As silly as some of the minimalist challenges are (such as paring down one's possessions to 100 items or only wearing 33 items for 3 three months -- both of which sound really cool to me for various reasons), one of major benefits of minimalism for me is learning to value my time.
The truth is that we all have the exact same twenty-four hours in a day. I'm sure that this isn't earth shattering news to anyone, but sometimes I think it helps to be reminded of these things. This isn't one of those blog posts in which I tell you how awesome I am because I am a time management rock star. Newsflash, I suck at managing my time most of days -- Or how I've come to think of it, I'm really good at using my time for the things that interest me.
Hubby will tell you that every six months or so I make a commitment to become a morning person. Bless his heart, he has yet to laugh at me and say "Yeah, right..." Instead he asks when I am planning on getting up in the morning and if he should make coffee for one or two people. I usually tell him in my most convincing voice, "Oh, I'll be up around 6AM." And I might do that for one, or two, or (and this is my longest streak) three days. But, I have come to realize that I need a solid eight hours of sleep. Whoever said that we need less sleep as we get older was a little off the mark. In order to wake up at 6AM, I need to be in bed and asleep by 10PM. This just isn't going to happen. Especially with my school schedule of being on-campus from 12:30PM to 9PM bracketed by a 1.5 hour drive on either end. And so, I realize that I value getting a full night's rest. Therefore, leaving me with 16 hours in a day.
I do not consider my on-campus days to be my own. From the moment I step on campus until the time I head out the door, I am not on my own time. I am at the whim of my professors and as any graduate student can tell you, these are the people that you want to keep happy. On the upside, my advisor understands my schedule and has committed to not being the person who has me on-campus for a third day. She is so amazing that she moved a spring semester class to line up with my teaching schedule. I feel blessed to have someone who values my time as much as I do. She also leads by example. Recently we were trying to find a time that works for both of us to meet, I suggested that we meet on a Monday and she quickly replied, "Oh, I don't schedule meetings on Mondays."
With these two days-a-week on-campus, I have 5 16-hour days (or 80 hours) to accomplish my school work (reading and paper writing), professional activities (volunteering, outside writing, and service work), course preparation (fine-tuning lectures, grading, communicating with students), housework (someone has to clean up the fur balls), spending time with hubby (who has time commitments of his own), and seeing to my own needs (showering, eating, yoga). I am not listing out what I do to show how busy I am, rather I am happy that my life is full of meaningful activities. I enjoy the work that I am doing and look forward to taking the next step.
On the other hand, being content with the level of commitments that I have means that I have had to learn some hard lessons.
- I tell people no. I try to be friendly, but firm. I have to be fiercely protective of my time and spend it wisely. I may not have many physical possessions, but I choose how to spend my 80 hours.
- I try not to beat myself up when everything on my to-do list doesn't get done. Just like the dirty dishes, the reading that I didn't finish or the email that I didn't send will still be waiting for me unless someone knows of a "to-do" list fairy?
- I have to set boundaries. I tell my students that I will reply to them within 24 hours Monday through Friday and that my weekends are mine. I also push back when my students try to get an answer from my sooner because I don't want them to expect that I will drop everything for their every whim.
- I try not to over schedule myself with meetings and appointments. I take on maybe one extra appointment a week. That way I don't feel like a crazy person running around.
I used to try to be everything to everyone -- perfect daughter, a perfect wife, a perfect sister, a perfect student, a perfect teacher -- but it turns out that none of the people in my life expect that I'll be perfect. The expect me to be the best that I can be and realizing that has made me value my time all the more.