This week, as the year reaches its halfway point, I’m taking stock of how I spend my time.
Halfway through the year, I begin to wonder whether I’m spending 2023 wisely. Then my author friend Clare Flynn sends me an article in Frost magazine in which Sue Moorcroft takes stock of her writing life. Sue lists all her activities under three pairs of headings:
- things that make her happy/unhappy
- things that are good for her/bad for her
- things that earn her money/don’t
Seeing the facts in black and white empowers her to ditch several time-consuming tasks for good, freeing up more time for what makes her happy/healthy/solvent.
This exercise will resonate with anyone who is neither immortal nor Croesus, eg me. I’m hoping that compiling my own lists will resolve my biggest problem: insufficient hours in the day.
I’m notoriously over-optimistic about how much I can cram into my waking hours. My current solution to chronic time-shortage is to cut down on sleep and ignore the housework, a strategy neither healthy nor sustainable.
To add nuance to my analysis, I highlight items that cost nothing. For example, reading is both enjoyable, good for me and – for now – free of charge. Guilty of what the Japanese call tsundoku (buying books but not reading them), I have enough unread books in my house to last me years, plus many old favourites I’d be glad to reread. Coupled with public library membership, I need never buy a book again.
Of course, I will buy more books – lots of them – but it’s good to know there’s no reason to curtail my favourite hobby.
Gardening, too, need cost nothing. There are always more weeds to pull than I have time for. Some are pretty and benefit wildlife. As American agricultural scientist George Washington Carver once said, “A weed is a flower growing in the wrong place.”
Instead of spending a fortune at garden centres or hours wrestling with horticultural interlopers, I just need to learn to love the weed.
In the end, only two candidates for banishment leap off the page – my dislike of a dirty house and my hatred of housework. But this is an easy fix. As Clare points out, I just need to hire a cleaner. The same day, my student daughter returns for the summer holidays and fills the vacancy. I feel as if I’ve won a trick in a game of Pairs.
I’d been hoping the exercise would uncover further opportunities to declutter my to-do list, but it seems I’ve already jettisoned from my life everything else I hate, such as commuting, ironing, and tumble-drying laundry.
Catching up on my sleep will have to remain a daydream.
So I set my list aside and press on with what I really intended to do when I sat down at my desk this morning: to write this column for the Tetbury Advertiser, an activity in the “good for me” and “makes me happy” columns.
And it didn’t cost me a bean. Result!
This post was first published as my Young By Name column in the July/August edition of the Tetbury Advertiser.
In Other News
If visiting historic Cotswold churches is on your “makes me happy/ good for me/costs nothing” lists, come and join me at St Mary’s, Hawkesbury on Saturday 22nd– Sunday 23rd July, to tour the church and try your hand at bellringing (another of my free/fun/healthy hobbies).
On the Sunday, you can also enjoy a free gig by the Port of Bristol Shanty Crew while you picnic on the lawn at nearby Church Farm House. For more information, please visit www.friendsofstmaryshawkesbury.com/events.