towards our goals, no matter how small.
Try any of these, or craft your own path to feeling like the days that lie ahead of you are fulfilling. Remind yourself that every day counts. Remind yourself that you can make every day count by choosing not just how you fill your days but how you think about your days. Do your best to do more than just living. Don’t count the days as they pass - make the days count.