My Most Valuable, Non-Renewable Asset (& Yours Too)

A one-act play in six scenes.

I. 

I knew we were going camping all week; it wasn’t a surprise — Thursday, Friday, and Saturday had been blocked out on the calendar for months now. Still, it was like my brain didn’t engage the reality of what that meant for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. 

Come Thursday, I was trying to squeeze in final bits of work before I had to get the kids at school while Kyle packed up the car back home. With 30 minutes to go, I knew most of my to-do list would have to be jettisoned until next week. I quickly made a video from the driver’s seat of the car while I waited in the school pick-up line: I’m so sorry, community — I don’t know what I was thinking, but the next WRLD at Home episode will have to wait until I’m back home from camping this weekend.

I add the video in Patreon, then scratch off my weekly email for another time. I almost never miss my weekly email. This is unusual for me. 

I close up my Bullet Journal as the kids clamor into the car, chatting with eagerness about the camping trip ahead.

II.

It’s 9:30 pm, a few days before Scene One, above, and one of my kids is in near-tears about some schoolwork. It’s due soon, and there’s still x, y, and z to do before it’s complete. I can feel the stress level escalate in the room.

I understand, I tell them, but I also remind them that this is often how they feel at night, right before bedtime. Perhaps it’s a good idea to practice a bedtime routine that helps set aside the to-do list well before bed, so they’re not feeling overwhelmed when they want to feel relaxed?

A nod as the tears flow, acknowledging the wisdom even though it’s hard. But, the schoolwork. It has to get done. Yes, but not exactly right now. Any work done now wouldn’t be very good anyway.

After kisses and tucks into bed (as well as essential oils in the diffuser, a calming music playlist, and a few nighttime yoga stretches), the kid is, albeit slowly, drifting off to sleep.

An hour later, my own words whisper back to me as an echo: Yes, yes, there’s still things on your to-do list. But it’s no good doing them right now. Maybe it’s time for your own bedtime routine?

III.

A smart person on another podcast was talking about how one of the benefits of living in a popular city was the influx of out-of-town friends in town on business; you could meet with folks you haven’t seen in awhile without leaving your own city (in their case, it was Nashville). The downside, however, is that there’s a constant influx of out-of-towners seeing if you’d like to grab breakfast/lunch/coffee — people you’d love to see, but for them this is a one-off special occasion; for you, it’s a weekly occurrence. 

This stopped me in my tracks. In fact, I hit the back button to listen again, not sure I heard clearly the first time because I was simultaneously hanging the laundry out on the backyard clothesline.

Exchange Nashville for Austin, and this is exactly what’s been happening to me, rinse and repeat for months now. So many people I love from all over the world come in town for work. Yes, of course I’d love to see them all. But when it’s someone new every week, before I know it, my whole week’s schedule becomes flustered, bent over backwards for my friend. 

For them, It’s a one-time event. For me, it’s weekly.

It’s a beautiful thing to be able to flex. But week after week, lunches and coffees on top of each other, and this is why my projects aren’t getting completed. Or started. I’m not intentionally carving out blocks in my calendar for connecting with people — I’m acting like they’re an exception, and not what’s proving to be the rule. 

Oops.

IV.

Even though I’ve personally preached the benefits for years, I’d gotten out of the habit of establishing a definitive morning and evening routine. I’d been waking up and going to bed reactively, letting the day’s agenda dictate my rhythm, my sense of accomplishment, my ownership of time. Morning and evening routines, as simple as they are, are life-changing for the simple reminder that you’re in charge of your time, no matter how small. It can be a five-minute routine. Still, it’s yours.

Then, one of my dearest friends is on my podcast, and she shares the simple beauty of her morning routine. And it’s the kick-in-the-pants reminder I need to get back to my morning routine. Oh yes. This is why they’re so golden.

Two weeks later, and I feel so much more in control of my time.

V.

Late Sunday afternoon, I check in on the community Slack group. No one has cared that I haven’t yet posted the new WRLD episode. In fact, people have responded with, “Have a fun time camping!” or “Good for you — what great weather this weekend!” As I’m reminded, this is why these lovely folks are my community — because we share the same values.

Of course they’d applaud camping with the family over checking something off the to-do list. Just like I’d do for anyone else, ten times over. Why shouldn’t I do the same thing for myself?

Also, not one person has emailed or pinged me on social media, asking for the whereabouts of last Friday’s weekly email. Of course, I love hearing how much people love getting them. But I smile at the reminder that no one is tearing up at the reality of one less email in their inbox.

VI.

I text my friends, coming in town for work this week. I can’t wait to see you! I say. And then I draw a simple-but-essential line in the sand, telling them it’ll have to be coffee Tuesday morning, and not Monday dinner. Monday evening has the likelihood of throwing off the rest of my week. Tuesday morning blends in seamlessly with what I’m doing and where I’ll be anyway.

I know they won’t mind. They’re friends. I’d do the same for them, anytime. I can’t wait to see them.

Afterword

Of course, I’m reminded of my own words a few years ago… I’m the boss of me. We’re all the boss of us, even if we technically have a boss that signs our paychecks. Even if several blocks of time in our days aren’t dictated by us. Even if we have little ones at home commandeering our attention.

There are little, life-giving ways we can claim control of our time so that we’re not victims of everyone else’s agenda, of our emotions that skew our perspective and amplify the beast’s voice.

Most every time, our communities around us are gracious. Many times, they’ll applaud — and even be inspired by — our gentle personal boundaries that protect this most valuable, non-renewable asset.

Give yourself the gift this week of protecting your time. I’ll do my best to do the same.

p.s. Listen to the podcast episode about this post.

Reading Time:

5 minutes

 

 

 

22 Comments

  1. Karen Beth Burke

    YES, to all of this!!!!

  2. Sarah

    I’ve been thinking about how to safeguard my time better lately, and one piece of that for me has been ensuring the things that find their way on my to-do list are actually things I see value in, not just something I feel I SHOULD do to meet external expectations. I’m still working on asking myself that question when I add things. Yesterday, I had planned to pick up weed & feed from the store on the way home and try to bring some uniformity to the sparse grass and bountiful weeds in my yard. Its been shaming me for weeks, that on our block everyone else has bright green lawns and ours is a little more “rustic”. Then I came across this article and one from the NYT (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/15/opinion/nature-lawns-environment.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage) that totally shifted my plans. We have insects, birds (including a peacock), and deer by the dozens that visit our yard and had never given a second thought as to why they seem to prefer our yard over others. When I evaluated it, I don’t really mind the lack of uniform grass, my motivation was purely because I thought it was expected of me. Was this really where I wanted to spend this resource? So instead, after work last night, I tended to my compost pile, washed out pots and reloaded them with soil, and got things ready for starting my vegetable plants. All things I wanted to do, but would have put off for the seemingly urgent weed & feed. The evening was lovely and I enjoyed birds and other wildlife out and about and for the first time real noticed the plant variety the Texas winds had brought to my yard. By reclaiming control of my time, I ended the day a lot more satisfied with my work then I think I would have been otherwise. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Aimee

    I’m learning this lesson anew as well! I love the way you wrote this post, in chapters almost, spiraling around a central theme. An important idea made even more poignant by your beautiful writing. Thank you!

  4. Caroline Starr Rose

    Your I’m the boss of me post is a personal favorite. I took notes in my bullet journal and have thought of them often. Thank you!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Aw, thank you! I’ve heard that from a few people, and that just makes me happy (mostly because it’s a thing I have to remind myself all the time still).

  5. Angie M

    Just so you know, Tsh, I missed your 5 Quick Things last Friday and even found myself checking in and off the rest of Friday, just in case 😉. I am not on social media and do not follow many blogs but yours has always resonated with me, even though this is the first comment I’ve left! I find myself turning to your suggestions re:many things because I know you choose thoughtfully and in line with much of what I value. I wish I had the resources right now to be a patron, hopefully soon! Thanks for sharing your voice!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Well, this is encouraging! Thanks for sharing, Angie.

  6. seattleheather

    gah! love this so much. And ironically, i remember thinking last week – something’s missing……….. can’t put my finger on it… and then when i received your email this morning i was like “ohhhhhhhhhhhhh” 🙂 🙂 🙂 As someone who lives in Seattle this resonates so much and i really appreciate you specifically giving an example on how you handled a friend from out of town, why it wasn’t hurtful at all, and how everyone wins. You’re right- i would totally understand if the script were flipped. Another thing i wanted to give a shout out for was Brooke Castillo’s Life Coach Podcast. She recently had an episode about tearing up your to do list and it was (to me) a bit misleading – you still make your to do list but you plug it into your calendar. At first it’s extremely overwhelming but i’m starting to get TONS done and although I was aware that time was my most valuable resource (this has become apparent for me in the last year) this really demonstrated how 1) i try to do too much and 2) i have to be my own CEO and as well, gatekeeper. Anyway, i really loved how you wrote this post and that you’re taking care of yourself! I want to keep reading these and hearing your thoughts so take care of you! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Love these thoughts, Heather! Thank you for them.

  7. April Best

    This mindset shift is absolutely freeing. Thank you for putting words to the preciousness of time!

  8. Jen F

    Yes!!! Thank you for this! I had carved out quiet time for this holiday weekend to refresh and relax my mind. Then family unexpectedly showed up from out of town. I will not allow their (completely unannounced) plans to create more stress for me.
    ❤️❤️❤️ Thank you for reminding me.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Good for you, Jen!

  9. Amanda

    I’m listening to this week’s podcast episode and I wanted to share some terminology that Gretchen Rubin uses! Instead of a “To Do List” she suggests using a “Ta Da! List” 🙂

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I remember her saying that one time! I love it.

  10. Andrea Shirey

    My morning routine includes reading something that will be good for me (ahem, not news most of the time) and right now, my kids are running around like crazy, we’re getting ready to get on the road for a short day trip and yet, I’m so glad I stuck to my morning routine and got to read your words! Thank you for always helping us slow down and remember what matters.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I love that, Andrea! And I’m so glad this was encouraging to you.

  11. Ina

    I love the way you describe morning and evening routines as an opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive. I had not thought of them that way before. This may be the definition I need to stick to my own morning and evening rhythms; knowing even a few minutes of time can be truly dictated by me may be just the breath I need in an otherwise reactive time.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Yes! This small but simple mindset shift has made ALL the difference for me.

  12. Sarah Takehara

    Oh-my-goodness, how I needed this Tsh! I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts for a couple of months now, feeling like I’m struggling to make a dent in my own personal projects while barely keeping up with life’s busyness. This is the exact opposite of how I intend to live and yet it’s been my reality for longer than I care to admit. I found myself nodding along as I read this post, especially when you mention morning and bedtime routines. I believe whole-heartedly in the power of these routines and yet honestly can’t remember the last time I practiced being intentional with my personal routines. Oops! I’m going to try and begin this coming week with a morning practice that sustains me. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      You’re so welcome, Sarah!

  13. Lynn

    What a wonderful and true reminder! I relate to the joy of being flexible but then sometimes not doing what you really want to do because you’ve flexed so much for others. I’ve learned in the past few years that boundaries don’t come naturally to me but how important they are.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Um…. this is SO ME, Lynn. I get this dilemma very well!

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