So I just did a post about how I manage my time and my daily schedule and such, and I felt like this part is really important and was getting lost in the minutiae of my day, so I made it a separate post. I was talking about various ways in which my life is not necessarily “normal”, like how I go to bed at 7:30, which people treat as one of my eccentricities, and rightly so. But while it is weird it speaks to the crux of my life philosophy, which I’ve spoken about before as regards dealing with anon hate:
My time and attention are finite resources and they have a value I can bestow where I wish. If something is not necessary to survive, does not solve a problem, or does not provide joy, I stop doing it.
I pay my bills and do my dishes and wash my clothes because you have to do those things. I engage in activism and try to stay current on the news because I believe I have a moral duty to contribute to society, and I run because it’s good for my heart and my body. I have friendships, engage in fandom, play the ukulele, write, go to concerts and movies and art galleries because it brings me joy to do so.
Going to bed early solves a problem for me: I wasn’t doing anything useful with that time anyway, I wasn’t enjoying myself or feeling happy. If I wasn’t getting any benefit from that time, how could I put it to better use? Sleeping is beneficial, so I tried that, and it worked; I get more sleep and I don’t miss anything I can’t catch up with. Work doesn’t make me especially happy or fulfill me in ways we could all wish, but that’s okay. Work is necessary to survive, so I do it. I don’t date much because I tried dating semi-recently and the promise of future joy did not outweigh the lack of joy that dating itself brought to my life; it was painful, ugly, and boring, and so I stopped doing it.
The dating thing may change in the future, if eventually the promise of a relationship becomes more enticing, but it’s an example of how the pursuit of happiness is non-standard, and you are allowed to weigh the cost against the payoff based on your own personal feelings, not on society’s dictates. Because it turns out when you are doing what makes you happy, when you feel joy, you could give two shits about what everyone else thinks should make you happy.
Sometimes, what brings me joy is sitting on the couch listening to a podcast I’ve already heard ten times and playing a stupid mindless flash game; I often catch myself thinking “I could be doing something more useful, something cooler, something more active” and remind myself “But this is making me happy, and it’s what I’m capable of doing right now.”
“Does this make me happy” or, if you’re struggling with happiness, “Does this calm and soothe me” is a great metric for what you should be doing in life when you are on your own time. It’s a good way to check in with yourself and lead yourself towards a more fulfilling life on your own terms.
If you are out at a bar with friends, stop and ask, does this make me happy? Because there is no way in which asking that does not help. If being at a bar doesn’t make you happy and if it’s the only time you see your friends, maybe it’s time for a change; you are now free to pursue something that will make you happy. If being at a bar doesn’t make you happy but your friends do, and this is one way to bond with them of many, then it’s a cost with a later benefit, and you’ve now become conscious that while you aren’t happy right this minute, you are paying into future joy. And if you like being out at a bar with friends and are having a good time, then you’ve reaffirmed to yourself that you are happy and this is where you want to be. And affirming that you are feeling joy is a great thing to do.
You don’t have to be happy all the time – but on your own time, when work and chores and the duties of the day are done, you should devote yourself to finding joy in whatever form that takes, be it a nap or a party or a date or your kids or, I don’t know, watching people make fake food on YouTube.
Believing that your time and attention have value and should only be bestowed on the worthy means coming to believe that you have value, which is so hard to do that I’ll take any shortcut I can get. Devoting your time time and attention only to what is necessary or what is pleasurable means learning a great deal about what you value, and I truly believe leads you to a more fulfilled life.
So when people ask me about time management, I have real tips and tricks to offer – but I think the most important think I can offer is the suggestion that whatever time you have, you should believe it has value because it is yours, and you should direct it appropriately.