I read a post the other day with a line that really stuck with me: “I have a weird tendency to put off doing things I know make me happy.”
I would also add: “things that will make my day a teeny-tiny bit better, or things that require backtracking of any kind, or things that prioritize important, intangible things like relationships and creativity.”
Yes, sadly I have a tendency to diminish, put off, or neglect all of the above. This idea applies to my life in tiny, everyday, menial ways and (unfortunately) in larger, big-picture ways too. I am quick to think that something is a “hassle” or “not worth doing” when it is even the slightest, tiniest bit inconvenient. And worse, I always tend to think that there will be another, better time to do XYZ.
I almost cringe to share examples of this, because it seems completely ridiculous that I even think this way. Permit me to share instead examples of when I narrowly saved myself from this lazy default behaviour and actually did the things?
A brief list from the past couple of days:
- Heated up my coffee for 20 seconds in the microwave instead of drinking it cold
- Wore my sunglasses while driving instead of leaving them in my purse and squinting the entire time
- Walked upstairs to grab a sweater so that I could comfortably sit outside
- Went for a walk despite feeling like I still had a lot of work to do
These are obviously small, almost trivial things. But do you know who appreciated each and every one of them? Me. I did. Every time I overcome my default setting of doing the bare minimum of what’s easy, quick, and efficient, I benefit. I feel a tiny bit happier, and my day is a tiny bit brighter.
I love using Gretchen Rubin’s One Minute Rule to help me with this: if it takes less than a minute, do it now. I am so quick to want to save myself a little time or extra walking, but it’s so, so easy to reframe it, especially since I really do want to walk more.
On Happier last week they talked about a woman who always parks far away from stores, so that she doesn’t have to circle trying to find a spot to park and so she gets more walking in. While listening, I thought “I do that too!”, but I’ve only ever done it to avoid the crowds and have an easier time of parking. By thinking of it as an easy way to be a tiny bit more active, I’m instantly more motivated and not as worried about “wasting time” by parking further away.
The other thing that helps me a lot is Stephen Covey’s Urgent-Important Matrix. I often forget about this tool, but every time I remember, it’s a big reality check about how I spend my time. The tool is applied most often to work and career, but I think it’s just as insightful when used for your personal life.
I tend to spend my time and energy in the Urgent & Important quadrant, and the Not-Urgent & Not-Important one. I want to spend my time in the Important but Not-Urgent quadrant, but those are the kinds of activities I forget to make time for. “Important” for you might mean something different, but for me it’s about relationship building, creativity, personal growth, relaxation, and self-care. Whenever those types of activities aren’t urgent (which is almost always), they are easily neglected.
So it all comes down to this question, which I’ve asked myself before: Stephanie, who are you doing a favour by putting off the things that make your life happier, richer, and lighter? Re-reading that post is funny, because it reminds me that I’ve struggled with this issue before and I probably will again.
I’m reminded of a Cheryl Strayed quote I love: “nobody is going to do your life for you.” That means doing all the tiny one-minute tasks and making time for things that are important but not-urgent. It means making plans and creating routines and taking my vitamins and warming up my coffee. If I want a lovely life, I have to make choices every day that make my life lovely.