“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.” ― Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
The days fly by, don’t they? We fill our hours with chaos and whim or reason and order, and so goes our life. Structure thus becomes a means to a more fulfilling lifespan. That doesn’t infer rigidly-defined productivity at the expense of joyful experience, but rather using our time strategically to make the most of the what’s available to us.
Just imagine: Imagine what we can do with our lives should we add a bit of informed structure to our driving purpose. Imagine the places we might see, the people we might influence. Imagine the ripple set across time with just a bit more focus on catching days. Imagine following through on that quiet commitment you made to yourself to do the work that speaks to you.
We know that focusing means saying no to the parade of other options that flood our senses. No to watching that amazing episode of The Office for the nth time, no to diving into that trendy new hobby that friends are doing, no to all kinds of potential fun that we may say yes to this other thing. But that’s the rub: to do anything well we must do most everything else less well, or not at all.
“Living life to the fullest requires settling. You must settle, in a relatively enduring way, upon something that will be the object of your striving, in order for that striving to count as striving.” — Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks
So are we striving for something or simply going through the motions? We choose how we react to the world as it’s presented to us, and in that reaction is our opportunity to fill our moments with something more meaningful than the other options on the table. In the heat of the moment life can feel frenzied and limited. We can’t possibly do everything.
When we think of life in terms of time buckets or seasons, it can help bring clarity to what is essential now, versus then, and allow us to prioritize accordingly. What is most essential right now? Life would be boring with blinders on the entire time—to live fully we must open ourselves up to the world around us—but that doesn’t let us off the hook. We must carve out time for what is essential lest the time slip away forever.