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zen habits: Edit Your Life, Part 1: Commitments

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Edit Your Life, Part 1: Commitments

Quick note: Every Thursday I'll have a post about Simplifying (in addition to other posts). Starting today. For the next few weeks, the Simplifying Thursday posts will be a series called "Edit Your Life," looking at ways to simplify different parts of your life.

I'm a former newspaper editor, and one of the things I learned was to edit brutally (no sarcastic comments about why I don't do that with my blog posts). Cut out everything that's not necessary, and you've got a more meaningful story.

I highly recommend editing your life.

Today's edit: All the commitments in your life.

Take an inventory of the commitments in your life. Here are some common ones:

  • Work - we have multiple commitments at our jobs. List them all.
  • Side work - some of us free-lance, or do odd jobs to take in money. More commitments.
  • Family - we may play a role as husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter. These roles come with many commitments.
  • Kids - my kids have soccer, choir, Academic Challenge Bowl, National Junior Honor Society, basketball, spelling bee, and more. Each of their commitments is mine too.
  • Civic - we may volunteer for different organizations, or be a board member or officer on a non-profit organization.
  • Religious - many of us are very involved with our churches, or are part of a church organization. Or perhaps we are committed to going to service once a week.
  • Hobbies - perhaps you are a runner or a cyclist, or you build models, or are part of a secret underground comic book organization. These come with - surprise! - commitments.
  • Home - aside from regular family stuff, there's the stuff you have to do at home.
  • Online - we may be a regular on a forum or mailing list or Google group. These are online communities that come with commitments too.
You might have other categories. List everything.

Now take a close look at each thing on the list, and consider: How does this give my life value? How important is it to me? Is it in line with my life priorities and values? How would it affect my life if I dropped out? Does this further my life goals?

These are tough questions, but I suggest seeing if you can eliminate just one thing -- the thing that gives you the least return for your invested time and effort. The thing that's least in line with your life values and priorities and goals. Cut it out, at least for a couple weeks, and see if you can get along without it. Revisit this list at that time and see if you can cut something else out. Edit mercilessly, keeping only those that really mean something to you.

Each time you cut a commitment, it may give you a feeling of guilt, because others want you to keep that commitment. But it's also a huge relief, not having to do that commitment each day or week or month. It frees up a lot of your time, and while others may be disappointed, you have to keep what's important to you in mind, not everyone else. If we committed to what everyone else wanted all the time, we would never have any time left for ourselves.

Take the time to edit your commitments, and your life will be greatly simplified. You will thank yourself for it.

See also:


Anonymous said...

I agree, the tendency is always to over commit because there is pressure to please others. But pleasing yourself and having peace of mind is more important.

Also, definitely get your own domain and hosting. I like the name of the blog how it is, so no suggestion there.

Anonymous said...

I already did this. When I first started working, I made sure I also had fun things to do other than work each day. A couple of decades later, I was overcommitted.

When I dropped one of my commitments (dance class each Friday night), I got the added bonus of a kind of gleeful feeling like I have stolen some free time or am cutting class. Sometimes I use this time to do nothing at all; sometimes to get something done that I wouldn't have done otherwise. Either way feels good.

Leo said...

@john: thanks for the comment, and excellent points.

@debbie: congrats on simplifying your life! i'm glad to hear that it's working out for you. i love how you got so much joy from that little pleasure of cutting class!

Bengt W said...

Interesting read, like most in your blog. Nice to know that I am not the only one in need of cutting down on commitments. Checking ones commitment is useful, some are there more out of habit than out of filling a need.
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