Today, I had a big decision to make regarding my writing career. Actually, I’ve known I needed to make this decision for several weeks, but I’ve been putting it off and analyzing it to death. I had an opportunity to be part of a novella collection that has been successful the last few years. I would be working with a group of great authors I admire and respect. A lot of benefits would come from being part of the collection. But lately I’ve been discovering that making the decision to protect my time isn’t always an easy one.
Part of making time to pursue our dreams is about being choosy about how we use the hours and minutes we’re given. There are a lot of “good” things we could spend our time on, but that doesn’t mean we need to take every good opportunity that comes to us. We need to be very clear about our goals and only say yes to those things that we’re most excited about and that line up best with our priorities and goals.
Here are three questions to ask yourself when faced with a decision about how to spend your time:
Is the answer hell yes?
If it’s not, the answer should be no thank you. I’ve read a few versions of this advice from different sources recently, so I don’t know who to attribute it to, but it’s the truth. If it isn’t something that gets us truly excited and if we wouldn’t be heartbroken to turn it down, then the answer should be no. Life is too short and our time is too precious to not spend it on the things that we’re passionate about – not the things you think you should be passionate about or other people think you should be passionate about (more on that later) – but the things that get you genuinely pumped up. While there are a lot of good things about the novella collection, there are other projects I’m currently working on that pass the hell yes test.
Would your decision be based on fear?
As an INTJ, I’m naturally cautious. I tend to overanalyze things. In the case of my writing decision, I wanted to take a break from a few of my past writing obligations and concentrate on some new projects, but I was afraid of missing out on an opportunity to find new readers. What if the collection was a big success like it has been in the past and I miss out on that? Will I be kicking myself? If the fear was on the opposite side and I was excited to write the novella but feared my writing wasn’t strong enough, that would be a different view for me to consider. Sometimes fear leads us in the right direction. It keeps us from danger. If we take a moment to stop and analyze our fear, we’re usually able to discern between fear that’s helping us (from jumping off a bridge or investing our life savings in Beanie Babies) or if it’s holding us back.
Do you have a case of the shoulds?
Would you be making this decision because of expectations from other people or even expectations you’ve put on yourself that need to be reevaluated? I used to take every writing opportunity that came my way. So my initial reaction was to not turn down a good writing opportunity? But I’m in a different place now. I must make tough decisions about where to spend my time. Step back and look to see if this is a real obligation that should be honored or pressure you’re feeling that isn’t in your best interest (even if it once was)? What’s the worst thing that would happen if you didn’t meet that expectation? Often, the answer will give you the freedom to make the best decision.