So hard to find such ease and wealth
Whereby to render meaningful this human birth!
If now I fail to turn it to my profit,
How could such a chance be mine again?
Shantideva per No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva by Pema Chödrön
My main goal in returning to a simpler life is having daily balance in living and making-a-living. While looking through my notebooks, daytimers, and whiteboard photos (yes, I do that) from the past 15 years, I must have scribbled out my ideal daily schedule at least a hundred times. The challenge: fitting all the personal stuff that I want to do around a 9-10 hour block for work. I never succeeded.
In thinking about how my schedule might look in two years when I plan to have a self-employed simpler life, I realized I was going at it backward. What would my weekday look like if I did all the things I want to do and fit work around that?
- 7-8AM: get up, cook and eat a slow breakfast, read email, social media, blogs.
- 8-9AM: morning sitting meditation.
- 9-10AM: take a shower, get dressed, clean up the kitchen.
- 10AM-12PM: work.
- 12-1PM: cook and eat a slow lunch, clean up.
- 1-3PM: write, draw or do something else creative.
- 3-4PM: exercise (walk and/or yoga).
- 4-5PM: afternoon sitting meditation.
- 5-7PM: cook and eat a slow dinner, clean up.
- 7-10PM: leisure, social, activism, volunteer or study (minimum 2/week) time.
- 10-11PM: clean, tidy, wrap up the day.
- 11PM-7AM: sleep (8 hours)
That’s right, I determined that my ultimate daily schedule would include only 2 hours of work-work. My automatic reaction was to laugh and say “dream big, little fish.” But simpler living requires I change my thinking about a lot of things, especially how much $ I need to earn, so I am making it an ultimate goal: that any non-creative $-generating work to support my simpler life and retirement could be done in 2 hours/day.
I had a year-long period of looking-for-work unemployment 12 years ago and I regret the time I wasted. But looking-for-work is a full time job in itself and hung over my head always, depressing me and souring what could have been free time put to good use. I also remember the feeling of relaxation with jobs where you can leave work at work. For many of us now, the availability of work email at home and on our cell phones means that we never really feel off-work.
It’s natural that I have concerns about squandering time again, but I think I have the discipline now to quickly get back on track. When I had my epiphany for a simpler living, I wrote in my journal “I’m not going out like this. I’m not giving up.” I want to make time for my health, Buddhist practice and study, creativity and activism along with a $-generating job that will be of benefit. After years of lip service, this plan is finally the self-kick in the ass I need to create a schedule that truly reflects that there is no time to lose.
No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva by Pema Chödrön