People who don’t know me well, or have just met me, often get curious about the farm, ask questions about it, and then ask, how do you do it? Where do you find the time?

I am always a little thrown off by this question and I’m not sure how to answer it. The question does make me wonder, what do other people do with their time and energy? Because if I wasn’t farming, I’d be doing something else: mastering a foreign language, playing the piano, showing dogs, restoring an old house, writing a book, learning to paint, gardening, traveling, volunteering- or something.

I work full time, and even work quite a bit of overtime, and I have a long commute. And I’m not one of those lucky people who only sleeps five hours, I sleep a lot. But there are still hours left in the day for life, for things we like doing and things we want to do. I have friends who do amazing things- finish a masters degree in the evenings, train for triathlons, sew one amazing quilt after another, play in a talented band, train dogs that set records in competition, author published works, patent inventions, build houses-all sorts of things. And raising children is certainly a time-consuming, yet noble and rewarding pursuit. I also have plenty of friends who have good-sized farms to maintain while working full time, so I’m not alone in managing this. Most people find time for what’s important. And priorities naturally arrange themselves: I usually figure, if it didn’t get done, it’s probably not that important.

But if it’s true that I get more stuff one than some people, how could that be? Here’s my guess at three big factors that are different about me than many people: housekeeping, socializing, and TV.

Housekeeping

This is a big category. There is the cleaning thing: vacuuming, scrubbing toilets, dusting, polishing, cleansing, disinfecting. There is the tidying thing: putting everything away, making sure everything has a place, constantly purging unneeded things. There is the decorating thing: updating furniture, artwork, paint, linens and draperies. And there is the shopping thing. I hate shopping, and procrastinate all aspects of it, from clothes shopping, buying new furnishings, to groceries.

Having a fancy house to impress other people is pretty low on my priority list. Sometimes when I watch movies portraying the Old West, and see those one-room log cabins where people hung their rifles, pots and pans, and household goods right on the walls, I think, that’s my kind of house. In some sense, I consider a house to be a place to eat and sleep, it’s shelter from the elements and safety from human and animal predators. If a house takes up all our time and resources making it look great and taking care of it, then it’s overhead exceeds its value. Winking smileSure, I’d love to have a fabulous, clean, perfectly decorated house. But it’s pretty low on the priority list. As anyone who visits our house would know.

Socializing

This is another thing that’s not frequently in my to-do list. I am a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, according to Myers-Briggs. Probably because I get plenty of socialization at work, when I’m home in the evenings and weekends, it doesn’t often occur to me to call up a friend to arrange for a dinner date, or to go-do-something together. I am very task-oriented, and in my free time, I naturally find myself looking forward to what I can get done or what needs to get done, not whom I might see or talk to. When I do spend time with friends, I enjoy it; and sometimes I regret that I’m not a better friend as far as frequently organizing engagements with others. But efforts to modify this habit in myself are usually short-lived; I am very hard-wired to spend most of my waking hours on accomplishments, not people. There’s nothing wrong with the reverse, and in fact, I think many of my friends are extroverts, and I depend on their diligence at reminding me to be social now and then. Because friends are important, after all.

The Boob Tube

We don’t watch TV. We have a television, and we watch DVDs from Netflix some evenings. More in winter, very few in summer. But we don’t pay for cable, so have no regular TV channels to watch. It’s funny, after you’ve gone without TV for a while, you just never think about it. I’m often reminded of how different from other people this makes us, because television is very embedded in our culture, and people spend a lot of time talking about it.

The thing that makes me roll my eyes the most is when coworkers will ask, did you see that funny commercial for <fill in the blank product>? This is just annoying on so many levels: the assumption that everybody watches TV all the time, that paid advertisements are worth your time and attention, that they’re worth talking about, and that by talking about them, you are allowing yourself to be manipulated by the advertiser, who has spent a lot of money hoping you’d watch the ad and then talk about it. The idea that consumers just sit passively and allow this garbage to be pushed into their brains is… pathetic.

I’ve noticed that if I work in a group or place for a while, eventually my peers will get trained to not ask me about TV stuff, since it’s a dead-end conversation with me. But when I change jobs or interact with an unfamiliar group of people, the telltale way some people spend much of their time will become noticeable right away. Some people are really taken aback the first time I have to explain, no, I didn’t see Dancing with the Stars last night, I’ve never seen it, we don’t have TV.

There is always a pause. I can see the wheels turning in their minds, as they work through the logic: my God, how can you live without TV? Doesn’t that imply you’re at some level of poverty where you can’t afford it? Or that you’re some kind of backwoods religious nut? Doesn’t everyone need to watch the news so they know what’s going on? Because surely normal people who can afford it would want to watch TV. Right? Or wait, now that I think about it, is it really true that I need TV? When was the last time I really watched something value-added or life-changing on TV? Is it just a big waste of time? Hmm, no, I can’t even face that reality, that I may have wasted thousands of hours in my life watching TV. And, besides, I love Dancing with the Stars…

To be certain, watching a little TV or a movie can be relaxing, and everyone needs some relaxation and down time. But it’s the degree to which we let it rule our lives that seems critical. It’s also fairly expensive. For anyone who feels even the slightest twinge of a tight budget, in my opinion, TV media should be the first thing to go!

The Bottom Line

There are days when I wish I had a little more time, too. Times when I get behind on things I want to do. There are hundreds of hobbies I’d be interested in exploring but may never find time to pursue. But for the most part, I’m satisfied with how I spend my time and what gets done. I try to regularly consider, if I died tomorrow, looking back, would I regret how I’d spent my time? Am I doing what I want to do and heading where I want to head?

Everyone has different values, abilities, hang-ups, needs, interests and priorities. I think the most important thing is that we live consciously, making sure that how we spend our time is aligned with what we really want most in life. I think that’s why I find this how do you find the time? question so interesting. I think it carries with it some unspoken implication that the speaker is wishing their life were different for them, that they could do more of what they want to do. And maybe they have unconsciously let their time be taken from them by unimportant and non-meaningful things, and there is some nagging regret about that.

What about you? How do you find the time to do what’s important to you?

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