Note #1: I’ve been scrambling in order to run out of town for a bit to the Burning Man festival [eeee!], so I’m a bit behind with comments and e-mails and such, and will be for another week. I love you all! Don’t think I don’t!
Note #2: This is not only the first guest post on Simple Rabbit, but a guest post by a dear friend of mine, Cody Polynom! You can check out their flicker stream here for some lovely photography taken with cameras that use something all old-fashioned called “film.”
I’m going out to coffee with a Special Someone this morning. She’s funny, interesting, has a great smile, and I really enjoy the time I spend with her. But after we’re done with coffee, I won’t make plans to see her again for a while.
But why wouldn’t I meet with her sooner if she’s so great?
I used to suffer from what I call the Roman Empire Syndrome. I wanted to spend time with EVERYONE in my life, so I spread myself too thin and neglected the MOST IMPORTANT people. Consequently, my social life was a mess.
“But those people will always be here,” I rationalized, “There will always be time later!” What I didn’t understand was that my sense of being perpetually one step behind, the feeling of always being in a rush, and the sinking feeling of never really enjoying my social interactions was all because I WAS TRYING TO DO TOO MUCH.
When I finally realized this, I felt guilty at first!
“Why shouldn’t I try to spend time with everyone?” I thought. “There are so many amazing people in my life, and I should do everything I can to be with them all!”
People in business have a model which they call the 80/20 Principle: 80% of all results come from 20% of all efforts. I don’t know anything about business, but something about that model made sense to me:
80% of the important things in my life are the direct result of my relationships with 20% of the people I know. So I decided to focus on that 20%.
I made a list of the really important people in my life: close friends, family, lovers. I didn’t let myself think too much about it. I didn’t go back and add more names. I kept it simple, and let my gut instinct tell me which relationships were the MOST important ones.
Then I took a look at where I was really devoting time and energy. I was surprised to find that many of the people I’d been trying to make time for weren’t even on my list, and even more surprised that I’d spent NO time with some of the people who were!
So I thought about it: If I only have so much time and energy, who should I give that to? Who gets some of me every day? Every week? Every few weeks? Every month?
And then I started organizing my interactions that way.
It was difficult at first! To make time for my most dear friends, I had to let go of some of my casual friendships. To make energy for a more serious romantic relationship, I had to let go of a casual date. To make space for important social investments, I had to let go of lesser things.
But within a week I was feeling a lot better: I was more relaxed, because my days were simpler. I was more focused, because I didn’t feel like I was always neglecting something. And I was more satisfied, because I was spending more time with the most meaningful people in my life.
I defeated the Roman Empire Syndrome by scaling back the NUMBER of my social interactions and increasing the QUALITY of those interactions. Or to say it another way, by putting LESS of my myself into peripheral pursuits, there’s MORE time and energy for what really matters.
It’s worked brilliantly. Just ask the people around me.