An acquaintance of mine recently told me about a problem she is having in her retirement. After decades of working and thinking, “I’ll have time for that when I retire,” she’s now overwhelmed by all the things she promised herself she would do with her free time and resources.
I read about the injustices in the world — now that I have time to read — and I want to help out in all of the causes. I want to give my time, energy, and money to help others. But there are so many causes, so many people in need, and I can’t possibly give to all of them.
Her home is primarily uncluttered, yet her dining room table is piled high with magazine articles, donation solicitations, and printouts from websites detailing organizations, people, and causes in need. Her heart and good intentions are pulled in numerous directions. Most of us face similar situations in our lives — maybe not with looking for ways to help charitable causes but how to spend our personal time.
I gave her the following advice, and I suggest the following for anyone who feels pulled in too many directions.
- Take the time to reflect on and determine what matters most to you. We’ve written about this process before, and I believe it is the most important step to determining how best to spend your time.
- Choose ONE opportunity that aptly reflects what matters most to you to account for 80 percent of your available resources. Out of all of the possibilities that stand in front of you, pick the one thing that you feel comfortable making a true commitment to.
- Budget the remaining 20 percent of your resources (time, money, whatever it is that you wish to commit) for all other projects that are in line with what matters most to you. For example, if you have $1,000 to donate to charity every year, $800 will go to the ONE organization and $200 might be distributed in $20 gifts to 10 other charities.
- Stick to this arrangement for at least six months. Give yourself a decent chunk of time to commit to the new system. After six months you will be able to re-evaluate and decide how to proceed into the future.
In this list, I give the example of budgeting money, but you can budget your time just as easily. Commit to volunteering eight hours a week at the local animal shelter, one hour to your grandchild’s PTA, and one hour to sorting food at the food bank. Or, maybe you have a young family and you’ll commit eight hours a week to coaching your son’s soccer team, one hour to a professional organization, and one hour to a committee for your neighborhood association.
(With my job, I try to budget 80 percent of my time to writing and 20 percent of my time to administration. It doesn’t always happen, but I’ve found that focusing the majority of my work day on the most important aspect of my job makes it more enjoyable and more productive.)
If you look at the situation as “what do I get to do” instead of “what don’t I get to do,” it makes saying no to other opportunities simpler. You stop feeling overwhelmed and your attention is focused on what matters most to you.