On Saturday mornings, I meet my workout buddy for a group fitness class. The extent of our communication between classes is two texts:
Me: "I’ll be at the group fitness class tomorrow."
My workout buddy: "See you then."
No check-in. No "how is your week going?" No idle texts between classes, like “thinking of you—hope you are having a great week!” None of that.
Soon after we met in 2015, my buddy told me that she has “a very small plate.” She used her hands to indicate the size of a dessert plate. She has room on her plate for her husband and their twin children, her job, and her relatives. Anything more would fall off her plate. She’s not on social media, including Facebook (gasp). She has inspired me to shrink the size of my plate. And it feels really good.
In my early 40s, when I decided I was old enough to know something, and young enough to have the energy to do it all, I actively sought out leadership opportunities. I had a platter full of work committees (including chairperson of more than one organisation at the same time), church choirs (two of them, never mind that I can’t read music), youth soccer coach (never played as a kid), speaker coordinator for a men’s club (my dad and his “contemporaries” are also members), and more. It was all driven by my ego. I was good at it and, at times, unhappy and resentful.
Now I am almost 50, and I am trying to place more emphasis on having fun. Which requires being very aware of how I spend my time. I recently quit one committee and said “no” to two continuing legal education speaking opportunities. I want to focus my time and attention on my day job, my yoga teaching, my “yoga emails” that I send out a few times a week, and my friends and family. This may free up some time to start a new knitting project or get back to my postage stamp collection, who knows. Anything I want. Anything that floats my boat.
You can manage the size of your plate by first developing exit strategies for current obligations. A volunteer position does not need to have a life sentence. Then, you can practice saying “no” to new opportunities that do not fit your values.
We all have time limitations. Every “yes” is a “no” to some other opportunity. If you are going to say “yes”, then be very aware of the reasons why. Come back to these reasons when you are upset about the time obligations; if you have shrunk your plate, you can remind yourself that this is an obligation that you mindfully chose to take on, and the reasons you did so were authentic (read: not ego-based).
Then, you will see your plate getting less cluttered. It will contain more of what you really like. I know this is difficult to do if you are a people-pleasing machine. I get it. How about starting with a small time commitment—is there one email list that you consistently ignore more than others? Unsubscribe and enjoy feeling liberated!
I recently asked my workout buddy if she wanted to receive the emails I send my yoga students. She unhesitatingly said no. That’s ok—I’ll still see her next Saturday.
About Matthew Foli
Matthew Foli is a real estate attorney and yoga teacher (RYT-200). He lives in Minneapolis. He regularly sends out emails on yoga/meditation/mindfulness, geared towards attorneys and beneficial for everyone. Find out more, and sign up for his emails, at www.matthewfoli.com and firstname.lastname@example.org