Ever plan to do something and later think, why did I do that? Or, why did I say yes to that? I had a meeting I could have attended recently. It was something I really didn’t want to do. With about 12 minutes to spare, I sent my regrets and apologies and spent time with a friend instead. Dinner. Drinks. Music. Laughter. Conversation. We exchanged books to read, and talked about all kinds of things. Life mostly. She said something about making a 12-month plan for herself. We laughed together as I thought aloud; “I’m on the 12-minute plan these days.”
I was the planner for my family’s lives. What to eat, where to go, who needs socks and underwear, is the laundry done, packing lunches, running to practices or appointments, etc. It’s life, I know and much of this planning was important to my family and me. I was really good at planning and keeping all the small details in check. All of this well-intended planning, or over planning as it may be, to ensure everyone had what she or he needed left little space in my life to tap into my own creativity. There was a period of time when I mourned the loss of leaving all that behind as my children moved into their own lives and I divorced. Single, living life on my own, no partner or children to ‘need’ me has been liberating, even empowering, and it comes with all kinds of challenges. It takes reframing thoughts, recognizing old beliefs and behaviors, and choosing to create new ones. So too does leaving behind years of traditional institutionalized work and the associated expectations and ideas about productivity.
So, you might be wondering what the 12-minute plan is all about. It’s about taking life as it comes. It’s about tuning in. Giving myself permission to be present to how I feel and what I truly want to do, and giving a polite pass to what I don’t want. Abandoning the idea that I have to have a plan or have to be productive all the time. Rather than filling every hour of my day with busy stuff, I want good stuff, valuable stuff, meaningful stuff, and fun stuff to fill some parts of my days. I am learning to say NO, instead of saying yes when I mean no. Learning to say no without explanation and without guilt. To give thought to and be selective about where I put my time and energy. There will always be a good cause to support, a good idea to follow, or a fun event to be part of. I know my choices are best when turning my attention first to the voice within. I’ve come to see how all that over planning distracted me from my fears and self-doubt. And, I know saying yes when I want to say no is just more of the same. If I’m productive – busy – I can avoid writing. I can avoid writing badly, I can avoid failure, I can avoid finding out that maybe I suck at this. I can avoid facing truths that may be painful. I can avoid beginning, and beginning is always the hardest part. I know, you may be thinking, “what if I don’t suck?” There is fear in that too.
I’m not without goals and things I want to do, but as for a plan, 12-minutes at a time is what I can muster these days. It’s the un-plan and it’s a bit muddy. Maybe it’s just more of the teenager in me rebelling for all the years of over planning. And it’s quite possible I am over correcting and will find a sense of balance at some point. Or maybe 12 minutes is all I really need. Only time will tell. For now, I’m completely at ease with the muddiness of the 12-minute plan, changing course at the last minute, and forgoing those things that either no longer suit me or really weren’t that important.