You can start here if you like. You can also start with Part One where I talk about the importance of self-care and move through Part Two, which is about caring for those closest to you, but starting here is fine because this is a rule I adhere to with fervency. I push it onto everyone I know. I am the pusher of Don’t Waste Time. It is likely I’ve said this to you in person if our paths cross in any way.
A history: I am a recovering Yes Person. I spent my 20s working in church nurseries because I was asked to. I helped with children’s choir, despite the fact that I cannot sing. I agreed to participate in groups and outings and events because I felt obligated to. I went places I didn’t want to go and did things I didn’t want to do because I was a people pleaser, and HEAVEN FORBID SOMEONE NOT LIKE ME.
By my 30s, I began to recognize that I have certain skill sets and running children’s choir was not one of them. By the time we joined our current church almost six years ago, I was able to say with confidence, “I am not interested in working with children, but I’m happy to help with communications and photography.” This wasn’t just about using my time and talents wisely; rather, it was about recognizing that I had wasted a lot of time doing things that were not meant for me, and I no longer wanted to do that.
It was a personal prison, and it wasn’t exclusive to volunteer or work-related choices. I’d hung on to friendships that weren’t really friendships. I engaged in conversations that were not my concern, and I spent a lot of energy worrying about inconsequential, unimportant things. I cannot calculate how much bad television I have watched.
It nagged me as my 30s unfolded. Why hadn’t I learned the power of No earlier? Perhaps that’s the natural progression of things. You don’t understand how necessary No is until you’ve wasted so many Yeses.
Then something happened in our family that anchored Don’t Waste Time so deep in my gut that I started saying it loudly and clearly to anyone who would listen. My sister-in-law, Tami, died suddenly at 47 years old. One day she was moving along in her wonderful life. The next day, gone. Just like that. At 47.
What. the. hell.
In the shock of her death I stamped out an email to my closest girlfriends telling them all sorts of things that should happen if I die suddenly – an actual list of things to do – and OH MY GOODNESS how does this happen to someone who is ONLY 47.
From that moment on, to the best of my ability, I have not wasted time. I’ve said no to the things I don’t want to do and YES to the things I know will be good for me or good for others. It’s rampant, I tell you. I AM ALL ABOUT IT.
No, I will not serve on that board right now, but ask me again in a year.
No, I will not teach elementary age classes at co-op, but yes, I will teach high school.
Yes, I would love to take a group photo for your non-profit for free.
No, I will not watch This Is Us anymore because I’m tired of being manipulated each week.
Yes, I will accept this freelance assignment, but no, I won’t accept that one.
On and on it goes. My No is No and my Yes is Yes. Occasionally, I will take time to consider my options and make a decision after some thought, but my instincts are strong. I know what’s meant for me and I know what is not. When I’ve been unclear, a quick chat with Chuck or my sister or a close friend clears it right up.
How does this connect to self-care?
In a dozen different ways. Consider your time and energy like a bank account. How much you spend and where you spend it is a reflection of your priorities. Are you investing in what matters to you most? Or are you blowing your precious, limited time on a bunch of life-sucking nonsense because you lack the confidence or courage to say no?
Hear me: Don’t Waste Time.
Don’t waste time on relationships that aren’t mutual and restorative. Be friendly to all and be generous when you can, but don’t dig into the reserves of your time and energy when the returns aren’t there.
Don’t waste time on projects, activities, and other participation-based events that don’t align with your priorities, talents, and availability. Don’t say yes out of obligation. Don’t agree to something when your gut is screaming no. Please, oh please hear me on this. Say yes only when you know you’ve got the time, energy, and passion to devote to it.
Don’t waste time on bad television, bad food, and bad company. Junk in, junk out. It’s that simple.
Don’t waste time wishing something would come your way. CLAW AT IT. Be aggressive. You have a dream? Turn it into a plan. What in the world are you waiting for?
Don’t waste time scrolling. I’m still learning this, if I’m honest. I enjoy social media, but at the same time, I despise it. We are meant for personal connection, and social media is not personal connection. People are not interchangeable with screens.
A few more things…
Rest is not wasting time. Rest is restoration, a necessary recharge. How I rest may not be how you rest, so I won’t tell you how you should rest. Just know that it’s important to find a way to log off, shut down, and be still.
Time spent thinking and waiting is not wasting time. Did you know that Bill Gates schedules time specifically dedicated to thinking? He weeds out all distractions and funnels his energy into thinking. He’ll read, go for walks, have light, easy meals, and think. There’s a lesson to be learned here, especially since our society is entirely too focused on glorifying how busy we are. If you need time to think, take it.
Finally, trying something new is not wasting time. Don’t be too quick on the no. Say yes to things you’re not sure about because you may learn something. Don’t like it? Never do it again. Love it? Make it your new hobby. Going through the experience of trying something new, no matter the outcome, is time well spent.
I think I’m done here. I’ve written down all the things I keep saying to people in real life. It is from my deepest heart that something has resonated with you or helped in some way. God bless you for hanging in there and reaching the last paragraph. I hope, sincerely, that I’ve not wasted your time.