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Overall, clearing my decks has been an exercise in both happiness and organization.
In the fall and just before the holidays, all I ever wanted was to be able to kick back and enjoy the season, but this ‘detachment’ involved wrapping up and winding down from the current year, 2019. All too often, I am overwhelmed by impending commitments, an overflowing email inbox, and driving from one end of town to the other to complete my to-do lists. A few years back, it dawned on me that entering the holiday season encumbered with obligations was preventing me from genuinely relaxing and opening myself up to pure joy.
That is when I began not just thinking about and saying what I ‘needed to do,’ but getting real and doing them. Like, that same day. I hand wrote a list of deliberate tasks back in October for me to ‘clean sweep’ the present, and remained tenacious about crossing them off, one by one. Wrapping up and winding down 2019 has not taken me very long really. It’s mildly ongoing, as pesky emails continue to pop into my inbox here and there, forcing me to take a second or two to unsubscribe. Overall, clearing my decks has been an exercise in both happiness and organization.
Carefully considering which tasks I could reschedule or eliminate was a real challenge for me given I am a people pleaser and never wanted to cancel on friends or say no.
So, how much downtime do you think you are entitled to? Should there be a limit? Do you see yourself as a deserving person? I am here to tell you that you are a deserving person, and the amount of downtime you endeavor to achieve is entirely up to you. As somebody who is still trying to figure it all out, allow me to share how I began. I targeted for one hour each day, and soon realized the benefit I was actively gaining from that one measly hour of no emails, no texts, no other people interruptions, no pets, and no phone calls was not enough. So, I very quickly doubled it…daily. Where did I find empty time to give to myself? I didn’t. I MADE IT.
Taking steps to start checking items off my never-ending to-do lists at work and at home became my focus. I even had a dual side-by-side list on a sticky note I kept on the dashboard of my car. I turned attention to my most important gatherings, events, and assignments, and leapt headlong into getting whatever they were completed. A real biggie for me was carefully considering which tasks I could reschedule or eliminate from my to-do list. That was also a real challenge for me given I am a people pleaser and never wanted to cancel on friends or just flat out say no. Folks, you just have to be selfish sometimes. It's not a sin. Say no. Learn to pick and choose invites. Redirect that friend who always seems to want to grab a drink on a Wednesday when you have intentionally set aside spending time with friends for Fridays. It’s not greedy, rather purposeful. It’s deliberate in buying YOU time for yourself somewhere else, and to ‘close up shop’ so to speak with a clear conscience.
Don’t be ‘that person’ who is not present because you are too busy with the people on your phone or tablet who are REALLY not present.
In recent months, I have begun to practice minimizing messaging. Constantly fretting about my mounting inbox and text message volume was killing the time I was spending with my parents especially. It incensed my Dad when I would constantly be checking my phone for messages. I only realized what I was doing, when my parents returned home from a trip to visit my brother and his family. My parents were disappointed they’d driven 8 hours one way, only to have everybody otherwise glued to their devices when my parents were anticipating an interactive visitation with their granddaughters. So here it is folks; consciously deal with voicemails and emails before a holiday, extended vacation, or approaching visit from family or friends. Don’t be ‘that person’ who is not present because you are too busy with the people on your phone or tablet who are ACTUALLY not present. Depending on work policies, work emails sometimes still need to be addressed. For this, I have found establishing a specific time for availability and replies to messages by way of an automatic reply narrows my obligation window, while making clear to the sender that there exist boundaries for limited contact with me during my time.
I also now lighten my communication load by keeping personal emails and texts to a minimum. Also, the length of time it takes me to respond. I cannot be sorry for somebody else’s lack of self-confidence when they expect an immediate text reply from me to help them. I no longer see it as my responsibility to attend somebody else’s pity party. This by itself was a huge revelation, and I am purposely mentioning it because I know many out there just like me who feel the need to always react. I also make a big part of wrapping up and winding down the intentional action of opting out of email notifications from online stores, outfits trying to sell me stuff, and the annoying senders I initially subscribed to, but largely delete now without reading.
You’d be shocked at how half a day spending time tidying your world and replacing items like your toothbrush, your pillow, air filters in the house, kitchen sponges, and the water filter in the fridge will help clear both your mind and spare you a possible big ticket ‘fix’ or doctor visit down the road.
Straightening my space and hosting a major sort-and-purge fest right before the holidays makes me feel unburdened and free. I intentionally replace trivial items for a fresh start. This works well for my health as well as my budget. You’d be shocked at how half a day spending time tidying your world and replacing items like your toothbrush, your pillow, air filters in the house, kitchen sponges, and the water filter in the fridge will help clear both your mind and spare you a possible big ticket ‘fix’ or doctor visit down the road. Remember, everything has a shelf life. These items are just like anything else.
For the things I have decided I can live without, I actively donate. I do not only say I plan to donate, I put them in the car immediately and drive them to wherever. Items that have lost their luster and are simply taking up valuable real estate in my house prevent me from getting other things done, so I remove knickknacks and magazines and mail from coffee tables to contribute to a clutter-free environment. Just tell yourself you are making room for that glass of wine and a doily….
Avoid overloading that calendar by saying no to events and get-togethers that feel more forced than festive.
I have made strides lately in achieving calendar clarity. Friends who know me know I am an EPIC FAIL when it comes to sorting my calendar because I am constantly double and even triple booking myself at times. My failure goes right back to finding it sometimes impossible to say no to others. The best advice I can give here is to get clear about the things you and your family most enjoy doing together and put them on your schedule along with the hours you have set aside for only you… before anything else. Friends do not count here. Spending time with friends gets loaded-in with everything else requiring diarizing.
On the flip side, avoid overloading that calendar by saying no to events that feel more forced than festive. Save yourself the stress of unanswered invites piling up by giving a quick and polite “yes or no” to each of them, then move on with your chosen celebrations. Yes, it is okay to say ‘no.’
Take some time to relax with a favorite beverage and look back at the past year. Are you happy? Did you do the things you said you were going to do? Did you keep promises to others and to yourself?
Lastly, review and reflect. This is absolutely required 101 for Wrapping Up and Winding Down 2019! Take some of the time you have carved out for yourself to relax with a favorite beverage and look back at the past year. Are you happy? Did you do the things you said you were going to do? Did you keep promises to others and to yourself? Doing this in an easy, informal way helps keep the focus on gratitude and giving yourself credit for the things that went well, rather than pressuring yourself with things to improve on or accomplish in the new year.
Happy New Year, readers of Not Entirely Average -
“Always remember to forget
The troubles that pass away.
But never forget to remember
The blessings that come each day.”
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