As a creator, your experiences matter. What you create over the coming year or years will be born out of how you spend your time. And there are, no doubt, a great many pressures on your time.
We are fully into a new decade now, and I did a little experiment at the turn of the year that has helped me understand what to do with my time. I made a list of likes and dislikes of the previous year.
What I mean is, I listed the stuff I liked doing in 2010, and also the experiences I didn’t like. I was surprised at how many experiences I liked and how few experiences I didn’t, and I was also surprised at how simple the experiences that meant the most to me actually were.
Here’s a snapshot of my list:
Experiences I liked:
1. Having a clean house.
2. Walking the dog by the river.
3. Having house guests.
4. The Storyline Conference.
5. Waking up and working on a book.
(The list went on like this for a while, maybe twenty or so items on the list.)
Experiences I didn’t like:
1. Not going to sleep in my own bed (traveling for business)
2. Being away from home for too long…
(This list also included much more, but I will spare you the details)
Now, here is how I use the list: When it comes time to make a decision, it’s much easier for me to say no to an experience that may seem great at first, but ultimately will not be something I enjoy. For instance, I may have the opportunity to go to the East Coast for an interview. Maybe it’s not a big interview, but it’s a free trip to the east coast. Previously, I would have said yes, but now that I’ve made the list, I realize that I’d much rather wake up in my own bed, walk my dog, and sit down to work on my book.
Because of my list, this year I will see more plays, attend more symphonies and less concerts, watch less television and yet order more lectures on CD and DVD. I’d not known to have made those changes unless I made the lists.
It’s odd how many things we do that we think we enjoy but don’t. And when we sit down to make a list of what we enjoyed over the last year, we are surprised at how simple the list really is. Not only this, but there are huge things on my “didn’t like” list that I spent a great deal of time hoping in and waiting for that ultimately proved to be uninteresting. Those are mistakes I won’t make twice, because I have clarified what I like and don’t like.
Try it. Make a list of the experiences you liked last year and the experiences you didn’t like. If you have any control over what you do over the coming year, make plans according to the experiences you actually enjoyed. There’s no reason to waste time on stuff you think is going to be fulfilling but in the end is a waste.
As a creator, you don’t have time to waste. Time is your greatest commodity, and spending it on experiences you think you should have instead of experiences that feed your soul is a waste of time. Cutting the experiential clutter out of your life will free room for you to do great work.
Of course there is clutter in your life that is there by necessity. But we’re not talking about that. We are talking about those Christmas parties you went to that you didn’t enjoy, and always saying yes to coffee, and that vacation in which you thought you HAD to go to disneyland. Put an end to it.
Tomorrow, I will talk about doing the same thing, not with experiences, but with people. Let the controversy begin!