Protecting My Time

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A weekend ago, I pulled out my folding table and declared it a "weekend of silence." I wanted to focus on my writing and have some introvert time, which is hard to come by in my life. Particularly as someone who is often caregiving for others to the max -- I mean, do you know what it means to be on call and go to a client at 4am after being awake until 2am? -- carving out space for myself sometimes feels impossible. And yet I still think I have it easy in comparison to my clients with their new babies and people I work with who have to hustle even harder than I do. There are always people who have to do more with less and are routinely more badass than I am about it.

But those comparisons just remind me that protecting my time is immensely valuable. And I wanted to write about the topic because I am genuinely so bad at it.

This post less an "if you just do these 5 things, you'll have all the time you need" and more of a "here's a firm reminder that you need to protect your time" no matter what you use it for. I tend to think that we all bow to the pressures around us, fall off the horse and then get back on it, wiggle around a little, fall off, get back, etc. And in some ways I think that is really beautiful - it is a true opportunity to push ourselves further.

I know that I have found a process that works for me, after so many experiments. This past weekend, I chose to listen to it fully (and that truly was a choice that had to be made!)

On the first night, I revamped my white board (really a green board). It used to just be a long long laundry list of tasks that were very vague and most of the details were kept in my head. So the first thing I did was get very specific. I gave tasks a rating scale of how much effort they would need, and I put even little things like 'email this person' up next to 'write an essay draft'. It's now organized in 'To Do', 'Doing', and 'Done.' And it gives my nerd heart a little thrill to watch as things move progressively over to the right.

And then I just forgot about it.

I tend to be that person who has to dump everything out of my head before I can let go and make space for the real work to be done. If it is in my head, it's buzzing. On the board, I can go sit at my folding table and paint until the words come (and yes, I paint and knit and consider it all part of my writing practice; doing something tactile really settles me into that work).

The second morning, I woke up without feeling anxious. Because I really did give myself permission for whatever needed to happen to make my writing process feel grounded. Intuition guided me to nap or to break out the sticky notes or to change locations so I could focus better. I made sure that the dishes were done and that all my materials were laid out in advance.

On the third day, it was the eclipse. I chose to go be with people I care about and watch it happen - historical event, you know? - but I also drew the energy I needed. Social interactions for me can be draining or they can refill my cup, the difference being the choice I made to participate.

On the final night, my client called me and that marked the end of my self-focused time. Back to the world. But back to the world with the confidence that I could always create that space again. Next weekend, next month - preferably not next year! My next big step will be to take some concentrated time away to take what I learned about my novel this weekend and flesh it way out.

For now, here was my board at the end of the weekend:
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