Self-Care Challenge (Day 291): Making Space

blue sky with sun rays

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the idea of holding space–the act of walking alongside another person with an open heart, simply being there for them without getting in their way–and it made me wonder about another topic that’s often overlooked: making space.

There’s no doubt that we’re busier than ever these days, and most of us tend to believe (ironically) that we’re busier than others around us. After all, busyness is rewarded in our culture.

But busyness isn’t synonymous with productivity. Just because we’re hurrying around from one thing to another doesn’t necessarily mean we’re doing a good job. In fact, sometimes we end up doing a crappy job if we’re being honest with ourselves.

Couple that with the fact that most of us “doers” still struggle to find time to do everything we want or need to do. So we continue scurrying about, doing a half-ass job at a lot of things, rather than doing a fantastic job at a few.

Half-assing leads to poor sleep quality (who can sleep when their mind is consumed by half-assed or unfinished tasks?) and workoholism (getting up earlier, going to bed later, working through our breaks, and neglecting to replenish our body’s nutrients in a healthy way). It’s a vicious cycle.

It’s like trying to tread water in a white water rapid.

Instead of making space for new things to come into our lives, we squeeze as much as we can into the few hours we refer to as a “day,” tripping over our calendars and task lists like hoarders climbing over piles of things they have convinced themselves they simply cannot part with.

Growing up, I was limited to participating in just one extracurricular activity at a time. For one thing, we didn’t have the money for me to do more, but it was also my introduction to work/life balance. I had to be able to determine which activities were most interesting to me and choose among them. Likewise, by limiting my involvement in activities outside the home, I was able to spend more time with my family, sharing home-cooked meals, participating in conversations that taught me how to manage and solve problems, and having opportunities to share what was going on in my life. Many of my busier friends did not have this.

I may have experienced those limitations differently had I been an extrovert, but as an introvert, I actually relished having more time to myself. I never wanted to participate in more than one activity at a time. It drained me.

But no matter how many activities you choose to become involved in, there are still only 1,440 minutes in each day. When you subtract a solid 8-hour night’s sleep, that leaves just 960 minutes to do stuff.

And those 960 minutes are precious indeed.

Which brings me to my self-care activity for the day: making space.

I’ve found that I often have to make space for new things to come into my life by letting go of others.

During my sabbatical in 2015 I had a lot more flexibility than I do now, and I’ve noticed over the past few months that I’ve had more meetings, time-bound projects and commitments. I’ve had to learn to safeguard my precious 960 minutes so that I can stay focused on the most important aspects of my life, and not get distracted by busy work that isn’t the best use of my time.

This realization became even more prominent this week, as I realized that one particular project has been consuming much more of my time than I expected. What makes it so difficult, is that it’s a really important project. Nevertheless, I had to ask myself (and answer honestly) if I’m the best person to be working on it.

The truth is that I’m not. And yesterday, I made the decision to make space and let go of it so that I can spend more time working on things that are better alignmened with my purpose and vision.

Is there something that you’ve been thinking about letting go of to make space for what matters most?

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