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“I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything… at least not at the same time. So think of your priorities not in terms of what activities you do, but when you do them. Timing is everything.”
– Dan Millman, author of self help books (born 1946)
Since humankind has been identified as homo sapiens we have been too busy to get done everything we want to do. Only a small number of primitive tribes in selected tropical rainforest settings have enough time to indulge daily in activities that do not involve obtaining food, creating shelter and satisfaction of other basic needs.
In the 21st century few in the western world need to worry about when their next meal may come. The activity that occupies more of our time than anything else (including sleep) is acquiring the money to indulge ourselves in activities to fill our leisure time. Trouble is, we don’t have much leisure time.
In the early 1970s futurists predicted that a majority of our time would be spent with leisure activities, with work only requiring a few days each week. The concern was that we might not have enough to do with our time, a possibility that gave pause to many entrepreneurs who chose to invest their money in providing toys and activities that would prevent subsequent generations from ever being bored.
Today most of us can’t get done everything that needs to be done, let alone needing to find ways to fill out time. We use toys and vactions as escapes from the ugly realities of our lives more than for real recreation.
“Prioritize” preach self help gurus like Dan Millman. Decide each morning what is most important that you accomplish, then see that those things get done. If you don’t complete things of lesser importance, you don’t have to worry because you did the most important ones.
Helping disorganized people gain some structure to their lives so that they don’t find themselves in a depression or breakdown because they can’t figure out what to do next is a noble endeavour. However, those items that always find themselves near the bottom of the list eventually need attention.
Homes do need to be cleaned, windows washed, furniture polished, yard tidied, garage organized and cleaned and house exterior repaired when necessary. The jobs of lesser importance need to be allowed to rise up in the priority list of daily activities or they begin to impact our lives negatively, often in the form of hidden anxieties.
We can move house because we don’t want to replace windows with more heat and cost efficient versions, but we will get less when selling a home that needs updating than one with the renovations already done. We can pay someone to do the work, but that can be extremely expensive. Doing the work ourselves is cheapest, but it requires us to learn new skills. And who has time?
That daily list of priorities must not remain static, with the jobs of lesser importance continuing indefinitely to be near the bottom of our list. Jobs around our own home need to be tended to regularly, including regular maintenance, or they will cost us more money if we leave them until a later date.
Machines with motors and engines begin to fall apart or rust with disuse and no maintenance. Plastic outdoor furniture decays from long exposure to the sun. Outside wood rots if exposed to the elements. Window caulking shrinks and discolours. Painted surfaces need repainting or they look shabby.
Everything we own needs some attention at least once in a while. And not just to be played with. Whether we use them or not, whether they are visible or hidden away, everything we own needs attention. If they don’t get it, they become liabilities.
Hence yard sales, eBay, and Kijiji. (Google that last one if it’s a new name to you.)
The only way to be in control of all of our daily activities is to pare down what we
own to what we can manage. That’s not easy because manufacturers hire professional advertising specialists to make us believe that we need every little toy, machine, cosmetic and new fashion that reaches the market.Who controls your life? If you have to work extra hours just to buy new stuff while stuff you already have goes neglected, then it’s not you.
It’s a helpless feeling to know that you can’t get everything done you need to do in a day. It can be frustrating. It can create anxiety. It drives many people to alcohol, drugs, other addictions, abuse and emotional breakdowns when they realize that they can’t keep up. We don’t usually attribute these emotional problems to anxiety about our stuff, but that’s something we should correct.
To take control of your life, begin by owning only what you can maintain and use. If you can’t maintain something or use it or store it because it will increase in value, get rid of it. Then limit the activities that caused you to accumulate so much stuff in the first place.
You’ll be amazed at how much time you have then to complete what needs to be tended to in your life. Including giving attention to family members who may have missed you while you were buying, playing and worrying.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how we can provide our children with what they need to develop properly, without teaching them a need for the unnecessary.
Learn more at http://billallin.com