What are your seven things?

July 2, 2012

Creativity, Experience

My dad used to say that a person needs seven different things going on in her life to feel happy, fulfilled, balanced, something like that. He was an expert at pulling stuff out of his ass and convincing you that it was scientifically proven. But I think this one has some merit.

On random occasions, he would ask, “What are your seven things right now?” And I would answer, “Daaaad, I work 50+ hours a week. That’s all my things. Stop bugging me.”

But I secretly knew he was right. Work only counts as one thing, no matter how much time it consumes. It is too easy to let that take the place of everything else, to say you don’t have the time or the energy or the luxury of having outside interests.

I know I’m just all-around better when I have several activities and interests that lend contrast and balance to each other. And I bet it’s the same for you.

Family, sports, physical exercise, gaming, crafting, volunteer work, music, clubs and groups – these are the sorts of things that let us check out from work and use our brains and bodies in different ways. Often, focusing on one activity for a while gets you reenergized for another one. I find I’m much better at creative problem-solving when I’m having varied input and experiences.

Some of my current things are: P90X, reading nonfiction, Book Club (for reading fiction), redecorating my house, taking classes in design and technology, dinner with friends, writing this blog…

Sometimes the problem is not having enough things and sometimes the struggle is remembering to do them all. That’s what has been happening to me lately. I have a couple of new graphic design clients with exciting projects into which I have become immersed. I’m thrilled for the work. And to stay at my best, I need to remember to maintain my other things.

David Allen made a suggestion in Getting Things Done that may be useful here. When starting a new job or after a promotion, when you don’t automatically know everything required of you, keep a list of the stuff you need to remember to do or check on – a physical list posted where you’ll see it often. It doesn’t seem like something you need a list for, but if you truly want to get it all done, you do.

I think I’ll try using a list to keep my seven things rolling.

A couple of years ago, I tried turning the table on my dad when I didn’t think he was active enough in retirement. “What are your seven things these days, Dad?” “Oh honey, that doesn’t apply to retired people!” Must have been another scientific study I missed.

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Image: Darwin Bell

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