Simplicity and Priorities

This year, I’ve read a lot about minimalism and simplifying my life. This past fall has been maybe the craziest semester I’ve ever had (and I’ve been a student for a long time), so I had to put all of that advice to the test. The “Simple Living Manifesto” post on the Zen Habits blog suggests choosing your top 4 or 5 priorities and focusing on those. Of course, writing was—and is—on my list, so I needed to actually prioritize it. 

Fortunately or unfortunately, I prefer writing at night, but often at the end of the day I’m exhausted from classes, etc. It is so easy to say it’s just one night, skipping is no big deal, or just bang out a quick writing exercise/prompt response and calling the day a success. I am in no way saying that actually skipping one night is a big deal or writing exercises aren’t incredibly useful. But for me, one night can easily turn into two and so on, and the longer I don’t write, the harder it becomes to get back to it. And writing exercises are only as useful as you make them, and in these scenarios, I was phoning it in more than anything. So I had to switch up my schedule. Write earlier and/or whenever I had a spare moment. 

But instead of just trying to squeeze one more thing into my schedule, I wanted to utilize all of the advice I got from minimalists and simple living experts. Time management is not always about fitting in all the things or stopping procrastination. Sure, those have their place, but sometimes it’s important to just set a limit and stick to it. So for me, this meant limiting my schoolwork to certain hours in the day. I would be as focused on that work as I could be while doing it, but then I’d put it away. Whether it was unfinished or imperfect, I was done for the day. This preserved some of my energy for writing and prevented burn-out. It allowed me to participate in NaNoWriMo—though my NaNoWriMo goal this year was to write for a set amount of time every day rather than hitting 50,000 words by the end of the month.

I know it is so much easier said than done to put away unfinished or imperfect work—especially for a recovering perfectionist like myself. But sometimes good enough and doing your best really is enough. Or, rather, it has to be because if you have more than one priority, then it’s important to find time for each of them. To find “balance.” For me, that’s also tied into mental health. And I expect others to respect that. So if your teacher—or boss—is saying that good enough or your best isn’t enough or that an extension or unfinished work is unacceptable, then try to find some way to make it work. Talk to a department head or HR (I don’t actually know how non-academic jobs go, so I’m just guessing at that HR business). But in my experience, if you’ve honestly worked on it as much as you can without risking your health—mental or otherwise—and explain that to whomever it needs to be explained to, they tend to be understanding. But also, in my experience, if you’ve really focused during the allotted work time, most (though certainly not all) assignments can be finished to some degree of good enough.

So I urge you to try taking a minimalist/simple living approach to your work (whether it’s of the business or school variety) so that you have energy to extend to the other areas of your life that matter to you. For me, that meant time to write. What does it mean to you?

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