May 14, 2013

Commitments

My wife is a big fan of Ashley Banjo's Secret Street Crew. Watching it with her has made me reflect on commitments and the level of discipline needed to juggle multiple responsibilities. For those who don't know, Secret Street Crew is a show in which Ashley Banjo, the front-man of a popular British street dance crew called Diversity, secretly teaches a group of people to dance. At the end of a month, they surprise their friends and loved ones with a performance.

As an author, I manage a number of different commitments. Day-job, being a new parent, running a weekly game night, running monthly weekend games, looking after two dogs, helping Jen with things around the house, and of course, writing, editing and promotion. It's safe to say I have a pretty full schedule.

But it rarely feels like that. I make sure to manage my time so that I can give each commitment the due attention it deserves and needs.

Often on Secret Street Crew, you see people who take on the training, and miss rehearsals due to other commitments. Often, they declare that responsibilities such as work or family take priority, and they can't let them down.

This is fair, and right. If there are things in your life that take highest priority, then you let other things suffer so that you can give them the time and attention they need.

Of course, this is all a choice. You could as easily choose to sacrifice those things others would hold as more important, or let your attention to them suffer in the short term for a greater reward at the end.

The key here is choice.

No-one forces you to take on challenges that take time away from your other commitments. When faced with the opportunity to try something new, or when forced to take stock of your existing responsibilities, it's your choice to put time towards those activities. And when you over stretch yourself, you end up letting someone down.

Will the people you let down understand that you needed to take time away from them to take care of something else? Probably. Is it okay to have to let someone down once in a while? Of course. There are times it can't be helped. Is it okay to let them down repeatedly? No. That's not fair to them or to you.

Sometimes you can't do all the things you want.

That's the harsh truth of it. If you want to do something in life, it's your responsibility, and yours alone, to make the time for it. If you have children, it's your responsibility to make time for them, to teach them and raise them well. If you have a job, you have to be there on time and put the work in. If you have commitments outside of work and family, it's your job to see to it they get what they need from you.

And if you can't manage that, and regularly find yourself letting people down or stressed out over demands on your time, then something has to go. Cut out those things that you find yourself putting off or missing most often. Consider that you might be holding on to these things out of habit or a sense of obligation (despite the fact that in most cases, you'd be better fulfilling that obligation by stepping back and letting those people carry on without you). Human beings are amazing, but our ability to spread our attention is limited. Odds are good, and I speak from experience, that the more you try to hold onto, the more likely you are to resent those responsibilities you keep trying to shirk, and the happier you're likely to feel once you shed some of them.

People will understand if you can't meet your commitments, but I think people have a responsibility to ensure that they don't take on more than they can handle. Of course you'll never really know what you can handle until you push past your limits, so it's important to make a mistake every now and again.

6 comments:

  1. I'm currently reading a time management book by Elizabeth Grace Saunders that says the biggest problem people have with time is not realizing that time is a limited commodity. It teaches the reader through a series of enlightening tools how to manage time to meet one's personal goals. Sounds like you already know those tools, Paul, whether consciously or not, and I bet you amaze everyone who knows you with how you manage to "do it all."

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    1. Funny thing is I don't realise just how much I do until I step back and take stock. I should check out that book, sounds good.

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  2. This is a very wise post, Paul. You seem to have a handle on something many of us struggle with. I am a very good manager of my time, but I have several friends who are overwhelmed and stressed all the time because of over-commitment.

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    1. I think it's just that I long ago gave up on stress. I started actively looking for ways to make life easier for myself and keeping focused on the things I could manage.

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  3. I think I should print this out and tape it to my mirror!

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    1. Hehe, that'd be a first for me. I wonder should I come up with more quotable pieces? :-p

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