Disclaimer: yes, there are exceptions to today’s post. Instead of making that disclaimer over and over through the post, I’ll just say it here. But for most decisions that most of us make on most days, it’s all true.
“I don’t have time.”
“I can’t afford it.”
“I just don’t have the energy.”
Ever heard any of these? Ever uttered them yourself? Or perhaps their statement-partners: I wish I had more time/money/energy.
The truth is that we have enough for many things, just not enough for everything. And for the most part, we’re really bad at doling it out according to our priorities.
I was conversing with someone not long ago who complained that they really just didn’t have enough time to exercise. But they could tell me everything I wanted to know and then some about ten different TV shows. Impossible to have “no time” to exercise and be watching that much TV! Heck, go to the gym and walk on a treadmill while you watch it! “I can’t afford the gym.” Cut the cable and go to the gym for all of your shows — exercise taken care of, more money in hand, less butt-to-couch magnetism.
We all have only 24 hours:
How is it that some people seem to do everything and some people can’t find time to do anything? Part of it is that people (in general) are not what they seem. There are people who think I do a whole lot more than I actually do.
But really, some people use their time better than others. Some people say they have priorities but don’t live by them. Others live by them (to a greater or lesser extent). What’s the most important thing in your life? How much time (and energy) to you give to it? Why?
Do you really want to spend four hours a day on the computer? Or watching TV? Letting the TV drain your brain for whatever time you’ve decided, because that’s what you do to relax, is all good. If you know you’re not going to get up after you sit down, make it happen at the end of the day (not the end of the work day). Or change your habit of flopping down and not getting up. I know one person who put the TV on a timer, so that at a certain time, it turned itself off. Not a bad idea.
In personal finance:
I read in a personal finance blog somewhere along the way a sentiment along these lines: You can have everything you want, you just can’t have it all at once. There are stories of married couples in their late 20s who have houses that are paid off. They worked two jobs, lived like they were still in college, threw everything extra at the mortgage and got it done. After that, they had more free time and more disposable income. But they couldn’t have disposable income and free time and a house and no mortgage from Day 1.
I have seen many people with all sorts of financial troubles buy all sorts of unnecessary things. I have certainly not always applied my financial wisdom to all situations, but I’m much better about it now than I used to be. And I’m aware of this tidbit that I picked up in a blog somewhere as well: you only get to spend each dollar once. Spend it on whatever you’d like, but it only passes through your wallet once.
I’m so tired…
If you’re really tired all the time, you either have a newborn , some sort of health condition or you’re not taking care of yourself (which I guess could be considered a health condition, but that’s not what I meant).
Newborn: sleep when they sleep. It’s true. You can get help with everything else. No one else can sleep for you.
Health condition: go to the doctor and see what can be done.
Everything else: if you eat a generally healthy diet, drink enough water (and little enough of most everything else), exercise regularly, get enough sleep, the energy will follow.
Once you get into the habit of exercising, a good workout will help you feel better on its own. Really. It’s one of those things that people don’t believe until they do it. In the last few weeks, I’ve heard it from three people who have recently learned this lesson themselves, and it excites me every time. Welcome to the side of the believers
Sugar, refined carbs, and caffeine are energy-drains. You’ll feel better for a short while, but then you’ll feel worse than when you started. You’re better off without them.
As with the other pieces, it comes down to what’s important. Would you rather have a muffin for breakfast, bread with your lunch, cookies in the afternoon, a piece of candy as you walk by the dish, ice cream after dinner, or would you rather feel good and have more energy?
Want to do better but don’t know how? Here are two things that go hand-in-hand that might help you find your path.
1- Write everything down. Write down everything you spend money on. Everything. Including interest, penalties, fees, etc. Everything looks a little bit different when you see it on paper. (I’ve seen a suggestion to take your monthly expenses and color in one month of a calendar, indicating how many days’ pay go towards each expense. This is eye-opening. How many days’ work does it take for you to pay interest? Or for your lunches out? Or for your non-essential utilities? Not saying you shouldn’t have these things. Just make the decision that that is how you want to spend your money.)
For time, do a time audit. For a few days, every 15 minutes, write down how you spent the last 15 minutes. Just a few notes — you don’t want the entire notebook to say, “10 minutes, writing how I spent the last 15 minutes.” At the end of a day or two or three, look closely at how you’re spending your time — then change the parts you don’t like. Include in this what you’re ingesting and when you’re sitting, standing, moving, etc. and you’ve got all of your bases covered.
2- List and live by your priorities. I would love a smart phone. But there are many, many other things I’d rather spend money on than a smart phone bill every month. So I don’t have one. (Or a data plan.) It’s not a priority. Maybe it is for you. It doesn’t matter to me what your priorities are — just make them and stick by them … or they’re not really priorities.
That goes together with energy. Spend your energy on things that are important to you. I know I have gotten caught up spending a lot of energy being mad about something or someone at work. People and situations I don’t like are definitely NOT a priority, so why spend all that energy on them? For me, a good workout will calm most of that noise. I’m sure if I worked at it, I could become good at meditating which would be more practical when I’m still at work. A few deep breaths takes the edge off, as does the reminder that I don’t need to be angry.
You can’t do it all.
I have always been a person who has been spread thin. It took me until just a couple of years ago to say, “I’m not going to live my life under constant deadlines and high stress.” I learned to say no. The problem is/was that I am interested in a lot of things. Opportunities come up. I want to take them! (It’s not even often people asking me — it’s just stuff that’s out there that I want to do.) I learned to say no. My life became better.
And then I had a kid.
As it turns out, kids take a lot of time and energy. It is easy to let them become all-consuming. So my already-pared-down life has become more pared down. Some things I’m not cutting completely — just doing when I can make time without feeling stressed, and not feeling bad about not doing it more. Other things are gone. Other things are business as usual. (That last category is incredibly small and shrinking.)
So I don’t “do it all” — I can’t. But I still do a lot, and I do my best to be sure that the things I spend time on are things I really want to do (go to spin class) or really need to do (laundry, keep the kitchen tidy). The more you streamline to make your calendar and your priorities match, the happier your life becomes. I feel much better when I get up in the morning if the daytime part of the house is tidy. So at night before bed, either The Big Man or I (or both) will wash the dishes, wipe down the counter, and pick up The Kid’s toys. This little habit brings a little bit of peace to my mornings, it takes only 10-15 minutes at most, and is important to me. Might not be important to you.
Going back to where we started … Instead of saying “I don’t have money” or “I don’t have time,” say, “That’s not a priority right now.” It feels a little … weird. You’ll know right away if it’s true. You can feel it. If you want it to be a priority, do your best to make it so. If not, let it go — it’s just taking up space.