By Chris Hoffman
I did some math. Let’s say I manage to while away in unproductive stupor an average of 3 hours a day. Not counting the hours between midnight and 6 a.m., that’s 1,095 hours, or 91.25 days, or a little over 3 months a year. Assuming I have about 25 more years on earth, that amounts to 76 months, or 6.3 years of my remaining life that I am willingly abdicating to nothingness. If instead I devoted those 3 hours a day to a single project, in those same 25 years, I could accomplish 27,375 goals.
Mindboggling, isn’t it?
There was a time when I made “to do” lists. Early on, these lists were fun. They gave me a focus on what needed to be done in a day, or a weekend, or some longer period of time. Crossing off each item as it was finished was a satisfying reward. Somewhere along the way, however, I abandoned the list strategy when my lists became instruments of torture rather than tools of encouragement. The lists grew in length; fewer and fewer items got crossed off.
It’s been years since I made such a list, but it exists, nevertheless, in my head. It taunts me as I look out the kitchen window into the back yard, when I walk from one room to the next in my house, when I go down to the basement or into the garage. Hundreds of projects and tasks undone, ignored, stepped over, moved from one inconvenient place to a slightly less inconvenient place, which in the moment seems justifiable and simpler than mustering the energy to do whatever it is that needs doing.
I greatly admire people with discipline. I want some, but I don’t know how to get it. I do very little that can be categorized by any sane person as “routine.” Other people do laundry on Tuesdays, go grocery shopping on Saturday, clean the house every Friday, bake on Sunday afternoons, and water the house plants every other Thursday.
I just can’t do that. My approach is much more free-spirited: stuff happens when the muse hits. Or when some other outside influence leaves me no choice. I’ve actually been known to invite friends to dinner just so I have a compelling reason to dust and run the vacuum cleaner.
As a result, contrary to my public persona, very few people would ever guess that I’m a closet sloth. All the reasons that ordinarily work in terms of motivating people to adopt sensible habits and routines simply have no effect on me. The “a place for everything and everything in its place” mantra is a pipe dream. I believe in it, I want it to be, but it eludes me.
And I am my own worst enabler. Lately, in the midst of the cold and grey of lingering winter, my justification for doing nothing is that I’m waiting for warmer weather and longer days, for that first wondrous day of Spring when I can open the windows, turn up the music, and fly around in a frenzy of cleaning and organizing and cooking and baking and … whatever. I can feel that elusive energy as I think about it and write about it, desperately waiting for it to arrive, like a junkie can feel the lure of the needle.
In the meantime, every time I walk past a pile of unfiled papers or catch a glimpse of windows that badly need to be washed or navigate through the insanity of my basement, little voices start harping at me: not now, not enough time, maybe this weekend, or perhaps later when it’s not so cold. Later, later, always later; anything but now.
Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. So I’ve been asking myself lately, am I insane? Or just lazy? Or perhaps I’m just going with the flow, allowing the divine forces of the universe to guide my path? Yeah, right.
When I ran the numbers before I began writing this piece, I have to tell you, they got to me. 6.3 years, 27, 375 goals. Something definitely has got to change. I’ll start working on that tomorrow.
Chris Hoffman lives in the village of Sherburne in her 150+ year-old house where she caters to the demands of her four cats, attempts to grow heirloom tomatoes and herbs and reads voraciously. She passionately pursues various avenues with like-minded friends to preserve and protect a sustainable rural lifestyle for everyone in Central New York.