The Habits, Part 2

I’ll start this one with a confession: The biggest goal I have this year is to get more control over my time. Or maybe a better way to say it is to be more intentional about how I spend my time. In any case, I’m dealing with the time issues this year.

So yes, I’ve been reading those articles I mentioned in my last post and listening to podcasts and thinking a lot about how to at least feel a little more in charge of my own day. And yes, reading those articles and listening to those podcasts has put me in a bit of a funk, because honestly, there are issues with all of the approaches presented.

A breakdown of approaches and principles and my personal issues with each one:

The “First Thing” approach: This philosophy says, “Do the habit you want to establish first thing in the morning. Make it the first thing you do. Voila! Habit established!”

Except… How many “first things” am I supposed to have? And how frickin’ early do I have to get up??

I currently get up between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. on weekdays. I have some “first things”–coffee, Bible, prayer, maybe a couple of short puzzles to get the brain working, maybe a few articles online to catch up on the news. But once my high schoolers get up at 6:15, I’m pretty much done with quiet until everyone is at school (around 9:00 a.m.). So if I were to add more “first things,” I would either have to add them before 5:00 a.m. or completely ignore everything in my house to get them done. I can sometimes exercise while the kids are getting ready for school, but I feel… out of the loop, maybe? It’s not that they need me to help them with anything. I guess I just feel like I should anchor their mornings. I should be available as much as possible.

The “Warren Buffett” principle: This is the principle I probably detest the most of any of the time management or habit or efficiency principles out there. This one I’ve seen floating around a lot this year–the “Warren Buffett spends 80% of his time reading” principle.

My response is always, “WARREN BUFFETT HAS STAFF!”

I mean, here’s the thing–I could get a lot more done around here if I had staff–a chef, a driver, a maid or twelve, a personal assistant… It just seems a little disingenuous to compare the habits of 88-year-old billionaires to the hoi polloi down here in the trenches.

It’s not just Warren Buffett, either. This is the issue I have with ALL of those “here’s what rich people do” kinds of lists. It’s great that Warren Buffet, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and their ilk credit particular habits with helping them achieve great things. They’re probably right–those habits are awesome, and they probably do help one achieve great things. But may I submit that it wasn’t necessarily the habit itself that helped you achieve great things, but rather the discipline that habit indicates? In other words, you’re a disciplined person, so you read/exercise/meditate/whatever regularly, and you think that’s made the difference. But maybe it’s the fact that you are disciplined–that you are intentional and cautious with your time and you make time for your priorities.

In any case, I’d rather know how the working mom of quadruplets manages her career and home than read one more article about how Warren Buffett reads 80% of his day.

The “If It’s Important” principle: “If it’s important enough, you’ll MAKE the time. We all have the time. We just have to MAKE it. You just have to decide what’s REALLY IMPORTANT.”

Um, okay. But ALL the things are important.

Exercise is important.

Reading is important.

Spiritual growth is important.

Working is important.

And of course, family is important.

I get that we have to prioritize, and I get that some things are going to slide to the bottom of the list. And I know that the articles, podcasts, and books have something to sell–a system, a book, whatever. But to the perfectionist, it’s frustrating that EVERYTHING is important. It’s profoundly anxiety-provoking.

The “Sacrifice” principle: This one feels a little more honest and hits a little closer to the truth. This is the idea that in order to integrate a new habit, you have to sacrifice something else. We all have 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week, and no amount of juggling is going to increase those hours. In order to make room for something, you have to let something else go. Sometimes, we’re just talking about sacrificing wasted time–so sure, I could give up my morning puzzles and Facebook check in order to read several pages of a book. But sometimes, we have to sacrifice something of value–maybe I need to sacrifice the volunteer obligations in order to spend more time working, or maybe I need to sacrifice something in the budget to pay someone to clean my house.

The problem I have with this principle is that many times, the assumption is that the sacrifices are easy. They aren’t. It’s kind of like the “everything is important” thing. The trade-offs stress me out. It doesn’t matter what I sacrifice–I feel like I’m letting someone down. Usually me. And for the discouraged perfectionist like me, it’s almost easier to give up before starting–to just throw in the towel and say, “screw it–I’ll goof around on Facebook and play computer solitaire rather than pursue discipline.”

So this is kind of a depressing post. But this is part two. It’s kind of like The Empire Strikes Back. It’s always darkest before the dawn, right? I know my frustration is pretty obvious. But I’ve actually thought through a lot of this stuff, and I’ve come to some conclusions… Stay tuned…

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