How much is your time worth?

As I’ve been watching the Sex and the City reboot, “Just Like That”, conversation around why Kim Cattrall isn’t in this season is all over the internet. We aren’t going to talk about the reboot today, but I do want to dive into a quote I saw from Kim that I found inspiring. In an interview back in summer of 2019, she told The Guardian, “I don’t want to be in a situation for even an hour where I’m not enjoying myself.” I read that, and it really got me thinking – so if you’ve ever struggled to make tough decisions on how to spend your time and where to prioritize your energy, then this one’s for you. 

Checking in from last week

Before we dive in, last week we talked about New Year’s Resolutions – how are you doing by the way? So far, so good for me. I’m over a week into dry January and Whole30. Yes, I am one of those people lol. I am seeing a lot of TikToks making fun of people that do dry January, and listen, they’re funny! I’m not bothered by them at all.

Pretty much every January for years, Christian and I have been doing Whole30, which then also means a dry January. Years ago, I found out some valuable lessons on foods that are healthy, but that hate my body – like beans and chickpeas. Yes, that means I pretty much haven’t eaten hummus for like four or five years. It is heartbreaking. But starting off the year with a bit of a reset feels good.

I know most people say they want a reset after eating and drinking from the holidays. And that’s true, but let’s be real – that started way before the holidays for me. The second Chicago summer kicks off, you won’t really find me without a drink in my hand on a beautiful, warm sunny afternoon. I feel like all we do in the summer is eat and drink. Hell, it’s Chicago, pretty much all we do is eat and drink all year. So January is our time to reign it in, give our body a break and remind ourselves we are not alcoholics because we can stop drinking for 30 days. 

I know Whole30 gets a lot of slack, but it’s really one of the only diets I’ve been able to keep to without really feeling like it was much of a diet. Once you figure out the substitutions, the meals are yummy. Plus, I have this one blogger I love called – if you’re interested in a healthy meal that doesn’t make you feel like you’re eating healthy -check it out.

I’m also in a challenge with a friend to do at least one Peloton class every day this year. Now I know that sounds insane, but things like a stretching class count. So if you want a rest day, just do a stretch or a meditation. So far, so good on that one too. And I’ve been keeping up with my Spanish studies. Doing about 30 min or more a day. So one week in, and I’m going strong – hey, small wins! 

Making choices that serve us

Now let’s jump into today’s topic – making choices that serve us. When I read Kim Cattrall’s quote about not spending an hour of her time on things she doesn’t enjoy – I was intrigued. I do want to point out first that I know this is an ideal situation and more than likely not 100% realistic. There are things we have to do. We have to do our taxes. We have to clean the house. We have to work to pay the bills and even if you love your job, you cannot tell me that you enjoy every single minute of every single day. If you do, then please tell me what your job is so I can switch careers. 

What intrigued me is that growing up I always believed that being an adult meant we could do whatever we wanted. Remember that? When you would get in trouble or your parents wouldn’t let you go to a sleepover or a party because you “were living under their roof, you live by their rules”? You’d be frustrated and mad and just think, when you’re an adult, you can do whatever you want. 

In some ways, I guess you can. You don’t have to care about finances or laws or anything really. You could live a life doing only what you care to do and forget about everything else. I feel like the only way to really be happy doing this is if you are a trust-fund baby. For the rest of us that have to pay our own way, adulthood does give you some freedom on how to spend your life, but it also comes with responsibilities. A lot of them.

The older you get; the more you have. When you’re in your 20’s and single, you probably have the most freedom. You don’t really have the money to do what you want, but your free time is truly your own and you can do whatever you want with it. As you get older, you have a significant other, maybe kids, maybe aging parents. All of these people start to depend on you. So your free time becomes less and less about what you want. 

At the same time, you also have less and less time left. I know that’s a really dark statement for a Monday morning, but it’s biology. So let me get this straight, our time is slowly running out, and we have less time to prioritize what makes us happy? What the heck? That’s bullshit. Maybe Kim has a point. While we can’t just stop doing anything we don’t enjoy, maybe it’s more about how do we maximize the time we spend on things that make us happy? Maybe we shift the proportion to at a bare minimum 50/50 “I have to” to “I want to”. Hear me out, I think this is more possible than we’ve assumed. 

Outsourcing the “Have to’s”

The first way I see this happening is addressing our “have to’s”. Those things you have no choice but to do. This could be chores around the house, doing your taxes, or sitting through your child’s recital. Listen, we know they’re cute, but two hours of grade-schooler’s singing or barely playing instruments isn’t anyone’s definition of a fun Saturday night. I think there’s an opportunity to do a mixture of outsourcing and a mindset shift to help turn some of this to things that you actually enjoy, or at least to minimize the time you spend on the tasks you don’t. 

Let’s talk about outsourcing. I mean, where possible, pay someone else to do it. I know this isn’t a reality for a lot of people, but if you can – why not? It doesn’t make you lazy, it means you’re prioritizing your time differently. For example, we have a cleaning person. We’ve had one for years, and she comes bi-weekly to clean our condo. Now to some, they would think this is lazy. It’s only two of us in a two bedroom condo – why can’t we pick up after ourselves? And they’re right, we can. But I don’t want to.

Yeah, it’s that simple. During the pandemic, we didn’t have a choice because we couldn’t have any non-residents in the building, so we had to go back to cleaning ourselves. After a couple of months of that, I realized how much I truly do enjoy having a cleaning person and don’t know if I can ever go back. Cleaning well takes hours, and we both work full time. We realized that we just didn’t want to spend the free time we had cleaning. We wanted to spend it doing things we enjoyed. So if that means we have to pay $100 every two weeks? Please, well worth it! 

I think this year, I may also pay someone to do my taxes for the first time. I got married in 2021, I started an LLC and honestly I don’t feel like taking the time to figure out the tax codes and all that jazz that comes with it. So I’ll probably be handing it off to a tax professional to deal with it. Outsourcing may be to a literal outside party, but it can also just be to others in your household. 

I see so many social posts about the imbalance of household responsibilities within a relationship. And from experience, yes, I probably do more around the house on a regular basis than Christian. But in a lot of ways, I don’t mind. For example, I do most of the cooking. That’s not because Christian can’t cook, or won’t. It’s more because I love cooking, and I also love the control over what we’re eating. If I cook, then I get to pick the recipes and eat what I want. I do take Christian’s tastes into account, but at the end of the day, I make things I want to eat.

I also don’t really mind doing the laundry, there’s something almost meditative about it. Christian handles more of the house financial stuff – like mortgage payments, tax bills etc. Or if we need something fixed, he’ll do the research on who to hire etc. These are things I have zero interest doing and he likes feeling like he got a good deal. But when I’m busy and things need to get done that maybe I usually do, I have gotten better at just asking. I’m sure when or if we have kids, those responsibilities will shift again so it’s more even between us.

So think about – what can you outsource so you can spend your time on things that bring you more value? What can you outsource to a third party? Or to another family member so there’s more shared responsibilities. I see a lot of these social posts, mostly of women being frustrated of bearing the brunt of the household duties. This isn’t fair. If you aren’t happy with that, maybe instead of making TikToks, you should tell your husband that you’re unhappy with the split and you both can come up with a new split of responsibilities. If your husband won’t help out at all, then maybe that’s a different conversation…just sayin. 

Shifting your mindset

When you can’t outsource, think about shifting your mindset. Take grocery shopping for example. A lot of people hate grocery shopping. I have really grown to enjoy it. I like to go by myself, listen to some music on my airpods, roam around the store, get what’s on my list, but also be inspired by things I find. I try to go when it’s less busy to make the experience more enjoyable, and I try to never go hungry because then everything inspires me and I get home with a bunch of crap I didn’t need to buy and a huge bill.

My question to you, is even when you are doing chores or errands, how can you make it more enjoyable? Maybe it’s listening to your favorite podcast in the car when you’re driving around town – maybe this one! I like to catch up on my Pod Save America or a true crime podcast instead of listening to music sometimes. Or maybe it’s belting out your favorite tunes when no one can hear it – that’s fun too! 

We also need to do a better job at defining “have to’s”. To me, things you have to do involve your safety, health and livelihood. Like you have to eat. You have to go to the doctor. You have to pay your bills and your taxes so you still have a roof over your head and don’t go to jail. And you need to clean your house because otherwise you’ll be living in one of those houses from the show “Hoarders” and that impacts your health. 

Recognizing “Should Do’s”

But that’s it. That is your “have to’s”. The tasks that usually get put into this bucket that don’t belong are the “should do’s”. They can be a tricky bunch. Things you believe you should do because of some internal or external pressure put on you. For example, throwing a very large, expensive first birthday party for your kid. Maybe that’s the expectation from the grandparents, or your mom friends. But the reality is your kid will never remember that birthday party, so if it stresses you out and sucks all the joy of actually celebrating their first birthday, then maybe you don’t. Maybe you just have the grandparents over and have some cake for your obligatory baby eating cake photo and call it a day? 

Since the holidays just passed, let’s give another example, family holiday get-togethers. You know the ones – hell there’s more movies about it than we can count. You know the ones – where the main characters dread going to a family holiday gathering because maybe their family fights a lot, or they constantly bring up that they are single. Of course, in movies, by the end, they’re happy they went anyway – but in real life, that happy and fulfilled feeling post family gathering is not real. I can give an example on this. 

I have a quite large family. My dad’s side has nine brothers and sisters and I’m a younger or middle cousin with each aunt or uncle having at least two kids. My mom’s side is much smaller with just one aunt and her two kids. When I was a kid, we would have a huge family gathering with all the aunts and uncles, all the cousins – and I have to admit, it was amazing. I loved those parties and have a ton of fond memories of them. But as I’ve gotten older, those parties look very different now. First of all, good luck getting folks to show up. Now, the family is much more spread out across the country so folks aren’t as willing to travel and there are so many family disagreements and feuds, not everyone even gets an invite at this point. 

Prior to this year, if there was a family gathering, I would always go because I was raised that family gatherings, or family obligations I should call it, fell into the “have to” column. But whenever I’d go, most of the time I’d leave with a pit in my stomach or mad about some comment or conversation. Like the time when I found out my aunt had looked up how much rent was in my building online. Why do you ask? Well, I would assume in judgement to align with her bias that living in the city is overpriced compared to her life in the burbs. OMG, if I never hear again how I could get so much more for my money if I move out of the city, I would be a happy woman.

Maybe I’m wrong on the reason she looked, but one would have to ask then, why look? Why do you care? Are you paying my bills? It just seems so petty and it then annoys me. And those are just the small things. In the past six years, I usually just leave annoyed because we are on such polar opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of our views on life, politics and pretty much everything it’s exhausting attending a function. 

Plus the older I get, the more my relationships evolve. I do have a good relationship with some of my aunts and uncles and their kids that I really appreciate, however unfortunately they are part of the crew that currently doesn’t get the invite. So this year, when there was a family holiday party, I’m going to be 100% honest, I planned on going, but waited to see who was going and when I saw the attendees, I declined. Yep, decline. Now, I did technically have another reason I couldn’t attend, but when asked, I was actually honest that I didn’t want to go as well. And you know, it felt pretty liberating.

So what are some of your “have to’s” that may actually be “should do’s”? And where is that pressure coming from? If those things really aren’t bringing you happiness, maybe you shouldn’t do them. What is the worst that would happen if you just didn’t do it? Or didn’t attend? And are you ok with that outcome? Just consider it. 

In conclusion, the passage of time makes the time we have left so much more valuable. Unlike when we were kids or in our 20’s, we don’t have all day. We don’t have all the time in the world. And the time we do have is filled with more responsibilities and things we have to do. So what adjustments can we make to increase the value of each moment in our lives and prioritize our own happiness? Can we outsource to do list items? Can we decline invites to events that give us stress. Can we simplify things in our life to make it easier on ourselves?

Maybe this sounds selfish, but the more we can prioritize our own happiness, the better we show up for those that we love. The more time we have to spend with those that we value and that bring positivity to our lives. The happier memories we create. The more fulfilled we’ll feel. Because when you are lying on your deathbed, do you really think you’ll look back and think, man, I just wish I spent more time cleaning my house? I hope not! 

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