Lately, I’ve been busy. Like, busy-busy thanks to parenting, writing, coaching, teaching, grading, walking, reading, researching, cooking, cleaning and a bunch of other ***‘ing things ;). I wish funning was a word because that would be on the list too. As you can see, I’ve been busy will all good things, but nonetheless busy…
Have you noticed (or you may be annoyed!) that I’m using the word ‘busy’ a lot? That’s what happens when I get busy… I lock myself in a box and make excuses for why I can’t do something. I shutdown and say ‘no’ to adding what always seems to be another checkbox on my to-do list. When I am (I won’t use the ‘b’ word here), when I feel like there’s too much on my plate, I also start telling myself I don’t have time to do something for someone else… Don’t call so-and-so back, you have too much to do. Danielle, you just gotta say no to things and people so you can get your to-list done.
Sometimes that voice is the sound of reason, but more often it’s a frantic, fear-based voice that tries to make me someone I’m not: someone who doesn’t have the time and heart for others.
A few weeks ago, a teacher award nomination form was emailed to me from my niece’s elementary school (my niece lives with me). When I received the email, I lit up and thought, Oh goodness. Mrs. Smith and Mr. Hickson have been so great to Amy this year. I have to nominate them. They’re everything a teacher should be: engaging, compassionate, patient and informative. But my heart began to beat fast as my thoughts switched to, “No Danielle. You don’t have the time to write a nomination. Stick to the things you need to take care of.”
I deleted the email, felt crappy about myself and continued to sluggishly take care of my work.
A week later a reminder email was sent and this time, I listened to my heart and I clicked the nomination form. And guess what? It took me 6 minutes to fill out. 6 minutes! I shook my head and laughed; all they wanted was my niece’s name, the teachers’ names and 250 words or less. Once I hit ‘submit’ I felt proud, so proud that the energetic high I got from that simple good deed boosted my work productivity for the next few hours. I got tons of things done! The effect was like four cups of coffee, no jitters attached.
Two weeks later, I was at my office on campus spring cleaning (I’m a business professor). As I dusted my bookshelf, I came across ‘thank you’ cards my students wrote to themselves over a year ago before the pandemic hit. On the first day of class, I asked students to write the notes, thanking themselves for the preparation and courage it took them to be in college (I teach at a community college and many of my students are first generation, so being in college is an extra big deal). I planned to give them their cards the last day of class, but thanks to all that was 2020, that didn’t happen.
When I first saw the cards, I thought, “Awwww. How special. They’d love to see these.” My mind quickly shifted to, “Danielle, you’re busy. You don’t have the time to reach out to students if it’s not related to homework.”
This time, I listened to my heart right away. I sent emails and messages to the students asking them for permission to open their cards and send them a picture of it. This process end-to-end took a half hour.
One student wrote herself a beautiful thank you note that said something like this: “Thank you for making a sacrifice and joining the military. Because you did, your school is now paid for. You’re now in a better spot and reunited with your family. I am proud of you.”
When I sent her a picture of the card, she told me she cried and that she was so thankful. I clutched the phone, as if to give it a hug. I felt so good about sending those cards out that I had a smile and lightness to me the rest of the week and because of that, I got even more things done.
The next time I tell myself I’m ‘too busy’ to do something, I’m going to continue to listen to my heart and remind myself that doing something nice for someone else (or myself) is an investment that keeps on giving.
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PS – Here’s an affirmation to remind you that you’re in control of your day, “I have all the time I need. I have everything to make today productive and abundant for myself and others.”
PPS – Do you want more feel-good time in your day? Here’s an activity to put awareness around how you’re using your time. For at least a few days, write down everything you do: talk to your mom on the phone, go for a walk with your dog, attend a meeting with clients, drive to work, go grocery shopping, practice the drums etc. Once you have a few days’ worth of activities, go through and rank them from a scale on 1-10 on how much joy they give you (10 being the highest amount of joy). If you rank anything lower than a 7, ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing, and see if you can put together a plan around removing or minimizing that activity from your life or restructuring it so it gives you more joy.