Annie Dillard On Time Spent

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.– Annie Dillard

I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I’ve been particularly harried these days. I said Yes to too many things, and these are high-stakes commitments that must get fulfilled. So it’s crunch time, get-fewer-hours-sleep time. Is this how I want to spend my days? (Rhetorical question, of course, as the answer is No. I need to figure out a better way to get to my goals without losing myself in the process.)

Do you say Yes too much, causing day after day of busyness rather than the life you want to have?

What are some thing you can do day-after-day or week-by-week that would add up to the life you want?

How can you be more intentional about time spent?

David Allen on Finishing What You Started

Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started — David Allen

It’s February. The momentum (and pressure) of the New Year has died down. What have you started that you haven’t finished? Can you drop it?

Sometimes not finishing is a good thing. You do enough to realize this isn’t the right move, hobby, next step to take, and then you know enough about yourself that you redirect your efforts. That’s a good example of not finishing.

But sometimes not finishing is inadvertent. We meant to continue, but other things got in the way. If it still matters, resolve to finish. Get the support, clarification on next steps, blocks of time, or whatever you need to get to the end.

Either way, you don’t want open items running around in your mind or your schedule. It’s like a computer that didn’t properly shut down an application and then needs to use extra resources to keep something unwanted running in the background. Reboot! Either redirect to begin anew or resolve to finish.

Jean Anouilh on Saying Yes

To say yes, you have to sweat and roll up your sleeves and plunge both hands into life up to the elbows. It is easy to say no, even if saying no means death. — Jean Anouilh

OK, I wasn’t keen on using a quote on Valentine’s Day that had the word death. But there is so much good intensity and passionate feeling in this one and its message about saying YES. It’s that same good intensity of falling in love, of committing to someone (or something), of working ferociously with both hands, both feet, whole heart IN.

What have you said YES too?

Do you need to renew your YES – remember why you decided to jump in, remind yourself that the sweaty work is part of the deal?

Wikipedia says of Jean Anouilh: One of France’s most prolific writers after World War II, much of Anouilh’s work deals with themes of maintaining integrity in a world of moral compromise (sourced to Smith, Christopher Norman (1985). Jean Anouilh, Life, Work, and Criticism. London: York Press)

Don’t be tempted by the easy No. Maintain integrity despite external moral compromise. What can you say YES to?

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn on Little Things

The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little — Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn

The big things in life come down to little moments – for me, it’s making pancakes in the morning for my 12-year old. To her, it’s a big thing because she loves it so much. But it’s also a little thing because it takes just 20 minutes. Now it does require the presence of mind to stop what I’m doing and make the time to make the pancakes.

Is this a contradiction of the Don’t-Sweat-The-Small-Stuff school of advice? I don’t think so, since both our valid. In the pancake example, stopping what I’m doing is not sweating the small stuff. Often I’m in the throes of just one more email or check out that interesting blog post…Sometimes that’s big stuff (an email to pitch a new project, a blog post that points out something interesting about someone you will be meeting with). But oftentimes, we get swept up in the small stuff of day-to-day unnecessarily and unconsciously.

So we need to be more conscious of the little things and little moments that matter. What is the pancake equivalent for you? What activity, though seemingly little, matters a lot? How can you do more of these little things and have more of these little moments?