I’ve been experimenting with Eisenhower boxes lately to sort out my to-do list, that small grid that helps its user determine what’s important (or not) and what’s urgent (or not). A few weeks ago, I noticed that “buy new jeans” had been languishing on my important-but-not-urgent list for some time. They’re just jeans, not a life-changing thing to tick off my list on any given Tuesday. But if you never find new jeans, then one day you wake up and don’t have any pants to put on. Important.

I dread clothes shopping in general, and jeans shopping is the worst of the worst. The options are overwhelming, finding a good fit is tricky, and it’s better done in person and not online. So on a recent weekday I blocked out a hefty chunk of time to find myself some new jeans for fall.

Long story short: I went straight to Madewell, found a great pair of jeans in twenty minutes, and suddenly, unexpectedly, found myself with an extra ninety minutes on my hands. I was supposed to pick a kid up nearby, so going home didn’t make sense. I hadn’t brought work with me—just a book. And it felt so great.

So great! I was giddy as I mentally catalogued what I could do in my hour and a half. I could get gas! Groceries! Go to the cleaners! Get a flu shot!

These are boring things. But having ample time to do them, without feeling rushed or squeezed or any of the various flavors of frantic I’ve experienced this fall, felt straight-up luxurious.

And so I filled my gas tank. I picked up a few things at the grocery. I got that flu shot. I went to the cleaners to pick up a dress that had been waiting for me for weeks. When Will texted and asked if I could buy something at the grocery, I didn’t complain, I said yes. Why not? I had time. And then I sat and read my book until my kid was ready for me.

It was mundane. It was glorious. And it made me realize what I’d been missing lately: time. Enough time. Unscheduled time. Unhurried time.

We’re heading into a season that many of us tend to pack pretty full, piling seasonal wants and wishes and needs on top of already full schedules. I love this time of year, but it’s tricky for me. I’m perfectly capable of attempting to exceed my capacity—physical, mental, or otherwise—any time of year, but I’m especially vulnerable to doing it in November and December. And while one weekday epiphany does not a lifestyle make, I’m entering this season with a new appreciation for what self-care needs to look like for me this season: unhurried, unscheduled, ordinary time.

Readers, my wish for you is that you have (make?) the time you need time to visit the grocery or the cleaners or just sit and read a book this season. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, strategies, and reflections on how you make this happen (or don’t) in comments. 

P.S. Sometimes it doesn’t get easier, and what self-care looks like for me right now. Also: sometimes the most productive thing you can do is ….


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  1. Susan in TX says:

    I say yes and Amen to this! I’ve spent the better part of the last month in hospitals with family, and I’m not done yet. It’s a season of “just grab food” wherever it’s convenient and no down-time. I would add that self-care is especially critical when you don’t think you need it and all is well in your world, so that when unexpected things happen (and they do for everyone eventually), you’ll be fueled up and ready to help those who need you.

  2. Tina says:

    You mentioned that we’re coming into the season where there are so many demands on our time. One thing I will do this weekend is begin work on my Christmas cards. Check my stock, buy them if necessary and address them. I have already purchased my holiday-winter-Christmas stamps! While I know many people have given up this tradition, I still send them and send a pic as well. I will choose the pic and order copies also this weekend. My goal is to have them ready to mail December 1st. By starting now, it’s one thing that’s important to me that I will accomplish by planning ahead.

  3. Susan says:

    Um yes. Moving truck arrives Friday morning. Trying something different this morning with a “done list” to at least remind myself that I am making progress. Nasty, rotting jack-o-lantern off front porch — check!

  4. Margie says:

    Somewhere I read the quote, I don’t say no because I am so busy, I say no to avoid becoming too busy. It was probably more eloquent than that and more instagrammable, but it stuck with me. I have to do the hard work up front of saying no to good things to save my time for the best things.

  5. Mary says:

    Anne, shopping online is such a time-saver for me. Once you know what size you wear in a certain brand, it’s easy. I buy jeans, shirts and blouses, even shoes, online and seldom ever have to return anything. I’ve found that it’s much easier to find what I want online than to go from store-to-store looking for it….also saves money on gas and mileage on the car. I know this affects retail shops, and I feel bad about that, but its the wave of the future, just as automobiles were in the days of horses and buggies.

  6. Natalie Gunderson says:

    Your post was bang on this morning, I love “wins” like that too…and crossing the last thing off my list.

    I’m really enjoying your blog, I don’t often comment, but I’m here (almost) daily to hear what you have to say. Thank you Anne 🙂

  7. Ana M. Kurland says:

    I get this almost every week when I drop off my kids at Sunday school. I get gas, look around thrift shops, buy myself a treat, read, listen to my music without interruptions and get a mental recharge.

  8. Kristen says:

    Madewell high rise jeans are a wardrobe staple for me. I bought a pair last year made of extra soft material and I wear them all the time. I didn’t think I would be a fan of high rise jeans, but I love them. Enjoy!

  9. Lori says:

    I tried the boxes but changed it to urgency vs desire because there are a lot of things I don’t want to do that I do and, of course things I want to do that I don’t. In the don’t want to or need to do corner, I created a prioritized list of todo’s (I certainly don’t have time to make up a list of don’t want to or need to do’s). This has renewed my motivation and reduced the slump I have been in this fall semester. Thanks!

  10. Gina says:

    Love this post Anne. I hear you… I got up at 4:30am today with my son as he had hockey practice but he drives now so it was just “company” while he got ready to go (who likes to get up at 4:30am on their own?) I was going to go back to bed but instead I spent a glorious hour doing things around the house and started the day refreshed and caught up. I loved it. (I don’t think I will get up at 4:30am every day to do this but I will keep it in mind on the days he has practice)
    Also, I think I tried those jeans on in the store and loved them and then came home to order the longer size and couldn’t recall if they were the ones I tried on. I need to go back and try them again but if they’re the same ones, I loved them too! And I’m not a skinny jeans girl…but it’s hard to find many non-skinny jeans these days.
    Thanks for all your posts, podcasts and your book – love it all.

  11. Anna says:

    I’m really big on this, and even in the way we raise our kids. And I’m happy! I like doing a little less to have a lot more open time.

  12. Oh my gosh – time is what I want most in the world right now. My entire Fall has been absolutely frantic. And, every year, I try to avoid the holiday franticness and I fail. I’ll try again this year.

    Plus – I’ve heard the best things about Madewell jeans!

  13. Sarah Christy says:

    Loved your thoughts…so very true. I am a grandmother but still find myself in the “busy,busy” life. (big family which can spell awesome help vs awesome needs). My story yesterday was: taking my granddaughter to counseling, my treat was to get a latte and listen to my audio book while waiting. Ordered the latte…Starbucks made a mistake and made a caramel frappachino, said take it anyway and would remake the vanilla latte…After receiving my hot drink I headed back to office. Gave the frappe to receptionist. Settled into a chair, put in earbuds and discovered I had a peppermint mocha (don’t like chocolate) I had to smile….best laid plans!

  14. Kristina says:

    Eisenhower grids are my favorite thing! I have a permanent one on my whiteboard at work. Although I had to use abbreviations on mine because coworkers got upset when their project landed in the “Not Important” blocks (although that meant something different to me than to them ;).

  15. Stefanie says:

    I recently attended a workshop where woman business leaders spoke about CARE and how to balance the care of others and self in our busy lives. One thing that stuck with me is one panelist’s perspective on her calendar. Instead of viewing it as blank/open time to be filled – look at it as already filled -filled with YOUR time. Booking something in your calendar should be views as what you need to/want to do that’s worth giving up YOUR precious time. Your post reminded me of this… there is always something you can/should/could do with your time – how productive and happy can you be if you let yourself have some of your time?

  16. Sara says:

    So, so true. Being eight weeks out from giving birth to our second child, I promised myself that I would take self-care seriously. So even though I wasn’t fully ready, I knew I needed to get out of the house without a kid and take some time to myself doing something I love. I had my mother-in-law come over to watch the baby, sent the toddler to preschool and headed to the barn to ride a horse. It had been a year since I rode, and I desperately needed it. It made me realize that I definitely need to make self-care a bigger priority.

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