FACT: I finished college one week ago.
FACT: I last updated my blog two weeks ago.
ALLEGEDLY INSPIRATIONAL CLICHÉ: If something is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.
PATHETIC SEGUE: Let’s discuss these facts and this cliché in conjunction with one another!
If there’s one sentiment the universe has taken to beating me over the head with lately, it’s #3 above. For whatever reason, the idea of being “too busy” – or rather, the passive-aggressive calling out of everyone who has ever claimed to be “too busy” – not by me, by the universe! That passive-aggressive cunt of a universe! – has been ubiquitous. When I sat down to write this post, I’ll admit that my angle was similarly trite. Embrace your agency, take stock of your priorities, free your mind, oh and you’re a firework or something. But as I got to thinking about what it means to be busy, both generally and contextually, I changed my tune. (I’ll never get over “Firework,” though.)
I recently read a WSJ article that suggested replacing the words, “I don’t have time,” with, “It’s not a priority.” I gave it a whirl. I found it unexpectedly and perhaps unwarrantedly jarring in situations such as, “Dear sister, editing your paper is not a priority.” It may be true, but honestly? It’s not fair. Sometimes the amount of time you “have” is contingent on circumstance—say, the fact that you spent the early evening catching up with an old friend, thinking you would have all night to devote to writing your own paper, and now you’re working under a deadline and can no longer afford to spend half an hour editing someone else’s. Is that bad prioritizing? No. It’s circumstance. You didn’t know about your sister’s paper. The situation could have been avoided, but it doesn’t deserve the level of moral condemnation the article seems to imply. (I’m sorry, Maddie. Best sistaz 4-eva.)
I’m not proposing that we let ourselves entirely off the hook here, particularly when it comes to habits (like working out) or relationships (if anyone ever responds to an attempt to make plans with the old “I’m just really busy right now,” please save yourself some angst and internalize that). For general life evaluation and long-term task-setting, the priority question is an useful one. I’m just proposing that we let go of the guilt. We don’t need to feel like terrible people for not having time. We just need to think about why we don’t have time. We need to transform time from passive to active.
So here’s my version of the WSJ‘s mantra: Time is made, not had.
There are two ways to make time. One is preventative. When you have a moment, spend it wisely. Think of “free time” like a savings account—do what you gotta do at the first opportunity you get, and save your “free time” for a rainy day. Then when you get a call that your crew is rallying on a Tuesday night, you can grab your keys and go without hesitation. How often do we miss out because we’ve already frittered away our “free time” on something that, given the choice, we would have wanted to do less? How I Met Your Mother is not worth it. Facebook is definitely not worth it. I’m not saying we have to spend every free moment being social—believe me, I know the healing power of a trash TV marathon or a morning of aimless blog surfing. But at least do the important stuff first, so that if something more appealing comes along, you haven’t already made your choice.
The second way is training ourselves to bang out the everyday nitty-gritties with more efficiency. This is a big one for me. I’m a perfectionist, so the temptation to approach every task with the methodical precision of a neurosurgeon is a concern. I could spend 10 minutes making my bed in the morning—smoothing out every wrinkle, painstakingly folding back the top sheet to peek out from under my comforter just so. But in reality, I can get the same effect in 30 seconds. The room still looks tidy. It feels every bit as wonderful to pull back the covers and climb into a swiftly, even sloppily made bed after a long day. And that’s nine minutes and 30 seconds I can spend doing something I care about.
The lesson I’ve learned in my first week of postgrad existence is that the real world is just what happens when to-do lists go from concrete to fluid. I’ve felt a thousand times busier in this week of “freedom” than I did when I had more homework assignments than I could feasibly complete before their due dates. Granted, it hasn’t exactly been Spring Break in Jamaica City up in here—I’ve been running around like a ginger chicken with its head cut off trying to plan a move across the country, sell the majority of my belongings on Craigslist without getting ripped off and/or murdered by new friends like Bobby (“interested in your wardrobe shoes are very very nice please give me your phone number…i need to call you…now please thank you”), do annoying but necessary things like update my LinkedIn profile and take social media pictures that actually look like I do currently, say goodbye to the city I’ve lived in for five years, and, oh yeah, apply for a job or two while I’m at it. I’ve kept myself on a tight schedule. My days now start an hour later (at 6:45am. Girl gone rogue!), but they’re still planned out to the minute (I do try to leave a little wiggle room for the second hand).
What’s fundamentally changed is that I went from having a to-do list to making a to-do list. Time management feels active rather than passive, and that comes with a whole new set of pressures. Whereas I used to reward an hour’s productivity with an equal amount of StumbleUpon, I suddenly find an unharnessed ambition buzzing under my skin during every attempt at traditional relaxation. You should be doing something right now. Because right now, I get to choose what that something is. And I suddenly have no desire to fill my time with laughing babies on YouTube. When you have control of every moment, why would you want to waste even one? When all of your time is “free time,” are you ever really free?
Whoa, Bradshawing out with the hypothetical questions. My point is that if I don’t learn to make time for things like blogging now, I never will. So this is me committing. To making time. Because I refuse to say, “I’m just really busy right now,” to my life.
What do you want to make time for this week? Where are you going to take it from?