Living on purpose: Finding time for you
Vail CO, Colorado
Allison walked into my office with an exhausted look on her face. She had called to let me know she would be late for her appointment. Before she sat down, excuses poured out of her mouth.
“I’ve been running around collecting items for the silent auction,” she said. “There are so many details. It’s consuming my life.”
She continued: “Next week I will dive into the church potluck. I’m also helping find homes for exchange students and I volunteered to find a location for our reunion next summer. To top it off, Bill invited people over for dinner tomorrow night and I have to create a menu, go shopping and clean the house.”
I was exhausted just listening to her. How does she find the time and energy to do all of this?
Allison sank into the couch and slid down about six inches.
“I feel like a dog chasing its tail,” she said. “I hate to be late! Although I’m a very organized person, I just can’t be all of the places I need to be. I’m over-committed.”
“Tell me how you got ‘over-committed,'” I said.
“I am interested in so many activities and I love to be busy but this is ridiculous,” she replied. “It’s out of control.”
“Give me a metaphor to describe how it feels to be this busy,” I said.
“I feel I’m zooming around a race track in a bright red car going about 150 miles per hour. The more activities I get involved in, the faster I go. Everything looks really blurry. I feel like I’m going so fast that I’m no longer enjoying the ride.”
“That’s a great analogy! How long can the car go before you need to stop?”
“I think the car is running out of gas and there isn’t a pit stop in sight. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen the finish line either. I don’t have any time to myself and even though Bill and I live in the same house, we act more like business partners than life partners.”
“How long can you keep up this pace and what do you get if you win?” I asked.
After some reflection she said: “There is no finish line. There is no prize. I just keep driving…really fast. I fear I am heading for a wreck. I’m continuously late; the only time I return phone calls is in the car in between appointments; I haven’t had an in-depth conversation with my husband in over a month and I’m exhausted!”
“How can you slow down?”
“If I slam on the brakes I will crash, but if I slow down a bit at a time, I feel I’ll be successful. Maybe I’ll start by looking at my commitments and decide what stays and what goes. Anytime I get wishy-washy, I’ll remember the feeling of zooming uncontrollably around the track.”
“As you slow down, what areas of your life need more of your attention?” I asked.
“I need time to myself, space between my activities and I want to nurture my relationship with Bill.”
Anticipating my next question, Allison added: “I will limit my outside commitments to two per day and include at least two specific times for myself and two for Bill and me. I’ll let you know how I do at my next appointment.”
I applauded her approach to sorting through her activities and prioritizing what was important. I heard a saying once that seems to apply: “How you spend your time is how you spend your life.”
Coaching Challenge: To get a graphic look at where and how you spend your time, make a copy of the last completed month from your calendar or planner. Mark your calendar in the following ways: Put a square around any activity that you considered exhausting; a triangle around activities you found exhilarating; a heart to signify activities that you did with your partner, significant other or close friend, and a circle to designate “me time.” Over the month how many squares, triangles, hearts and circles do you have? Are your activities in balance? Look at the month ahead and set a goal to balance your activities. Note: This exercise was taken from Joan Anderson’s, “A Weekend to Change Your Life,” CD series.
Sheri Fisher is a Life Coach who lives in Grand Junction, Colorado with her husband Tom and three sons. Her practice, Living On Purpose, focuses on personal and professional coaching. The situations and characters in her column are fictional to maintain client confidentiality.