So you’re ready to reboot your life, and you know you need to put some things on temporary hold. How do you decide? A reader asked the question.
A reader asked me a question about the Closing Things Down phase of the Life Reboot:
“Closing things down: What things helped you decide what things to close down and what things had to keep going? Was there a process for making this decision?”
The Closing Things Down Phase
This part of the life reboot required that I examine everything that was going on in my life, and shutting things down. Some things were shut down permanently; others were temporarily put on hold.
The List Of All Busy-ness
I did this first by listing all my major roles in life. I did this by looking at my calendar and task list for the past month.
- Household manager.
- Girl Scout troop leader.
- Taxi service (a teenager at home who doesn’t drive and needed to be many places during the week).
- Church musician.
- Church committee coordinator.
All of these items showed up weekly on my calendar and/or task list.
Then I took a look at other commitments where I was committed to provide something, even if it was not regular or on the calendar:
- Girl Scout leader committee (once a month).
- Secretary for an online group.
I then added in things and areas that are on-going, and what I consider critical for my sanity and growth.
- My spiritual studies course.
- Novel writing.
- Working to recover from childhood trauma.
The next step was for me to write down the positives and negatives of each of the items on the list above. This served two purposes: it allowed me to think about how much time I had allocated to each area; and it allowed me to see hidden costs that had not occurred to me before. This process was helpful not only in deciding what to put on hold for the reboot, but also for what would be restarted.
For instance, the secretary for an online group: I had been elected to serve a three-year term, and I was a little over halfway done. I believed that I had to finish the term, no matter what, because I had been elected. And while I am committed to this group, I hadn’t considered the toll it was taking on me. The business committee was constantly at odds, with several members flinging vitriol at the others; in addition to my stated duties, I was spending upwards of an hour every day dealing with dozens of emails. It was getting to the point where opening my email was making me physically ill. So what appeared to be a no-shutdown at the outset actually turned out to be something high on the jettison list.
Considering the Effects of Closing Down
For each one of the items on the list above, I looked at:
- What would the impact be of shutting this item down permanently?.
- What would be the impact of shutting this item down temporarily?.
- What would have to happen to shut this down (and not have people bugging me)?.
- Is there some way that I can simplify this so it frees up time?
I wrote all of this down. The writing process for me slows my mind and makes me think things through. I was able to consider the options, list out open tasks that needed to be taken care of, and brainstorm ways to get rid of the commitment or make it easier.
- Employee. I like getting paid. This one needed to stay on the list. However, knowing that I have a client change coming up had caused me to start pursuing upgrading my skills. I had a list of courses to take, but had not started any of them. So the regular job functions stayed; the extracurricular learning was put on indefinite hold.
- Wife/mother. This one I couldn’t and wouldn’t change.
- Household manager. There are a lot of aspects to this that take up time daily, namely in a few different areas: cleaning, cooking and schedule management. Cleaning was dropped down to the basic level of sanitation. Cooking fell back on either commercial freezer meals, crockpot or pressure cooker food. Schedule management scaled back to online calendars, and leaving my husband and daughter to check their calendars.
- Girl Scout troop leader. We’re at the end of the year, and the temptation was to just ride it out. A meeting was in jeopardy because I didn’t have a second adult. But rather than scramble to find one, I canceled the meeting. This allowed people to stop bugging me until our last meeting of the year.
- Taxi service (a teenager at home who doesn’t drive and needed to be many places during the week). Thankfully, since we’re at the end of the school year, my daughter’s extracurriculars are wrapping up. Youth Orchestra ended. Governor’s School acceptance sent in. After-school club finalized. The one time that she needed transport during this time I farmed out to my husband.
- Blogger. I took a two week blog vacation during this time.
- Church musician. I took a two week hiatus from performing and attending rehearsals. Since I was not on the schedule as a main performer, I was able to do this with little impact to the groups.
- Church committee coordinator. This is one of those items that I really thought I would never be able to let go of or cut back on. I have been co-coordinator of this group for the better part of a decade, and I do the majority of the work for setting up events and discussion groups. Which is fine, but the events are sparsely attended, and the effort was not worth the returns. After looking at this, I stopped the monthly discussion groups permanently, and the other events are on hold until the fall.
- Girl Scout leader committee (once a month). As a leader, I am required to go to the meetings once a month, but I asked another leader to go for me. (Actually it was rock/paper/scissors, and I happened to win, but I had another leader ready to go in case I lost)
- Secretary for an online group. As I stated before, this was causing me significant stress and taking far too much of my time. My exit plan involved pulling back participation until the end of June, when I planned on resigning, but an incident where another member called into question my character because I didn’t see things his way caused me to tender an immediate resignation.
- My spiritual studies course. This is something I have been working on for three years. The course is designed to do one module a week; I had progressed to the eighth in those three years. This course is helping me find a solid pathway, and so I chose to continue on with it. My fear was that if I got out of the pattern, I would not go back to it, so I chose to continue.
- Novel writing. Thanks to an accountability partner, I finished the draft of the novel I started last November. I’ve had a few ideas poking around in my head, so I have committed to one hour a week to outlining the new idea. This was one of the things that on the surface seems like it should be put on temporary hold, but it gives me a way to be creative, so I cut it back to one hour per week, which I accomplish in fifteen minute segments before my day gets started.
- Crafter. I have many, many craft projects. Some in progress, some waiting in the wings. These were all put on hold, since there is no deadline for any of them.
- Health. Realizing that my grandfather died of a massive heart attack when he was not much older than me has spurred me to really look at my health. This is not something that I can put off, and so I continued to exercise and track my food intake.
- Working to recover from childhood trauma. I won’t mince words – both of my parents are alcoholics. The things I learned from them in childhood do not serve me as an adult, and I am learning a better way to be thanks to Al-Anon. Even thought I have been a member for 15+ years, without my active participation in this program, my life quickly descends into self-made craziness. This had to stay, and had to be a priority.
What Was Left
I hope that you have been able to follow my decision-making process. At the end of it, I was left with the following areas still “active”:
- Employee, for work hours only.
- House manager, scaled way back, doing the bare minimum.
- Spiritual studies course.
- Novel writing, one hour per week, broken into 15 minute segments
- Health, walking/Wii fit for 30 minutes a day and tracking food
- Al-anon, about 15 minutes a day, and one hour on Saturdays.
So you can see that this process freed up a lot of time; it also allowed me to make some decisions about what would be restarted, what would be abandoned, and what would be modified in the future.
Over To You
Have you thought about how you could shut some areas of your life down, temporarily or permanently? Leave a comment telling me what you would shut down below.