Playing Dominoes With Your Life

We’ve downsized. In the process, I’ve had to squeeze my library into a smaller and smaller space. That really hasn’t stopped me from buying books, though (my one extravagance). As a result, the nice, neat bookshelves I organized when I moved my enterprise into the office here have become overloaded with books crammed into every available space: vertical and horizontal and even piled on the little available counter space I have around my desk. There are books everywhere. Not that it slows me down much, but now I do think twice before hitting ‘submit’ on my orders. “Someday,” I think to myself, “I’m going to have to straighten this mess up.” Of course, you and I both know that ‘someday’ never comes. “If it’s not on your calendar,” I always say, “it’s not going to get done.”

I’m talking to you about my bookcase because I want to use it as a metaphor for the way we manage our resources. The more we pack into our lives, the less space is left for anything else. It’s critically important to grasp the difference between your ‘needs’ and your ‘wants’. ‘Needs’ are essential for maintaining your status quo. Neglect your needs, and you’ll inevitably slip backwards. When you fail to give adequate priority to your needs, your quality of life suffers. Putting yourself last creates a fool’s paradise. ‘Deferred maintenance’ sets the stage for eventual collapse. However, meeting your needs provides you with little emotional nourishment. It’s really hard for most people to get excited over housecleaning, for example.

What about your ‘wants’? These represent your hopes and dreams for the future. They excite you with their creativity and promise. They’re emotionally fulfilling. You want to tackle these projects. In fact, sometimes you want to get started on these things so badly that you jump them into your schedule ahead of other things. It’s like squeezing one more book into the row on the shelf – it displaces the other books. Do this enough, and the whole row will come tumbling down off the end onto the floor. Overextending your resources, by misprioritizing will eventually lead to your life careening out of control, falling like a row of dominoes.

Libraries, like our lives, need empty space. Standard practice dictates that a library is considered full when 85% of its space has been used. That extra 15% (minimum space) provides the essential reserve for the effective operation of the library. The life strategy we call ‘anticipation’ requires that our resources planning take into consideration uncommitted time – no less than what a functional library requires: 15%. That’s about 2-1/2 hours of unstructured time a day. “What’s that for?” you may ask.