When I was in Grade 10, my teachers made me a t-shirt that said “Sign Me Up!” with a picture of me in velvet pants prancing like a pony*.
I have always had the bad habit of signing up for more than I can humanly do. I just love the excitement of saying “I can do it!” and seeing the relief in a person’s face. I also love planning grand and exciting adventures for myself.
Last year, I decided I was going to spend December in India. “Great!” I thought. “This is important to me and a manageable goal.” The months went by and I did…nothing. I was still thinking to myself “yup, going to India in December!” But when December came around, I hadn’t done a thing to make it happen. So of course, no trip to India. I was planning with money that didn’t actually exist.
I catch myself doing the same thing with time. I look at a day off and say to myself “I’m going to do laundry, go to the gym, do two hours of meditation practise, write a new draft of a project, cook all my meals at home, go grocery shopping, do laundry AND finish in time to have a dinner date with my partner!”
Sadly making a goal doesn’t magically make it happen
In the case of my trip to India, I was planning with what I now think of as “magic money”—money that I don’t have and don’t have a plan of how to get it.
In the case of my day off, it’s “magic time”—time that I don’t really have and am expecting to pull out of the ether. In both cases I’m planning to spend a resource beyond my means.
The real danger of planning with magic resources is that either the plan is going to fall through, which can cause feelings of failure, shame and other fun internal states OR you’re going to turn to the dark arts to get things done – debt. Now debt can be a useful tool, but it comes at a cost (like all dark magic does). And don’t even try to tell me that debt is only a financial thing. We’ve all felt the feeling of being exhausted by pushing ourselves too hard – that’s time debt.
The antidote to magic time and magic money is awareness.
When I say yes to something now, the first thing I do is identify what resource I am offering. Is it my time, money, or both? Then, I ask myself if I really have the time or money that saying yes requires.
If not, it’s a magic resource and I need to rethink things. I either need to say no or make a plan of how to find more (work an extra shift a week or cancel dodgeball practise on Wednesday).
Sure, it’s not as much fun as saying “yes” and imagining a version of myself that gets to do every project or travels the world constantly. But it means that I actually get to do some of these fun things by only committing to the work I can handle, instead of saying yes to everything and doing none of it. And maybe that’s the real magic. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
*I regret nothing about that photo.
Rags to Reasonable Community Outreach CoordinatorEmily Nixon is an actor/writer/director/filmmaking Swiss Army Knife. She is also a big money nerd and Community Outreach Coordinator for Rags to Reasonable.
She came to this work after becoming completely fed up with living paycheque-to-paycheque and being too afraid to look in her chequing account. She is passionate about empowering other artists and variable income earners to keep doing what they love and feel confident about their finances.
Email Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org