One of the most difficult issues for those of us in what Jane Fonda calls Act 3 in her new book Prime Time is that we get seriously busy. Rather than having time to read, work on our favorite pasttime, enjoy life at a relaxed pace, we find ourselves living according to our calendars, volunteering for duties that end up feeling like a job, and finding ourselves at the end of the day wondering why we didn’t … read poetry, write, play music, take a walk … you fill in the blank.
I’ve noticed how many women take on projects out of a sense of obligation just because they can do whatever the job is. For example, I volunteered to be the president of our homeowners’ association because I had experience running organizations. This took a lot of time that I then didn’t have for other things. While my homeowners’ association is important to me, there are other ways to be involved that are more fun and less aggravating.
Which leads to the next reason I’ve noticed that keeps me busy, — doing things because they are interesting. If you’re like me, you’re interested in a lot of things. That’s why I have a pair of waders to use for fly fishing which I have yet to wear. And it’s why I spent last Saturday morning at a meditation workshop (which I have already incorporated into my routine), and why my calendar looks like it did when I was working full time at the law school. The world is an interesting place. I could completely fill my calendar with classes, workshops, adult play-days. So rather than just do what sounds interesting, I have decided that before I say yes, what I choose to do has to relate to my values for this time of my life.
We live a life of fulfillment by making choices consistent with our values. If there’s a conflict in what to choose, then determining our higher-ranked value can resolve the conflict. Values arise from who we are, not what we do. If my values relate to being in nature, being with people one-on-one, experiencing solitude, then I probably wouldn’t choose to spend my money and time on going to NASCAR events. Usually we know intuitively if activities relate to our values; that’s why we want to do them. But sometimes things get complicated if we are asked by a dear friend or an organization we belong to to do something that we really don’t want to do. But because we want to spend time with our friend or stay involved in the organization, we say yes then find ourselves overbooked, often with activities we really don’t enjoy.
What will help us get off this merry-go-round? Take a little time to write down your values and rank them according to their importance to you. One way to do this is to think of a peak moment in time and then extract the values from that experience. Then, when you are leafing through the continuing education catalogue or browsing on the lifelong learning website, you will decline signing up for kickboxing and instead opt for restorative yoga or say no to Re-enactment of the Civil War in Socorro and sign up for A Culinary Tour of Italy. While all of the classes sound somewhat interesting to me, some are more consistent with my values.
To avoid the “how did I ever find time to have a job?” busy-ness syndrome, ask yourself these three questions when you are about to say yes to an opportunity.
1) Does this relate to an important value?
2) Will I really enjoy doing it?
3) Do I want to give it the time this will take?
If you can say yes to these three questions, you probably won’t regret your decision.