Annie Dillard - How we spend our days

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives – Annie Dillard

I’m a big believer in being mindful of how we spend our time.

I’m not an obsessive time-organisation-drill-sergeant – I have no desire to organise and allocate every moment of my day down to the second (like the unfortunate Kevin Tran) but I do like to have some sort of organisation and structure to my day.

Why? Because without my self-imposed structure, I feel stressed and adrift – like I’m constantly running to catch a bus that’s always pulling away from the curb.

I struggle with the thought of taking more than one day off per week. Even on my ‘day off’ I still deal with email once or twice, and inevitably find myself drifting to thinking about work.

This isn’t because I can’t find things to fill my time – I’m always happy to sit down with a good novel, go for a hike, a swim, or hang out with friends.

I think it’s because I both love my work and feel a pressure to ‘keep up’ with everything all of the time.

That said, one thing I am much better at than I was a few years ago is taking time for myself – having ‘unproductive’ time where I am just living, not striving towards some future goal.

When we have things we want to achieve, it’s so easy to get caught up in the chase. To keep running after that bus… when we could just sit down at the bus-stop, relax, look up at the sky for a few minutes, and wait for the next one. It will come.

Though some have argued that today’s age is one where “the great dream is to trade up from money to meaning,” there’s an unshakable and discomfiting sense that, in our obsession with optimizing our creative routines and maximizing our productivity, we’ve forgotten how to be truly present in the gladdening mystery of life. ~ Maria Popova

Last week I stressed how much work it is to create a successful business.

This week I want to stress the importance of enjoying the ‘gladdening mystery of life’. It’s the old ‘stop and smell the roses’ adage. It’s universally known for a reason. This is not a new problem we’re having – it’s just that modern technology has made it harder than ever to disconnect from the clamour and demands of others (and the demands we put on ourselves) to take even a moment where we just… are.

We don’t always have to be chasing money – or chasing meaning – to have a worthwhile life.

Who decides what the ‘meaning of life’ is, anyways? Oh yeah, it’s us.

The “meaning of our life” is nothing more – and nothing less – than whatever story we choose to tell ourselves. {click to tweet}

I understand the pursuit of meaning more than the pursuit of money (once you have enough to live comfortably and pay your bills, of course). I know I’m one of the growing class of privileged dreamers who combine the two – who pursue money in order to have the freedom to pursue meaning, or pursue money in what is (to them) a meaningful way.

Freedom to spend my time according to my own desires is a fundamental driving force behind why I do what I do – and I’m guessing it’s a motivating force for you, too.

When I find myself drifting away from this knowledge – caught up in the everyday minutia of running my business – the quote above is one I often bring to mind.

Because my life has the meaning that I give it. If I am spending my days doing something I enjoy – and that has a positive impact on other people (whether it is writing something that might set off a positive ripple effect in their life, or making a wedding ring that represents love and devotion that will be worn for decades to come) – then I will inevitably end up spending my life in a way I can look back on and be content with when I reach the end of my journey.


Are you spending your days the way you want to spend your life?

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