Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Adjusting My Life Arithmetic

Here and here are two great posts at the Harvard Business Review about being mindful of what we add, and what we can subtract, from our lives. A similar notion is life coach Cheryl Richardson's Absolute Yes list – those things that are most important for you to focus on over the next few months.

Both speak to that insidious way that, if you’re not conscious about what you put into your day (and therefore, your life), it’s likely that any old thing will slip in there.

My To-Subtract List
  • mediocre sitcoms (They’re so easy to watch! So mildly amusing!)
  • the dreaded f-word (facebook- seriously, do I need to know what random people from my freshman year dorm are up to? Do I?)
  • checking my email 6,000 times only to delete one new message that is usually from a random mailing list I’m on.
  • reading newspaper websites as an excuse for procrastination (but look Ma! It’s educational!)

Note that all these time-sucks are all related to a big light-up screen. And they’re easy! They happen at the click of a button, the tap of a mouse, and frequently result in a rewarding squirt of dopamine. (See article about email compulsion.)

By contrast, a lot of the things that are on my Yes List don’t offer that same instant gratification. 

My Yes List
  • Applying to grad school. Important step toward a rewarding career, but frankly? Bit of a drag. I'm sorry my life doesn't fit precisely into the boxes you've created for it, ApplyYourself online application program!
  • Bringing in the cash-monies. Again, solvency, and the food and shelter it provides, is pretty key to the kind of lifestyle I want to be leading (you know, the kind with a roof. And a shower. And breakfast.) And don’t get me wrong, in this economy I’m lucky and grateful to have an income stream, but still…it’s no Big Bang Theory.
  • Friendships. This is one that at least has a more immediate payoff, in that I truly enjoy time spent with good people. But even this one can’t happen at one push of a button. There’s coordination that must be done, decisions to make, hours of coffee shops to look up, schedules and timing to consider.
  • Meditation. I am proud to say that I have managed to sit quietly in the morning for 10-20 minutes almost every single day for that past few months, and it really has been transformational in terms of my chilling out and getting some perspective. But again, I enjoy the rewards, and sometimes the process itself can be lovely and interesting. Other times though, sitting and listening to my own mind is like watching a twisted, panicked circus sideshow of paranoia and low self-esteem.
To Add
Typing out my list like that made me realize that it's long on goals and responsibilities and kind of short on you know, fun. Maybe it's time to add a category for relaxing in a way that really does replenish me and not just send me into an LCD stupor.

Et toi? What are you trying to add and subtract from your day (and the microcosm of your life it represents)? What's on your lists? What do you do when you're in the mood for fun? (I'm not just curious, I'm looking for ideas.)

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