Something’s Gotta Give

I tend to keep my schedule very full. My day-to-day activities are usually pretty meticulously planned out, with dedicated time slots for writing, exercise, work, this blog, etc.

But of course, special projects and opportunities happen all the time, and I like to make sure that I have the ability to take advantage of those opportunities when they arise. Since I can’t imagine just leaving hours of time listed as “TBD” on my calendar each day, it’s important to have a framework for deciding what to de-prioritize when the time comes.

This is important for a few reasons. First, if you don’t have a system in place to help you decide what things to put on the back burner, you’ll just end up being scattered and stressed and doing less of everything. It’s totally okay to say that you’re going to take a break from your painting classes because you’re in a marathon soon and you really want to train hard for it. If you don’t do that, you’ll just end up being stressed at painting class because you’ll be thinking about how you’re not training for the marathon and then on marathon day you’ll do horribly because you didn’t train. If you chase two rabbits…

The other reason is that having a formal system for back-burner-ing certain tasks makes it far more likely that your temporary hiatus won’t turn into a permanent one. If you let yourself get stressed to the breaking point, you’ll throw up your hands in frustration and say “ugh, I just can’t do painting at all right now, maybe I’ll pick it back up again when things are calmer,” and then even after the marathon, things won’t ever be “calmer” and those brushes will gather dust and guilt alike.

If you instead just accept yourself as a vessel with a limited volume for rocks, you can be okay with planning the ebb and flow of your activities. You can say, “Okay, the marathon is on June 8th, so I’m going to officially sign out of painting classes until then. The next class after that is June 12th, so I’m pre-registering for that one now in order to keep myself on track. And I let my class know I’m in the marathon so they can cheer me on!”

I’ve taken on a lot of special projects in the last few weeks. Most of these will be done by the end of the year, but before then they all represent a pretty intense time commitment (did I also mention I just accepted a promotion at work, because I’m a crazy person?), so there are definitely some things that have to get de-prioritized for the next month.

As much as I’m enjoying my new higher reading levels, it’s not a short-term essential, so for December I’m going to take it off the “to-do” list. Same with my daily workouts. Both of those things are long-term important to me, but neither will kill me to take a month off as long as I’m active about planning when I’ll pick them back up. And neither will fall off completely – I enjoy doing both so I’ll still lift both weights and books in whatever spare minutes I find, but I’m going to prioritize my overall mental health by allowing myself to say that these other projects are both just as enjoyable and more short-term beneficial.

It feels strange, especially to me, to say that an active part of healthy goal-setting is taking certain goals off the table for a time. But I’m not superman, and I have to stop pretending that it’s a failure if I can’t spin twenty plates at the same time. Neither are you, so keep your goals healthy and achievable. And thus, may you achieve them!

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