Making space

I’m always trying to figure out how to be “disciplined with my time.”

There’s real value in this. I’ve been realizing over the past several months that I’m always talking about wanting to have time to do the things that keep me healthy, but saying that I can’t find the time. And then I realize: well, I just spent two hours browsing Facebook. I’m pretty sure I could have used that time to write, or exercise, or cook, or any of the things I’m always saying I don’t have time for.

So when I got back from my leadership retreat last week, I was very serious about calendaring. I was very rigorous about allocating time to the things I kept saying were important: for prayer, for writing, for spending time with family and friends, for sleep. It felt a little weird to schedule my sleep and my chill time, but it also felt comforting to know that I had actually set aside that time and that I wasn’t just leaving those things to the whims of however my day went.

After 5 days of trying to live into this schedule, I’m seeing some real positives. I’m more disciplined about going to bed on time, getting up in the morning, and giving myself enough time to get ready. I’m not only keeping my commitment to prayer, but I’m keeping my commitment to writing. And I’m understanding that when something comes up that’s other than what was scheduled, it’s about making a choice: when do I need to stick to what I committed to? If I put something else in that time block, how do I plan for an alternate time to do what I committed to?

I’m also experiencing some real struggles. I’m getting more sleep, but I still feel tired. I didn’t actually allocate time for meal preparation and consumption – which reflects how much I don’t take feeding myself seriously. And I’m feeling a lot of tension around not having given myself any breathing room: actually allowing time for flexibility and the unplanned.

When I first created this schedule, I was worried about that. Then I thought it was OK, because I was scheduling in family time and chill time. But I don’t think I was realistic about the room I need for unplanned thought, for breaks, for being off the clock. Part of my tension is that the discipline is new and unfamiliar, but I think I need to recognize that there’s a real need for more flexibility than I’ve given myself. I got so into this narrative about “discipline” and “focus” that I didn’t make room for how my mind and body actually work.

And I think the other part of my tension is realizing that there’s too much on my plate, and that there are things I’ve committed to that are keeping me from doing what I really want to do. I need to reduce and reconfigure hours at one of my jobs so that I can devote myself to organizing and campaigning – which feels scary financially, as well as like I’m “letting people down” at work. I need to understand how to fit campaign duties into my schedule in a a different way – and I don’t yet have clarity about what that means. And I need to give myself permission to have a social life and maybe even a love life during this period where I’m also building up my public life.

Historically, I don’t tend to do balance very well. But the world I’m seeking to build for myself and others isn’t about running around constantly depleted. I don’t feel like I have many models for what balance actually looks like. So I’ll consider this an opportunity to use my creativity, and build something new.

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