To-do or not to-do?

Going to bed at night is hard.

Not becuase I’m not tired. I am usually wiped at the end of each day. It’s not because I have trouble sleeping. I usually fall asleep very quickly and have no trouble staying asleep. (I am a notoriously sound sleeper. I would have slept through a fire alarm in college had my roommate not shaken me awake.)

It’s not those. Going to bed each night is challenging because I often am unable to accomplish all I wanted to in a day. After getting laid off from my full-time job in March of last year, I struggled to fill all of my sudden free-time. But, slowly, as the days turned to weeks and turned to months, I was able to find ways to fill my time.

And I got used to that. I got used to spending almost my entire days doing what I wanted to do. I could go on a two hour hike, game for a bit, read several chapters of a book, clean the apartment, write a poem, hang out with a friend, dance around my apartment while blasting showtunes and STILL have time to chill.

But, after seven months of minimal work, I picked up another job. And then another one. And then I started getting more hours at my jobs. Which, don’t get me wrong, is great. I love the work that I do and my bank account screams at me less now, so there’s that. But suddenly, I wasn’t able to get done what I was used to getting done. Suddenly, I was back to working 6-8 hour days, and my evenings just weren’t long enough for me to cram in all I wanted to: D&D, video chats with friends, writing, hanging with my roommate, cleaning, hiking, reading… Doing things that I wanted to do. Doing Kim things.

And let me tell you, it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating to admit defeat at the end of the day and succumb to the weight on my eyelids, even though there are several more items on my to-do list. I began to wonder, is this what adulting is going to be? Never having enough time to get done what I want to?

It’s hard to change routines and habits period, but especially challenging after seven months. It’s been getting better, and I am slowly growing accustomed to this new routine. But it’s still really hard, and I won’t deny that. Sometimes I find myself going all day, and even finding time to get groceries is a struggle. I finish work around 5 p.m., go on a walk, grab dinner, do some planning for my Dungeons and Dragons campaign, and before I know what’s happening, it’s 10:30 p.m. Where the heck did my day go?

I also have a lot of evening commitements. I have small group on Wednesdays, a writing session with friends on Thursdays, I play in a D&D campaign on both Friday and Saturday evenings, and on Monday evenings I run my own campaign. That leaves me Sunday and Tuesday evenings to chill. And yes, all of these things are optional, and I could chose to duck out at any time. But these are positive creative and social outlets that make me feel more like me. Without them, I am not the best version of myself.

American culture, among several others, romanticizes being busy. We connect accomplishment and success with how many things you can check off your to-do list. And while productivity is important for both our mental and physical health, it has its place.

Too much of anything can be unhealthy.

Our bodies were not designed to just go and go and go. We must allow our bodies–and minds–the time they need to rest. Working constantly or filling every moment of our day with a task is not productive–it’s destructive. Behavior like this is smashing out the parts of ourselves that make us who we are, like our creativity and imagination. These two things come alive when we rest. When we give our minds a break from the stimulation, it’s incredible what we can come up with.

Do you ever wonder why you always get such good ideas in the shower? That’s because you are allowing your brain to wander. For a majority of the day, we are constantly cramming our minds with stimulus. The podcast we listen to in the car. The social media we scroll through while our friend is in the bathroom. The videos we watch before bed. Our minds are kept so busy processing all of this that they don’t have any time to just exist. Instead of telling our brains what to think, why not try allowing them to wander and see what thoughts occur?

I want to take better care of myself. I want to allow my creativity to roam. And because of this, I am taking these three crucial steps:

Step 1: Scheduling movement.

Since I work from home, several days can pass where I don’t leave my apartment once. And even at home, I am sitting for most of the day. I don’t move nearly as much as I should. I love being outside, and I want to be, but I find it hard to find the time. So, instead, I decided to make the time. I have included at least a 30 minute walk into my schedule each day. This often takes place after lunch in between tasks, but today I took my walk while writing this blog post. On some days I listen to a podcast or some of my favorite tunes while I walk, but other times I just allow my mind to wander. These walks have become the best part of my day, and they help me feel more like me. I feel better. I feel healthier.

Step 2: Trimming the fat.

As mentioned before, I have a lot of commitments. Four part-time jobs, three D&D campaigns, small group, weekly writing sessions. I love all of these things, and I don’t want to let any of them go. But, in order to keep my sanity, I know I need to. So, I’m making a promise to myself. In the next month, I am saying no to one of these things. It might be asking for less hours at one of my jobs. It might be taking a break from writing sessions. It might be dropping a campaign for a while. At this point, I am not sure what that is going to look like. But at this time next month, I’ll have a slightly lighter load, which allows myself more time to rest and pursue more of the things that spark joy.

Step 3: Saying no.

I am a people pleaser. My Hogwarts house is Hufflepuff. I’m a type 2 on the Enneagram. ENFJ-A on Myers Briggs. Whatever personality test tickles your fancy, I’m always the “people-person.” At my core, I am incredibly passionate about my relationships and fear letting others down. I have the strong desire to be liked by all and I do not handle rejection well. I dislike rocking the boat and I am most defintiely a fence-sitter. I fear confrontation and often brush aside how I feel to avoid making others uncomfortable.

These behaviors are not healthy, and they do not help me become the best version of myself. Through counseling, I have been getting much better at establishing bounderies for myself and sticking to them. Due to this, I have grown exponetially and am much healthier than I used to be. That being said, however, I recognize that I still have a long ways to go. So I am continuing to say no in certain situations. I am reminding myself that those who love me will respect my boundaries, and that saying no to someone will not make them hate me. And, if it does, than I likely don’t want a relationship with that person, anyways. I am going to keep saying no.

These three steps aren’t some magic cure that will suddenly allow me to do all the many things I want to do. (We’ve talked about this before. It’s a lot.) But these steps do help me prioritize a few things that bring me joy, and I’m claiming that little vistory. I’m still going to feel frustrated at the end of the day, but this is at least a start in the right direction.

Do you often feel frustrated about what you can’t find time to do?

How can you reorganize your priorities to make time for some of the things that spark joy?


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