We all have upkeep in our lives, and as part of having it, there are actions we take — we brush our teeth, shower, do our laundry, pay our bills, exercise, etc. The question isn’t whether we need to do them, but how often we need to think about them. How can we get them out of the way so we are doing them without consciously thinking of them so we have the space to think about (and do) what really matters?
It’s natural for our lives to go into chaos (if we don’t do anything to prevent it). Try not brushing your teeth for a day and see what happens. We don’t have to think about doing it because we have long-established those habits. Of course, brushing our teeth and a daily shower could be considered the gold standard in our upkeep. Doing weekly laundry might be a close second.
Think about the decisions you make on a daily/weekly basis such as what to eat, when to sleep/wake up, when to work, exercise, etc. When we think about these everyday routine things, it undermines our attention in that we have less of it to think about what actually matters, be it in our work, in our personal lives, or with our loved ones.
For instance, figuring out what to eat every day/week can take more of our attention than it deserves. For this reason, I have a weekly meal plan that I look at once a week to make any adjustments and pass it on to my housekeeping, so they know what meals to prepare and when; it’s easier for me and them. The point isn’t that whatever is on the meal plan will need to be cooked (although that approach may work for some). I don’t have to eat what’s planned, but if I can’t think of anything “better” to eat, then the plan serves as a default that removes the thinking.
The little things in our lives can keep us from doing the big things (that truly matter). Besides, we have to think about doing them anyway. We might as well think about them upfront rather than thinking about them passively all the time and feel drained in the process.
It’s only when we stop thinking about our upkeep that we can actually pay attention to actions that require thinking. This goes back to the idea of discipline being freedom. In other words, it’s only when we have order in our daily lives can we have the freedom to be fiercely creative.
So, how can we stop thinking about the little things so we can give more of our attention to what matters?
Here are some examples that form part of my upkeep. I already wrote about the value of planning our meals. Managing my subscriptions is another one. I pay my bills on the same day each month. Once a week, I review all of my commitments and decide what I’m going to continue doing or move it to the backburner or stop doing it altogether because my world has changed in some way since I made that commitment and now my system needs to reflect that reality.
Other examples include:
- Doing laundry every week
- Backing up the computer every week
- Reviewing budget every month
- Getting a haircut every month
- Getting groceries every month
- Purging my closet every quarter
- Checking credit report every quarter
Some of these go to the calendar, while others belong in the list manager as recurring events. Collectively, these recurring to-dos/events might sound like a lot, but I spend almost no time thinking about them in my daily life. When you’ve done the thinking upfront, the doing takes care of itself because you simply show up and do the thing at the appropriate time when you’re reminded of it.
Here’s the thing — we have to think about doing everyday things at one point or another, but it helps tremendously if we are proactive about it. This way, we are able to do things with as little friction as possible. This isn’t about upkeep as much as it’s about the freedom that comes from not having to think about the small things. This isn’t about being a robot either. You decide what you need to think about and how often do you need to think about them to get it off your mind. When we take care of the mundane, it gives way to the sublime.