Making Appointments with Life

By Lori Alexander.

Father Time has marched through another year, bringing with him the traditional concept of new year’s resolutions. Creating a better work-life balance has maintained the top spot on my new year’s resolutions list for years now because I haven’t been able to sustain a better balance for 12 days, never mind 12 months. I feel like I’m in good company with my failed resolution, though; I’ve read that approximately 86% of people my age who make resolutions don’t keep them.

According to Erik Larson, a Forbes contributor, we are more likely to achieve our resolutions if we make them more like specific and measurable business goals. In fact, he says, we are nine times more likely to follow through on business goals and decisions than we are on resolutions. This tidbit of advice makes me realize that I have to turn my vague “Create a better work-life balance” into a specific goal. How specifically will I achieve this goal, and how will I know I achieved it? To help make this goal specific, I turn to my other resolutions to see what I’ve determined to be important on the “life” side of the scale. What would I rather be doing than working? How do I find the time for everything?

First, what would I rather be doing? On my list (for several years, actually) are the following:

  • Read more
  • Play the piano
  • Learn to speak Italian
  • Engage in creative pursuits
  • Write more (creatively)

I’ve been fairly successful with the first resolution. My initial goal was to read at least one book per month, and I surpassed that the first year. But I haven’t been consistent, so each year, I keep goal on the list. We all know that every writer should read because it makes them better writers. But reading has other benefits; it’s great brain exercise and it reduces stress. I’m keeping this goal on the list another year, again with a measurable goal of reading at least one book a month on average. I may be brave and try a reading challenge—you can find several online, and the one that piqued my interest is on the Modern Mrs. Darcy site.

I enjoy reading not only to escape but also to learn. With the technologic explosion, I’d be behind the times if relied only on books to learn. So, a new goal for me is start each day by learning something new, and I’m going to begin with two suggestions I found online:  CrashCourse, an educational YouTube channel that contains bite-size fun videos on a range of topics, such as literature, biology, history, economics, and philosophy; and the 20 Best Ted Talks.  This goal is time-friendly –each course or talk is shorter than 20 minutes, which is at least what I spend on social media sites each day, and this will be time better spent.

I’ve not been so successful with the remaining resolutions on my list. Over the past few years, I’ve received some wonderful gifts to help me fulfill these resolutions: a full-size stand-up keyboard, RosettaStone Italian, adult coloring books (now the great rage), and books on television writing and script writing (my all-time favorite writing passion).  All of these past-times have been associated with benefits, from increasing cognitive development (playing an instrument) to being more decisive (learning a new language) to reducing stress (coloring).  So why can’t I keep these resolutions? Time.

How often have I heard myself say, “I wish I could find the time to….” Something I read recently has really stuck with me: You will never find time, you must schedule it. So, now I am filling my calendar with “appointments” with the Crash Courses and TED Talks, the piano, the RosettaStone, the coloring books, the books on writing, and creative writing itself. Each of these “life appointments” will be short, at least for the first month or so. A time limit of 15-20 minutes will prevent the stressed-out feeling of trying to find an hour or two after work and will also provide me with much-needed breaks throughout the day. Success: a specific, measurable goal!

I’m optimistic that my work-life balance will shift—minute by minute—in 2017, as I step out of the office to pursue other interests. I am also fairly optimistic that my life appointments will become longer as the year moves on. And I’m confident that the greater time on the life side of the scale will not only make me happier but also make me more focused and productive when I am on the work side of the scale.

I’m signing off now—my appointment with blog writing is over.

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