What’s important to YOU is what you should do . . .

I don’t send holiday cards. I don’t send birthday cards. Nor do I send cards for any occasion other than when I want to communicate via a personal note. This is because I don’t really care if I receive cards, and because I suck at remembering dates like birthdays (forgot my husband’s birthday last year – that was a bit embarrassing). I’d rather send a card when I want and when I think the recipient will really appreciate the gesture. Not because the greeting card industry wants me to send one on a manufactured holiday like Mother’s Day or that ‘everyone’ sends Christmas cards. Now, I do know there are services to help you remember and even send out the cards. But how much thought is really there? I had to decide that unless it was truly important to me and to the card recipient, it wasn’t worth stressing over it.

As I’ve gotten older, I’m starting to really listen to my gut more. And my gut tells me, besides that I should start exercising more, that life is too short to do things that I really don’t want to do if they are not critical to my survival. I found trying to remember the dates, get the cards, make them nice, sign them all was just stressful. They didn’t have any personal meaning to me and I was doing them ‘just because’. This isn’t good enough any more.

Here’s some of what I’ve heard from my clients that fit in this category of “I should’s”:

  • volunteering to chair an event for your child’s school
  • making Thanksgiving dinner every year for the significant other and their whole family
  • signing up for “Music, Mommy & Me” every Thursday morning
  • networking at the Chamber of Commerce and every business group in town
  • blogging and twittering and Linking In
  • scrubbing the floors every Tuesday and doing laundry every Saturday

So, this post is about looking at the commitments in your life and examining them. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I really enjoy it?
  • Does it really need to be done, and are you the only one who could do it?
  • Am I doing it because I want to or because I feel that I should?
  • Is what I’m doing the best use of my time for my business or personal life?
  • Does it fit in my budget?
  • Will it truly matter to anyone else if it gets done?
  • Is it part of a routine that doesn’t fit your lifestyle but you’ve always done it that way?

If it is something that helps your business grow, gives you personal satisfaction, or enhances your life – go for it. It may not be what your friends do, or what you think other people perceive as being ‘correct’, but if it is what works for you – then it’s the right thing.

Some of my choices get me good natured teasing from friends who don’t share my enthusiasm for making homemade gravies and stews, for reading voraciously, for putting all my stuff in bins and labeling them, for picking up garbage on the banks of the Harpeth River, for twittering constantly, for hanging out at the dog park for hours on end. That’s ok. I respect my friends and business acquaintances’ choices, and expect them to do the same. And you know what? They do. In fact, the level of respect is fairly high because I enjoy what I am doing and am confident in my choices.

So what things are you doing that are “I should” instead of “I want to?” Those things that are done out of obligation or fear of not fitting in or because you’ve always done them are time wasters, time suckers and a significant cause of stress for most people. Really look at what you do with your time, and make changes that suit you. If you always do laundry on Saturdays but never enjoy a weekend, make the change to do it one evening during the week (and make the kids help!). If you think that you need to twitter because it’s the new ‘in’ thing but it won’t benefit your business or personal life (or give you a migraine every time you tweet), why bother? Do what works for YOU.

Some key signs that a task or commitment is not for you:

  • sinking of the stomach
  • headaches and back tension
  • a nagging feeling in the back of your mind
  • procrastination and avoidance
  • complaining about it to a friend
  • obsessing about perfection
  • regret after you say “yes”

Make the decision, and make the choice, to say “no” and take obligations off of your plate that don’t serve your best interest. Some things can’t be avoided, and many shouldn’t. But there are things in everyone’s life that just take up space and could free up time you could spend doing something you really love. Your time is valuable – and focusing on the important things: family, friends, business, and things that give you joy makes the difference between having a life and living it.

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