Goal questions.

OK, I’m trying to figure out what I think about something, and I’ve got some of the way there, but I’d love your input on this one.

Goals.

How do you set them? What sort of goals do you set? What do you do when you reach a goal?

When I was a stay-at-home mum, one of the things that I really didn’t cope well with was the feeling that I wasn’t progressing anywhere. The kids grew up, but that wasn’t due to my input. They would have got older anyway. The house got cleaned, then dirty, then cleaned, then dirty. The washing was put away, and built up again. The weeks went past and nothing seemed to change.

For me, going to university was a way to escape that feeling. At the end of every semester I would get a report card with marks on it. I knew that I was working towards something, and there were milestones to mark how I was going. It was a wonderful interlude, but we know that life is not generally like that.

When I started working at the university, people would say to me things like, ‘You need to do such-and-such so that it looks good on your promotion application.’ And I would think, ‘Why do we need to be thinking about promotion all the time? Why not just be allowed to do a good job and leave it at that.’ I decided to forget about promotion or tenure and just to do my work well. And that worked for a while.

But I remember sitting in a seminar, letting my thoughts wander, and realising that I needed some direction. Some measure of forward progress. I needed to come up with my own goals so that I knew where I was going.

And I’m at that point again.

I’ve been working as a freelancer for almost a year now and I’m realising that I need some measure of forward progress. I don’t want to put myself under a whole lot of pressure, but I need some way to know that I’m not just going through the motions. Not just doing the same things day after day just for the sake of filling in the hours.

I need some measure of whether I am doing enough work, or too much. Sometimes I need to know that I have achieved something and that the hard push was worthwhile. And sometimes I need some way of giving myself a kick up the butt when I’m not working hard.

I remember reading something about how instead of goals we should focus on systems. Instead of a goal of ‘lose 10 kg’ we should focus on a system like ‘go to the gym three times a week’. I understand the reasoning here, and I realise that without systems like this you do not get anywhere. But I think that in addition to the systems I need a goal, something to aim for and  when I reach it, something to celebrate.

I also understand that goals need to be something that you can control. This is why ‘lose 10 kg’ is a bad goal (especially for us women) because there can be reasons – illness, or some family issue or something that stops us from reaching such a goal and is totally out of our control. It’s the same for me with book-writing goals. I can determine when I should have the first draft by, but then cover design, editing, beta-reading, all of these things depend on someone else, and I can’t predict or account for all the variables that might happen.

I think I need some SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. I know I have some really big goals – pay off the mortgage is one – but I need some smaller milestones that I can mark off along the way. I think I need to gamify my life so that it resembles (a little) the university years. Goals for every six months or so that I can tick off and feel like I’m getting to the big ones.

So that’s where I’m at. But I’d love to know your process, your goal-setting ideas. Even some of your goals, if you feel comfortable sharing. What do you do here? Or do you set goals at all?

PS We had a lovely four-day adventure in Swansea. That’s where today’s pictures are from. We totally unwound and relaxed. Watched TV, read books, went for long walks, sat in front of the fire and played crib, jammed a bit on our musical instruments. It was delightful and necessary, and we’re going to be doing this sort of thing regularly in the future.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

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Juggling Fire

Juggling fire

A friend of mine told me about a talent show she was a part of on a church camp. Everyone was super-excited about it, especially the children. They so wanted to be involved, to be important, to have their moment of fame at the front of the room.

They thought long and hard about what their ‘talent’ was going to be. What they were going to do that would wow the crowd. Their imaginations went into overtime.

One ten-year-old boy said to his mum, ‘I know what my talent is. I’m going to get some sticks, set them on fire, and juggle them. Then, I’ll have a bucket of water behind me, and once I’ve finished juggling, I’ll throw the burning sticks over my head into the bucket of water to put them out.’

Now I’m telling you, that would have been very impressive. Amazing.

Especially since the child has never juggled before, and hasn’t played with fire much either.

Needless to say, his mother suggested that he think of something else.

The thing he actually did was also pretty impressive, even if it wasn’t quite as showy: He ate an entire bag of Minties (I don’t know how long that took.)

minties

Look, it’s funny, but I see myself doing this in my own life.

Moz and I got engaged while he was still in his last year of high school. (I graduated the year before; I know, I’m a cradle-snatcher.)

When he first asked me to marry him we kept it very quiet. It was a secret from everyone.

Then the time came to ask my parents. They gave their permission, but they suggested (strongly) that we didn’t announce the engagement until after Moz finished high school.

I was so frustrated. Why couldn’t we share our good news? For that matter, why couldn’t we just go ahead and get married? What was all this faffing about for?

But I realised over the next few months that I wasn’t ready to announce our engagement. I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t done all the thinking through of what that would involve, what making such a huge change to my life was actually like. I knew we had made the right decision, but the timing wasn’t quite right. The four months between getting engaged and announcing it to the world were necessary for my mental health.

Right now I can make the same mistake with my writing. I would like my stories to take off, to be best-sellers. I would like my blog to go viral. I would love to be a household name.

Or would I?

Because every time a little bit of ‘fame’ comes my way I recoil. I get overwhelmed. I start to ask, ’Is this what I really want?’

I think God is being gracious by holding things back. I hope that one day I will be mature enough to handle a little bit of fame, and a larger number of book sales. But I want to wait until the time is right.

I don’t want to find myself onstage, hurling burning sticks in the air and hoping I can catch them without being hurt or hurting anyone else. There are things I need to put into place in my business and in my life, so that if I get my fifteen minutes of fame I will cope with it well and it will be a blessing to others.

For now,  I’m learning to juggle. And Minties taste really good.

Is there something in your life that is waiting for the right time? Do you feel like good things are being held back? Is there a skill you need to learn so that when the time comes, you will be ready?

Building community

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This is the Art Creative Space on Thursdays. Libby makes the room look better than I do.

Today’s blog is a bit late because I had a coffee with the amazing author, Katherine Scholes. She writes beautiful novels, many set in the African continent. I just read one called The Perfect Wife, and if you read it and you get as angry with the husband as I did, just hang in there (no spoilers).

While we were chatting, (and I tell you, I’m so grateful to her for giving me the time) we also said hello to the editor of a magazine, and had a chat to another author I know. I felt like I was so much a part of the writer community.

Being part of community is one of the things I love about living in Tasmania. Katherine and I were meeting for the first time today, but I know her parents and her sister, and she knows my parents too and can remember seeing Mum sing at St David’s Cathedral when she was a child.

Being married to a teacher in such a small community means that as we go to the shops, the beach, or the gym, we are constantly interrupted by calls of, ‘Hello Mr A’. And having worked at a university, I have friends in almost every restaurant and café in town working their way through uni in the hospitality industry.

Sometimes, I admit, I would like to be invisible. To be able to have a bad hair day without seeing someone I know. But most of the time I’m grateful for the people that know me. For those who know me well enough to give me a smile, for those I stop and have a quick chat to, and for those who are closer friends who I can meet with for coffee, dump on, and be a shoulder for them to cry on in return. I love being part of a community.

I got a little hooked on the Lego Masters TV show recently. I thought again that it was a wonderful example of a community. The different participants encouraged each other, and rejoiced in each other’s creativity and accomplishments at the end of each challenge. Yes, there had to be one winning team, but each person who left the show (that I saw) was just so happy to have been a part of that community. To have spent time with like-minded people.

Actually, I’m sitting and writing this as part of another creative community. I have started a little project called Creative Spaces in a local church near me. We provide the space, the tea and coffee, and the nibbles, and the people who come along bring their own writing or art pursuit and we all get creative together.

I am part of the writing space, and another friend, Libby, is taking the art space. We’re hoping that this place can become a hub where people are able to come, do their own project, but have conversation and make community with like-minded people.

Writing is a weird thing to share. At the moment we are all sitting quietly in the hall, typing or scribbling away. But in a few moments my timer will go off and we’ll make drinks and chat about what we’re doing. Then we’ll all sit quietly and write again.

Yes, it seems strange for an introvert like me to be harping on so much about getting together with people in real life and making community. But I’m starting to think that this is one of the most important things we can do to combat the loneliness and isolation that is all around us. I am trying to build community online using this blog and my podcast. But I am also prepared to get out of my own comfortable study and meet with people to make real life community happen.

I wonder if there is a community that you could start to build around you? It doesn’t need to be an official thing, but maybe you could find others that enjoy cooking and have a shared dinner party once a month. Or find others whose kids are totally into Lego like yours and start your own informal building parties. Or just say hello to your neighbours and maybe take the time to find out a little bit about them.

It will be a bit of a stretch, but I’m thinking it’s worth it. You might change the world for one other person, and isn’t that enough?

If you’re interested in hearing more about the Creative Space, feel free to drop me a line, I’d love to share it with you.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

The Stories you tell Yourself

Mt Field 4
Of course, I went down a rabbit hole looking for photos for this blog post. I couldn’t find a sports carnival one (but I’ll add one if I find one later) but I tell you, these days don’t seem so long ago. My hair is a different colour now 🙂 And Jess looks a little more grown up.

Moz headed off to sports carnival last week. His school house is called Geneva (which is blue), the rest of the family are in Wittenberg (red). (The other house is Westminster but we don’t concern ourselves with those yellow-wearing people.)

As he got ready for the day he put on his blue T-shirt with a ‘Go Geneva!’

I responded with, ‘Go Witt!’ and donned a maroon jumper (which is close to red so I’m going with that). And then we reminisced that the whole thing is not as fun now that the kids are not at school anymore.

In days gone past we would have chanting competitions — three against one. Moz would wave his blue feather boa in our faces. We would all compare scores at the end of the day. It was all great fun.

Now, I had to remind myself that we’d had our school children time, and that it had lasted 17 years. Now, it feels like the whole 17 years took just a few moments.

It’s that whole, ‘blink your eyes and it’s gone’ thing that so frustrated me when I was in the depths of raising children, worn out, peopled out, and feeling like the interrupted nights and crazy days we’re never going to end.

Well-meaning people would smile and pat the kids’ heads and say, ‘Make the most of it. It goes so quickly.’ And I would grumble that it couldn’t go quickly enough, and that being grateful when I’m just so very tired is more than anyone should ask of a person.

But those crazy days do end. And we are left with only the photos we’ve taken and the stories we’ve told ourselves and locked into our memories.

I thought to myself the other morning that it is really important when we are doing anything to be careful of the story we are telling ourselves while it’s happening. Because that is the story that gets etched into your brain. It is the story that you will remember for years to come.

When I look back, I remember the crazy times and the exhausted times, but there are also some great stories that I can tell myself. The fun mornings before sports carnivals. The beautiful times up at the shack that I wrote about the other day. The ‘lotions and potions’ play that the kids had with all the ingredients in our pantry. The special cuddles with my son, the brushing of my daughter’s hair, the deep conversations. Those are stories I want to remember. And I’m happy to let the frustrations and irritations stay in my memories only in as much as they allow me to be empathetic with other parents going through the same things now.

I have the same choice with the days I’m living now. I could tell myself a story each day about how I have more to do than can possibly be done, and how I am interrupted when I’m in the middle of things, and how no-one put the washing out and I had to go and do it myself, and any amount of other small frustrations.

Or I can choose to be grateful instead that I get to write and edit for a living, that I get to work from home and have flexibility. That I am so incredibly privileged to even be able to give this a go. That I am so beautifully supported by my friends and family.

I know that this can get taken to the extremes of denial and pretending that the bad parts of life don’t exist and I am not advocating for that. But I am going to keep trying to keep the happy stories alive inside my memory, in my imagination, and maybe just deal with the less happy things at the time, and then let them go.

Do you find it’s important to remind yourself of the good, whatever  you’re going through? 

Welcome to the new people on my newsletter list! It’s great to have you with us.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Defending from chaos and whim

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Last week I quoted Annie Dillard from her book The Writing Life, ‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.’ She goes on to say,

A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.

I love schedules.

A friend said to me last week that her daughter really needed a schedule, that she needed to know what’s going on, that she doesn’t cope well with changes of plans. I’m so like that. Even if the change to my plans is a pleasant change, if we’re now going out to dinner, or have people coming over (and I’ve been really bored), I still struggle to come to terms with the change.

Moz is much more spontaneous, so we worked out what to do with that. We decided that Saturdays would be our spontaneous day. We have a plan for spontaneity. Planned adventures. We don’t always go on an adventure, but because I’ve planned beforehand that we will, if something spontaneous happens, I’m ready.

Some schedules are printed out firmly on pieces of paper, or highlighted in a calendar app. For other people, they just know that first they will do this, and then at around midmorning they will change to doing that. It’s sitting in the back of their minds, almost subconscious, but still giving their lives order.

My life is changing right now, I have more work on and I need to fit more things into my week. It’s not an unwanted change, it’s more that life’s gone back to the way I thought it would be in June of last year.

The last few weeks have been nice and slow, I’ve been working on my own projects, my writing, my blog and podcast, and figuring out marketing. I have had a couple of regular deadlines—blog on Monday, podcast on Wednesday—but also a lot of flexibility.

But that’s going to have to change.

I’m not sure quite what the schedule is going to look like yet, but if I don’t have one, there are a couple of options for what’s going to happen, and neither of them are nice.

I might just panic. Say yes to every job and then work stupid hours to make sure the jobs are done by the deadlines. I have done a little of that in the last week and editing from 7.30 am until 9.30 pm is not how I want to spend my days.

I also don’t want to live in an emotional panic-state at all times. I want to be calm. To be able to make sensible decisions, not fear-ridden disasters.

The other option is that I will never get to my own creative work. It is much easier to do others’ jobs first and put mine on the back-burner.

As I said, I only have a couple of deadlines, they are self-imposed, and the worst that will happen if I don’t meet them is that I will be disappointed and slightly embarrassed. However, if my editing job for the big company is not complete by their deadline, then I might lose my position there and that would not be so good.

So that makes me shove my stuff to the end of the list. Do all the work for others first, and do mine if I get around to it. Which may be never. Because there is always resistance to doing creative work—if it’s not someone else getting in the way, then it’s me telling myself I’m too tired, or I don’t have great ideas today, or it would be better to nap, or eat chocolate while watching Netflix (in the name of research, of course).

So I’m hoping that over the next couple of weeks I will find myself a schedule that works. A schedule where I know how much time I am committing to the new work I have, and how much I am committing to my own creative work. That I will use that schedule to help myself sit down and do the appropriate work at the appropriate time, calmly, knowing that the hours I have put aside are enough for what is required. And hopefully, a schedule that has time set aside to be spontaneous too, to work, and rest, and play, and all in the right amounts.

It will always need tweaking, I’m not even pretending I’m going to get it right, but I think I need something anyway, something to order my days, a ‘peace and a haven’ set into my time.

How about you? Do you like schedules? Are you more of a spontaneous person? How do you keep track of your time?

This is a bit of a process blog, a blog that is helping me to figure out how I am feeling right now. I hope it helped you to process too.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

How do you spend your days?

sunset

 

This week I will head to the third funeral in as many weeks. This week’s will be harder, I think, than the other two, because the other two friends were at least ten times older than little Ned who passed away on Friday from leukaemia.

But regardless, it’s hard to say goodbye.

I have a few thoughts.

The first is that I am grateful for my faith. For my God who became human, died, rose again, and triumphed over death. I believe that death is not the end for any of us, and I look forward to seeing my friends again in heaven. In fact, I am already rejoicing, with tears in my eyes, at the thought of little Ned meeting up with our friend Frank and once again enjoying shoulder rides and playing trains.

The second is that I am grateful for the arts. For the TV show I just watched about someone dying from cancer that gave me the outlet of tears. For the book I am reading on pain and suffering that helps my mind to cope with this awful situation. For music, that unlocks the tightness of my chest and gives my pain wings. For the poetry that gives me the words when I have none of my own.

Thirdly, I feel that it is a good thing to remember that each of us will die. We don’t know when or how, but we can think now about how we want our lives to be remembered. The Good Book says, ‘Teach us to number our days, that we might gain a heart of wisdom.’

It is easy for the days to slip past without us noticing. In fact, when my kids were little it was only the fact of them growing up that made me realise just how quickly time was passing. If we remember that one day this will all end, it helps us to spend our days more wisely, reaching out for meaning and purpose.

Annie Dillard says, ‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.’

We don’t know how many days we will have. We don’t know if we will live six years, or sixty, or more. But let’s strive to live each day the best we can.

Consider the Ant

Surprising-Science-multicolor-ants-2
Multicoloured Ants from the Smithsonian Magazine

The Good Book says, ‘Consider the ant,’ and I have been doing a lot of that lately. Our house seems to be overrun with them. We have flying ants coming in through our windows and crawling ants coming in through every little crack in the walls.

No, I’m exaggerating. But we do have two major ant incursions.

One in the downstairs bathroom, and one upstairs in the kitchen.

We’ve been using Ant Rid to deal with them. The first thing that happens with Ant Rid is that the ants get all excited and they ALL come to eat the bounty that you have provided for them. Then, so the advertising tells me, they take the poison back to their nest and it kills off the queen and you’re rid of your ant problem.

The downstairs ants have stopped coming, which is nice. But the upstairs ants, they are pretty persistent. There must be a lot of them in that nest.

We keep feeding them, more and more of the delicious Ant Rid. They keep crowding around, making nice neat circles around the drops of golden goodness. We’ve even been making patterns with them — long strips of ant rid, or crop circles. It’s fun. As I say, I’ve been considering them a lot.

When I think of those verses, Proverbs 6:6 and Proverbs 30:25, I tend to think about the busy bustling ant. I think that the verses are a call out to me to be busy. To work hard. To keep going back and forth, storing up food, doing what I’ve been told to do. But that’s not entirely what those verses say.

They say that the ant is wise, it has no commander, and it has little strength, but it stores up its food in the summer; gathers its provisions at harvest.

There is a time limit implicit in those words. The ant doesn’t work hard all the time. It works hard when it is work time, ‘at harvest’, ‘in the summer’. It stores up food then, so that at other times, when it’s not time to work, it will be able to rest.

Our kitchen ants (they are almost pets now) also work hard when the working is good. But when the sun is out and shining on the wall, making it too hot for them to climb up, they rest. At the moment, as I write this, the ants are gone. There are just little puddles of ant rid sitting on our bench and waiting.

But when the sun moves to the west, they will be back, once again busily collecting the food for the nest.

So even for the busy ant there are periods of rest and periods of hard work.

And I think we can apply this to our own lives too. There are times when, even though we are small and weak, we are called to work hard. But around those times, we need to allow ourselves to rest.

Work and rest. It’s a rhythm. Let’s dance to it.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

More Time-Gardening Thoughts

Garden

I’ve had some really lovely and thoughtful responses to last week’s blog. They came from people who actually garden (unlike me) and therefore they had insights that I didn’t have. It’s amazing what some actual knowledge will do to a metaphor! So I thought I’d share their wisdom with you.

One friend had been weeding her garden just before she read the blog. She wrote, ‘… as I pulled out big weeds I also started to pull out a “wanted” plant that I had forgotten was there (hidden under many weeds for quite some time!). This made me think about the things that restore me and bring me pleasure that sometimes get hidden, or pulled out because I forget I enjoy them.’

I agree with her. Some seasons in our lives are so busy that good and fun activities just get pushed out, or hidden. Sometimes we have to leave them for a time. When the busy season passes and we find we are able to clear our schedule a bit, it’s often tempting to continue to leave the good things out too. We start looking for clear time with nothing in it.

But I find that often clear time isn’t really what we need. If we have ‘free time’ we can fill it with TV, or surfing the web, or scrolling through social media. All good activities in moderation, but often these activities don’t leave us feeling refreshed. What we need instead is rejuvenating time. Activities that are creative, refreshing, enjoyable. Time spent playing an instrument, or going for a bush walk, or reading, or painting.  These activities may take a little effort to get started but they are more refreshing in the long run.

Do you have a hidden activity that you need to clear space around so that it has time to flourish in your time garden? Is there something you used to enjoy that you’ve almost forgotten about, that you would like to start doing again?

Another long-standing friend has sent me a list of thoughtful questions:

What if you COULD have a substantially set-and-forget garden/life where you built up the soil, the substrate, then applied, first aged compost, then fresh mulch?

Firstly, the odd weed would appear instantly out of place, green chickweed against brown pine-bark, for example.

  • What would that look like in life?  What would be the aged compost?  The mulch?
  • What areas of your “garden” need deeper mulch … perhaps some shade-cloth during the withering summer?
  • What areas are going to need additional fertilisation or water to fully enable the growth of what you’ve already planted?
  • Would attending to this thoughtful preparation mean that the “weeds” would be so easy to identify that they never even took root?

My friend says that the ‘aged compost and the mulch’ in our time garden is provided by identifying our core values, and our vocation or calling. If we are aware of these deeper intentions in our lives then we can measure tasks and possibilities against them.

He says:

Anything that comes along “looking” good and worthwhile, can instantly be measured against these priorities: 

  • Would letting this demand on my time bring me closer to my true self/ vocation/ calling… or take me away? 
  • Does this offer/ request really relate to who I really am… or is it something merely “worthwhile” – but not for me?
  • What have I planted in my garden previously… that has never prospered, never grown, and is merely surviving unproductively?  Does it need removal?

These are great questions, really worth thinking about. I’m going to take some time to consider them and I hope that you will be able to do so also.

I would love for you to join the conversation and let me know your thoughts as well. You can email me at ruth@ruthamos.com.au or tweet me @aquietlifeblog or find me on Facebook at Ruth Amos Author.

succulent garden

Weeding Your Time Garden

succulent garden
This is my succulent garden. Ironically I had to remove a large weed before I took the photo.

I have a new metaphor for time management, and I’m not sure if I’m going to use the metaphor very well, but I’ll give it a go.

Time management is like gardening.

Now, if you’ve read my short story The Useful Plants then you might know just how much I like (or rather don’t like) gardening. But I have a little bed of succulents near my front door that I take care of so I know something about it.

The thing I’ve noticed about gardens is that you can spend time on them, pull them into shape, prune and weed and tidy, and they look wonderful. But if you then think, ‘The job is done’ and leave them alone, the weeds creep in, the plants get overgrown, and the garden becomes messy again and require a lot of work.

This is the gardening cycle that I have experienced in my lifetime. But I know that the frustration is my own fault. Because the better way to deal with a garden is to work in it regularly. Head out there every week. Pull the weeds while they are small. Tidy up a little. And then, and this is important, spend time out there enjoying the beauty of what you’ve created.

So I hear, anyway.

But I know for sure that the same principle applies to our calendars, to our time management. You can set up the best system in the world, but it is not a set-and-forget situation. Over time little bits creep in. Extra jobs appear. Worthy activities find space. And suddenly you’re living in an overgrown mess, running from one thing to the next, head spinning, feeling really busy.

And I think the main point of this metaphor is not to be surprised that this happens. It’s just the second law of thermodynamics in action: The entropy of the universe is always increasing. Things tend towards disorder and randomness. It’s the way it is.

So we should not be surprised that the schedule we planned in January is now out of control in March (as mine was). Instead, maybe it’s easier to accept that and then deal with it, than to worry about it getting out of control again. Like the weeds in the garden, it’s just going to happen. We just need to be prepared.

We need to regularly head into our time garden and weed. We need to check where we’re at and make sure that our priorities are being taken care of first. We need to make sure there’s space in the schedule for rest, and space for time with those we love, and space for time with God.

And then, and this is important, once we’ve tidied out time garden, we need to take the time to enjoy its beauty. To rest in the rest. To appreciate the calm. As Eugene Peterson says, ‘Leisure is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time’.  We can have a totally clear schedule and still feel busy. It’s better to enjoy the restful activities that we’ve built in, to really be present when we go for an evening walk, to actually concentrate on the book that we’re reading, rather than to be always thinking about our incomplete to-do list, having the worry whir away in the back of our minds even when we’re supposed to be resting.

I garnered this metaphor from an excellent book I read last week — Off The Clock by Laura Vanderkam. This is the most people-centred time-management book I think I have ever read. It doesn’t tell you how to structure your life to shut people out so that you’ll get more work done, instead it suggests ways of making the most of the time that you have so that you feel less busy (and still get the work done). I cannot recommend it more highly.

So happy gardening everyone! If you’re in Australia I hope you enjoy and make good use of your 8-hour day holiday, especially if the good use is resting. And if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere I hope that the advent of spring helps you to think about your time garden and how you can make it just as beautiful as the blossoms that no doubt are coming out now.

Do you like gardening? Are you surprised by the creeping disorder of the universe? What do you do to keep your time schedule under control?

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

The Story of Your Life

Corrections

I’ve been doing a lot of editing lately, of my own work, not of others’. I am preparing a book of short stories for publication, I’m preparing a book of transcripts of my podcast, and I am also working through the first draft of my new novel and making it stronger and better.

I don’t really like editing, going back over my work, figuring out what to cut out and what to leave in, changing this, adding new things here, removing whole paragraphs there. I would like everything I write to be perfect the first time. To make a decision and for that to be absolutely the best one. To not have to change anything.

Ridiculous, right? Writing doesn’t work that way (oh the irony, I had to rewrite this very sentence). Everyone’s first draft is messy.

My devotion today asked, ‘If your life was a book, what would you need to edit?’

When I think about the themes I want my life to convey, the story I want to tell, are there things I need to cut out, or things I need to add to communicate that story better? Are there decisions I made that were right at the time but that need to change now? Are there hangovers I’m holding on to because I really loved them five or ten years ago but they don’t apply to my life now?

One of the big editing tips in writing is, ‘kill your darlings.’ In writing our novels we often love certain scenes, conversations, or even characters. They are our darlings. But the truth of the matter may be that those things are weaknesses in the overall tale, they need to go, they need to be cut out.

I’m wondering if there are ‘darlings’ in my life that I’m hanging on to that are making me weaker. Attitudes or decisions, or even material goods or activities that need to go now to bring the story of my life to a stronger place.

Is it the same for you?

Often authors can’t see for ourselves what these things are. That’s why it is so important to employ an editor to look over our work. The editor is not emotionally involved in the situation and can be a bit more ruthless when it comes to cutting out deadwood. Sometimes it can be difficult to hear the editor’s advice. But you know that they are working with you towards the same goal – a stronger piece of work, better able to convey the story, the theme.

And the same applies to our lives. Sometimes it is helpful to have a mentor or a coach, or a good friend, who can help you look over your life and see where things could change to make you stronger.

If you think of your life as a book, what is the story you are telling? And is there editing that needs to happen to make your life tell its important tale in a stronger way? Do you have an ‘editor’ that can help you make the hard decisions?

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!