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Deciding what’s really important

April 1st, 2011 by jomo

As a 70(!)-year-old retiree, I have plenty of day-to-day time on my hands, but a limited, although unknown amount of time left. There are many things I want to get done, quite a number of things that need to be or should be or must be done, and many things that I simply enjoy doing. There, for the sake of discussion, are those five distinct categories of activity and there is a sixth category that seems to take precedence over the other five: it is the prioritizing of the activities in those five other categories. It seems to me that I spend a lot of time in that sixth category, thinking about how to spend my time.

The “must-be-done” things jump to the head of the line – they include things like flat tires, plumbing leaks, malfunctioning appliances, injuries – and I’ve noticed that my spouse’s imprimatur on an activity moves it into the “must-be-done” category.

Of course, many ‘must-be-dones’ are simply quotidian chores: mow the lawn, get the truck’s safety decal renewed, change the oil, get a haircut. They are to some extent time flexible – the lawn can wait until tomorrow, the hair can go ’til next week (it’s gone so long already). I suppose the “needs to be done” are even more “time indefinite” – the garage and the workshop “need” to be cleaned up – the back porch “needs” to be painted.

That leaves the things that I simply enjoy. And those are sort of tidal: they ebb and flow. I like to sit and draw while listening to a good recorded book. I like to mess with computer technology and solve a particular technical problem. I like to design, plan and build something. But those interests can, in their time, be all-consuming, pushing everything but the “must-to-be-dones” aside. But their attraction gradually wanes, and I am ready to move onto something else – which is a problem if the projects, whatever they are, remain unfinished.

It’s always easy to start a project.

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