Why deleting my electronic planner was the best thing I ever did (and some bigger lessons)
We use technology nearly as much as we use air. We’re on it at work, we’re on it at home, we’re on it for entertainment, we’re on it to post blogs such as these. We use technology constantly.
A couple of years ago, I decided to change my life.
I began to take myself seriously. I attained internship after internship, job after job, volunteer work after volunteer work. All to build that resume, all to be the professional I knew I could be – I knew I had to be.
This was a good thing – a great thing.
However, one summer I took it too far. I worked 17 hour days, every day. And after that summer, I worked 50-55 hour work weeks while a full-time student. Yep, too far.
During this time, I had to come up with a way to stay sane. Being someone with anxiety, I had to build a system that would ensure I never forgot an appointment, that I was always prepared for my obligations.
It was then that I created my own planner/scheduler/calendar. I used a Microsoft Word document to track my day-to-day – I booked myself out months (years) in advance. Each day with a to-do list, each day with a step-by-step guide of how to live.
And guess what?
For the time being.
I was never late. I was always prepared. I built my resume. I changed my image. I became employed. I improved my GPA.
I did it, and I have my obsessive planning (oh and motivation/discipline) to thank for that.
The thing is, is that once I realized that I didn’t need to kill myself in overwork anymore, I still maintained that level of planning.
I had grown so accustomed to writing every. single. thing. down, that I didn’t know any different.
My need for perfection wouldn't go away.
As I entered the “real” world, I switched over to my Google calendar for ultimate efficiency. Each day marked in different color-coded events to perfectly suit my goals. Months of goals and benchmarks noted, years in advance.
By now you have either stopped reading, think I’m completely psychotic and are no longer my friend, or have faith that I have overcome this obsession.
Hopefully you chose the last option.
About a month ago I realized how unhappy I was. My need for perfectionism was ultimately taking over my life. Every day was structured perfectly, every day was perfectly planned. These obsessive time regulations I put on myself caused me to often not follow them at all, to ignore some of my goals and to ultimately push back my progress further – just the opposite of what I had intended for it to do. I was efficient, but I wasn’t productive.
Extremity – lack of balance.
I finally realized that putting extreme goals and perfectly planned out steps to reach them was too much. We’re all human – we all need to live.
We all need balance.
So, I deleted all of the contents of my Google calendar. I deleted all of my insane goals. I deleted all of my objectives, plans, and yearnings for self-improvement.
Yes, it was painful.
But I did it.
What I did instead, was only write the essential things into my physical planner (duh, I still have one – who do you think I am?).
I have a daily routine including gratitude, reading, news, working out, and more – but I knew that it was already ingrained – so why did I still need it staring back at me, looking like a burden?
I changed my goals to more broad ways of living – to more flexible time frames.
Things like “workout every day” and save “x” dollars a month. Rather than, “follow perfect workout plan at 5am” and “no more going out spending money with your friends.”
I took out the in between deadlines.
I allowed myself to live.
And so far, it has been everything.
So far, I spend much less time planning my life, and much more time living it.
I spend much more time seeing my progress and improvement, and much less time seeing my failures and lack of commitment. I spend much more time writing, and much less time staring at my computer screen.
I took out extremity, and I introduced balance.
And all it took for me was taking out the extreme planning.
Of course I still have many goals. Of course I still have many dreams. Of course I’m still working on self-improvement every day.
That’s who I am.
But I’m also the girl that likes to drink too much wine with her friends. I’m also the girl that likes to shop (too much) occasionally. I’m also the girl that likes to be spontaneous and free and go camping with no reception.
I’m far from the perfect person I strive to be. The perfect person I wished I was.
The perfect person I don't wish I am anymore.
Balance. That is what life is about, and that is what you have to allow yourself to have.
Realistic goals, setting yourself up for success, and balancing your life between self-improvement and self-contentment – that is what 2016 should be about, that is what your whole life should be about.
We read articles about small progress all the time, about balance – but I think sometimes you need to make the mistakes yourself, come to the conclusion yourself, in order for you to truly learn it.
So, 2015 you were fantastic, but I have learned that you don’t always have to follow your planner, and more importantly, you shouldn’t.
Because, when you allow yourself some leniency, when you allow yourself some balance – you never know what or who might appear in your life, there just needs to be room in your schedule.