Post-lockdown reminder: Take ownership of your own time, energy and attention

I know these past few months have been tough on all of us, but is there any part of you that is worried about re-entry into the wider world outside your own home and local bike path?

Early on, I arrogantly assumed I was ideally suited to iso life, because I am an introverted autistic woman, meaning that the wider world overwhelms me and saps my energy. Also because my family and I have been ‘doing slow living’ for years. Our pace of life is quite slow at the best of the times, at least compared to most people I know and the way I see life being represented in media, both mainstream media and social media. For example, if we go to church on Sunday morning on Matt’s one allocated Saturday/Sunday weekend per month, we pretty much can’t schedule anything else for the entire weekend, at least in terms of socialising with people outside out our household, because we just don’t have the energy.

One time when I was pregnant, Mum visited for the weekend and I commented at the end that I was tired from doing so much. She was surprised. She said that she would have called it a “do nothing” weekend (I’m paraphrasing). This without judgment, just difference.

But I found during lockdown that we could take it down quite a few gears. Say, from third/fourth gear into first.

Slowing down by…

Matt not going to work.

Finley not going to daycare.

Not going to playdates.

Not visiting or hosting family.

Not going to church, at least not physically.

Not going anywhere, ever, except for daily walks.

 

With Finley home from daycare and Matt home from work, the only person in the family who kept up their normal weekly activity was me. I assumed that with Matt at home to look after Finley, I would pour myself into my business building. And I did, but ultimately I don’t think I put it any more time during the week than I do when I have Finley out of the house for three days a week. The stress of the pandemic, plus the distraction of having Finley and Matt always around, balanced out the extra time I thought I would have.

Mornings slowed down, to the point that I was hard-pressed to get to my desk in my home office by 9am. Not that doing so was very important to me.

I even started cancelling zoom events, because I would get overwhelmed by too much screen-based socialising. I was surprised by how I could get overwhelmed by socialising when there was no barriers in terms of putting on pants, leaving the house, and organising someone to look after Finley. (Although screen-based socialising does have its own particular kind of draining energy.

All that was required was my time, energy, and attention. And I wasn’t willing to give it, for whatever reasons.

Time, energy and attention are our most valuable resources. They are renewable but also irreplaceable.

In this context we exist in, your time, energy and attention are what every marketer wants. ‘The best minds of our generation’ are being put to the task of making us spend as much time on social media as they can manage.

Feeling scared yet? Are you getting value from what you are reading right now? If not, why giving me your time, energy and attention?

My message today is that you get to decide what you spend your time, energy and attention, and with whom you spend it.

It is important for me to note here that though everyone has time, energy and attention, we don’t all receive it in equal amounts every day, and it doesn’t drain at the same rate, and we don’t have the same level of control over how it gets used.

Some examples of this:

A chronically ill person does not start the day with the same amount of energy as a person in good health.

An ADHD person does not start the day with the same amount of attention as a neurotypical person (although it would be more accurate to say that the nature of attention available varies, rather than the amount of attention).

A person who has cleaning responsibilities for their own home does not have the same amount of time as someone who is either not expected to clean their own home, or someone who is able to employ a cleaner. (Note: Being able to afford a cleaner is not the same as being able to employ a cleaner because of various shame factors and other blocks).

A person who has caring responsibilities, whether they are a parent of a child, carer of a child, or carer of an adult, does not have the same level of control over how their attention is used as someone who has no caring responsibilities. Someone who you are caring for demanding your attention can’t be ignored in the same way a YouTube video demanding you to watch it can be.

A person who has to work for a living does not have the same amount of time as a person who is independently wealthy.

An introverted person has their energy drained at a higher rate from living in an extraverted-centric society than an extraverted person does (but this balance has been flipped during lockdown).

For me, my energy gets drained quite quickly from the simple activity of walking along the busy, noisy street where I live, which doesn’t affect most neurotypical people at the same rate (if at all).

 

Having acknowledged the inequities and given some examples, let’s have a look at what you DO have control over.

If you have had the chance to slow down during lockdown (and I’m aware that many people have had the opposite experience of slowing down) and you are worried about that slowness being taken away from you, I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on what you want your life to look like, post-lockdown, and ask yourself to what degree you have control over building that life for yourself.

To put it simply: The calendar has been cleared. What would you like to put back on it?

I have realised that I don’t have to go to church each week. I might go once a month from now on, I might join in over zoom (if they keep up zoom church) or I might go never. I get to decide. I’m an adult. It’s not a cult. No-one is making me go.

I am l also letting go of a sense of urgency. Not everything has to happen this week. Not everything has to happen next week, even. There is no hurry.

I’m going to stop over-scheduling. If there is no hurry, there is no point in overscheduling and it just exhausts me. I once heard the story of a woman who started up a business and had heaps of demand. But she kept her limited hours. She would just book really far in advance. She was booked out 18 months in advance because she refused to open up her calendar more than she was comfortable with. What an amazing approach to business and to life!

One thing I will definitely change is I will only schedule one playdate per week. Just one, no more.

I have also thought about what I want more of. I want to put in the ‘big rocks’ first — schedule in the important stuff and then be more relaxed about the spaces in between, or wait longer for the things that are less important.

Who is your best friend? Whom do you love so much, and never tire of spending time with?

In your pre-pandemic life, how often did you spend time with that person, whether in person if they live locally or online/over the phone if they don’t?

I am as guilty as anyone of realising it’s been six months since I rang special friends who live interstate, or realising that a month has gone past and I haven’t seen our friends who live a ten-minute drive away.

I want to put those important things back on the calendar first.

What about you: How do you want to use your time, energy and attention?

What do you want to prioritise in post-lockdown life?

What are you going to refuse to put back on your calendar?

What are you going to limit?

 

Love Emmeline

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