(Originally published December 29, 2016)
The year is drawing to a close, and one of the themes that seems to be on everyone’s mind is time. It’s certainly on mine.
A couple of months ago, I was asked to speak to a group of students at the university where I teach. The topic? Time management. My gut reaction was, “Let’s find another speaker so I can listen to a talk on time management, because WOW, I need to hear that.” But I reluctantly recognized that the best way to learn to manage my own time a little better was to do the work of figuring some of this out for myself. So I got to work.
The students I was speaking to are like many of the readers of this blog: bright, motivated, and working tirelessly toward their goals. I asked them to start with this exercise: Write a list of the things that are important to you. No ranking, no set number of items on the list. You might include writing, family, work, exercise, sleep, activism or volunteer work, mediation or worship, travel–it’s your list! But there are a few to get you thinking. (This is the part where you actually take two minutes to write the list. Tasha’s insightful and inspiring post on essentialism might help.)
Okay. Now. Time is one of the most precious commodities any of us have to invest. I would assert that emotional energy may be the other, and that they are related through one of my mom’s favorite quotes:
“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Consider, then, the goals you’re pursuing and the important things on your list. What is the cost of each–not only in terms of time, but the emotional cost as well? How much of your life are you willing to exchange for a finished manuscript, a book deal, an online presence? For a close relationship with your parents or children? For a physically and mentally healthy body? For the social or environmental causes that are close to your heart?
These are not rhetorical questions; there is no answer or position I’m guiding you to. But the cost of each of the things on your list–those most precious, important aspects of your life–is worth considering.
As you look toward 2017, reflect upon how you spent your time and emotional energy in 2016. Unless you’re perfect, there will be adjustments to be made. (I know there are for me.) But know that if you’re investing in the things that are important to you–even if the balance isn’t perfect, even if you sometimes feel you’re falling short–then you’re doing okay. Make those adjustments. Ask for help. And then be fierce and steadfast and work hard.
We got this. Look out, 2017.