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My New Year’s Resolution: Quit Stuff. Be Happier.

Posted on 1 January 2013

Four years and a few months ago, I was unemployed and for the first time in my life had no idea what I was going to do next. There was no new job lined up, no new semester to get ready for- just life, and the hope I would do something with mine.

To hedge my bets and occupy my time, I started volunteering. Then I got a job. Then I got another. So by the time the year ended I had two jobs and three board positions.

It was great. I always had something on the go. I was meeting new people. I was gaining new skills. I was contributing to things I liked and believed in. I really enjoyed it.

Until 2012. Somewhere near the beginning of the year, after over two years of spreading myself thin, I hit a breaking point.

It wasn’t any one thing. It was just the cumulative effect of having no evenings, weekends or downtime. Losing touch with friends. Never just sitting and relaxing at home.

And not even the stuff I was supposed to be doing instead of having personal time was getting done the way it should have. I would hop from one project to the next, barely getting it done. Everything was suffering from a lack of commitment.

So I started quitting stuff. I quit a job. I quit a board. I scaled back in a couple of areas.

And it’s great. My work is better. The stuff I still volunteer for is getting more attention and I’m able to take on more responsibilities and ambitious projects.

I have my time back. I’m able to see friends more regularly. I’m able to curl up at home once in a while and just read or watch a movie. I’m able to take time for myself, and rest and recharge for when I head out into the world again.

And the stuff that I was holding onto because I had to do it? I handed it off and it’s getting done. Other people are taking projects I started and running with them, and it’s awesome to see new eyes and new energy complete what I didn’t, as I finally complete some of the things I kept for myself.

I like having lots of projects, and there’s lots of things I wish I could do. But the most important realization I came to in 2012 is that I can’t to do it all. And I know that that’s something everybody knows- I knew it- but there’s a difference between knowing and understanding.  So now I understand. And if I have a resolution for 2013, it’s to more effectively manage my time. But another resolution is to not set namby-pamby goals that aren’t measurable. So more concretely:

  1. at least once every two weeks I will have an evening at home where I’m not working
  2. at least once a month I will spend time with friends
  3. at least once a month I will spend time with family
  4. I will complete volunteer tasks on schedule. If I am unable to do this regularly, I will re-examine my commitments and, if necessary, scale back more.

Happy new year.

Filed under: personal

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