I’ve always been aware that when I say “I don’t have time for something.” I’m not actually stating a fact, I’m stating a priority. I don’t regard that particular thing as important enough to ‘make time’ for it. But recently I realized that there are a few more layers to the whole issue of time management.
I’ve been wanting to make time in my schedule for writing. It’s a priority for me. So as I’ve had free moments I’ve thought, “Now I can write!” Not so simple. These moments are frequently just when I’ve come home from a tiring day of teaching and I have an hour before I need to make a 80km round trip to fetch my son from school, knowing that when I get home I still have to cook a meal, help with homework, listen to my children’s stories, chat with my spouse and get myself and my kids to bed. At this moment I’m tired and my body rightly tells me that I need to take this hour to have a coffee, relax and allow my body and brain some down time.
Most of us lead very busy lives. We work both outside of and inside of the home. We spend a great deal of time taking care of our children’s material, social and academic needs. Many of us spend a great deal of time on the road or rail getting to and from work, shops and schools. Some of us have additional community or church commitments. None of these are easily downscaled. My life is busy, busy, busy.
Don’t get me wrong, I have free time, actually quite a lot. Yet I’m finding that this time is desperately needed for rest and relaxation. I need time to sit in the sun and read fiction or yes even just gaze out of the window. I need time to read articles that have nothing to do with my work. I need time to watch my favourite TV programs. I need to sit and scrapbook. Not because I feel any obligation, but purely because these things don’t take energy from me, instead they make me feel like I’m being plugged in for re-charging.
Yet I still feel guilty when I take these moments. “You say you want to write, you’ve got time now, why don’t you do it, you’re so lazy!” berates my inner voice. But I’m choosing to ignore that voice. I’ve realized it’s not just a time issue or a priority issue it’s also, largely an energy issue. I am not an unlimited machine. I know my body well enough to know that I have less energy stores than someone like my husband. Or maybe the things that feed his energy levels just look more active than mine (gardening, fixing, being outdoors). I have come to accept who and what I am. I need these downtimes just like I need food and sleep. If I deny myself I will become increasingly tired, stressed and cranky.
So I have become more inclined to say no to all sorts of things. I say no to certain social engagements, especially ones where there will be lots of people and conversation will be superficial. I give myself permission to miss out on church and church functions from time to time. I don’t initiate as many social events. I don’t go shopping unless I really have to. I have plenty of interaction with people most days but I’ve learned where to draw my line. I realize there will be times for writing, and studying further, and preparing talks, and planting herbs and all those things I truly value and would love to do, maybe not as much time as I would like… but right now I’m giving myself the freedom to say, “I don’t have time today because I have to sit here and do nothing for a while.”