In a garden the seeds that get the most sun, water, and attention tend to be the ones that have the best chance of growing and flourishing. We only have so much water and attention and at some point the sun must set.
Your life is like a garden filled with seeds of friendship, hobbies, routines, and habits that can grow if you focus your attention and time on them. But just like a watering can you are not filled with endless energy to devote to everything you want to do. Each day we make a choice on which seeds we water and which we let be.
You can’t water every seed
There are so many things that each of us want to do in life. From making routines that enhance our lives to traveling to excelling at our hobby to keeping a close group of friends. There are also many things that are not as enjoyable but need to be done such as work, chores, and taking measures to keep yourself healthy.
Just as there is only so much water that can fit in a watering can, you only have so much energy you are able to use each day. You need time to rest and recharge before you once again have energy.
We live in a world where everything is vying for our attention. Work takes up most of our day, social media aims to keep us hooked and scrolling, advertisements try to convince us to part with our money, and then there are all the hobbies and activities we must fit into whatever free time we can manage each day. If you attempted to give full attention to everything in your life everyday, you would completely burn out. Things that were once fun would feel like a burden and those things you have to do would become unbearable.
It can be a hard realization knowing that you may not be able to do everything you want to do, you simply don’t have an endless supply of energy.
You can choose to stop watering some seeds completely or you can reduce the frequency of your watering. Maybe instead of going out with friends three days a week you reduce it to two so that you still have time for your hobbies. Or maybe instead of practicing violin five days a week you cut back to four and leave a day for you to relax. You can’t water every seed every day but you can take turns watering each seed you choose to water.
Not every seed is worth watering
Just like a garden is filled with multiple plants with varying needs, your life is filled with competing priorities that you must navigate. Making everything a priority means nothing is a priority, so you must decide for yourself what is most important.
What’s important to you can change from day to day, week to week, or month to month. Don’t feel that you need to decide your priorities and they can never change. But giving yourself specific things to focus on allows you to use your energy without draining it.
What you can do
Figure out where your time and energy goes.
What do you spend your time doing? Who do you spend your time with? What takes most of your energy?
Make a list to visually see all the things that take your energy.
Start with broad categories (cleaning the house, work, hobbies, etc.) and then break each category down into further parts (cleaning bedroom, cleaning bathroom, cleaning kitchen; running meetings, writing reports, giving presentations; running, reading, board games, etc.). This gives you a sense of all the tasks that in your life that requires your energy.
Determine what on your list is required.
These are the things that need to get done no matter what for the most part you can’t choose to not do them. This includes things such as your job, taxes, cleaning your space, cleaning your body, eating. etc. These are the items that you know you will consistently need to use energy to do. The energy may vary from day to day, but here you have an idea of where some of your energy will always need to go.
For everything else on your list, think about if it is worth your energy.
Do you enjoy your hobbies or are you doing them because you’ve already put so much energy into them? Are you friends with someone because they add to your life or because you’ve been friends for so long? If you were starting exercising for the first time, would you choose the exercise routine you have right now? You may find that you have kept up habits that either don’t fit your life or don’t match who you want to be. Take a deep look at everything in your life you choose to devote energy to and ask yourself why you do each one. This can help you determine what is worthy of your time and energy and what is no longer needed in your life.
Decide what is most important to you.
There are many things within our lives that take time and energy but in return they provide us with joy, entertainment, fulfillment, or just generally add to our wellbeing. Think about what adds to your life, what drains you, and what your values are. There will always be things we have to do, but your should work to fill the rest of your life with things that truly feed your mind, body, and soul.
Know that it takes time to determine what is important.
You may not know right away what is worth your energy and that’s OK. It takes time to look into who we are right now and who we want to be. It can also be difficult to think about the idea of change or removing people or activities from your life. Don’t rush the process and trust that in time you will know what is best for yourself.
Stop before your watering can is empty
One of the best things you can do is to routinely take care of yourself to avoid becoming burnt out. If you are able to take time to refill your watering can before it is completely empty, it can make it easier to fill it back up. But that is often easier said than done.
Many of us may not even know that we are getting low on energy until we are completely depleted. We focus more on keeping going and getting things done and neglect to check in on ourselves. Our society pushes the narrative that we should all be working as hard as we can, having side hustles, and climbing the corporate ladder. We often don’t hear as much about the importance of mental health days and taking time for yourself.
Doing a check-in with yourself allows you to take stock of where your body and mind are at and what they need. When things are out of balance it can be hard to devote time to things exterior to your body. By focusing first on what you need you can start to gauge your energy level and when it is time to step away and recharge.
What you can do
Build a routine of checking in with yourself. Having a dedicated time or setting a reminder can help you get in the habit of checking in to see how you are doing. Maybe you add a morning and afternoon check-in with yourself to you calendar or maybe you put a sticky note on your fridge as a constant reminder. You can also connect with a friend, partner, or family member to encourage each of you to take time for yourselves.
Check in on your mental state. Are your thoughts cloudy? Are you having a hard time concentrating? Do you feel easily distracted? Are you feeling anxious? Your first instinct may be to push through and try to keep going, but the best thing you can do is to step away and give yourself a chance to focus on your thoughts. There can be numerous reasons why we are not at peak mental performance, but if you find yourself struggling mentally this can be a good indication to focus on your needs.
Check in on your physical state. Are you in any pain? Are you tired? Are you having a hard time getting comfortable? Are you hungry? Sometimes we get so used to our body being uncomfortable that we ignore how it feels and keep going. There are also many that live with chronic pain. No matter your body’s baseline, you should make time to evaluate your physical self. New aches, pains, sensations, or reduction in sensations within your body can be a sign that it needs something and you should take the time to understand what it needs.
The more you check in on yourself the better you can understand where your energy level is at. You can start to notice mood shifts or changes in behavior that may signify that you need to step away and refill your watering can.
Take breaks from watering
Even if you are able to know when your energy is running low, it can be difficult to actually step away and refill your watering can. Just because we know our mind or body needs something doesn’t mean we actually take the time to give it what it needs.
Taking a break from watering can mean you have to cut back on doing something you enjoy and most of us don’t want to do that. Even when you are running on empty you may want to push through and keep going. There may be times you physically have the energy but mentally don’t or vice versa.
Sometimes the hardest thing is to actually do what your body and mind need, especially when they need rest.
It is important to also remember that you do not need to wait until your watering can is empty before you take a break. Resting and relaxing are just as important as moving and doing. There is a balance between using energy and making energy that will work best for you and something you can work towards. As you become more in tune with yourself the better you will be at knowing what your body and mind need at any given time. Give yourself permission to have slow, lazy days, they add as much to life as fast, productive days.