We all start with a blank page

When I look at 2019 looming ahead like a wilderness landscape with the horizon far in the distance, I can feel a little daunted. Just thinking of all the projects to complete, the commitments I need to keep, and countless shoulds nagging at my conscience, I want to take a nap. It’s comforting to believe I’m not alone. In fact, I expect that most busy women with responsibilities feel much the same way I do.  

Besides, when I consider all the tasks, errands and self-designated duties that I don’t get around to month after month, I blame myself for procrastinating—and burden myself with guilt. Again, I don’t think I’m the only one feeling unworthy for putting off all those shoulds that are dragging me down.

I’ve come up with a solution—at least a suggestion—to make the painful process of scheduling more effective and humane: Let’s eliminate the concept of procrastinating and replace it with an emphasis on prioritizing. Further, let’s accede prioritizing is meaningless unless it’s based on our values.

 Here’s a brief generic list of my three highest values that anyone can personalize:

SELF-CARE                 

Self-care is not a luxury but a necessity. We can’t care for others or perform at our best unless we invest some time in our own mental and physical health. We need to take time to get enough rest, nourish our bodies and souls with good food, a good book, exercise, or doing anything that gives us pleasure, expands our consciousness, and refreshes our spirits. 

CARING FOR FAMILY AND LOVED ONES

Caring for loved ones means consciously sharing our time, love and effort to let them know their importance to us.  This includes listening to them and supporting their emotional growth in both happy and troubled times.

SERVING A PURPOSE GREATER THAN OURSELVES

This doesn’t need to be as grandiose as it may sound. If we work for a living, presumably we help provide a product or service that adds value to others’ lives. Beyond this, anything we can do to make the world a better place belongs in this category.  Serving our community can be a real pleasure, since giving our time and talent is gratifying. This includes doing volunteer work that has meaning for us, connecting with a friend or anyone in need; writing, painting, or doing any creative act to inspire others or founding a nonprofit to help the underserved. 

Planning our days according to our values comes in handy in relegating cleaning the basement to the end of our list. Still, even with noble intentions we can become anxious when we think too far ahead. Flexibility is key: we can often shift our priorities at will. Plus, I’ve discovered I can alleviate needless worry if I focus on the moment. When I do my best today to hold to my values, almost every moment feels both enjoyable and worthwhile.  And each day keeps getting better. 

Mary Kathryn Jones