Iesha Small

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Making time for the essential

It’s easy to fill our days with items from our to do list but how many of the items are what is essential in the long term? 


Upon reflection we realise the unimportance of almost everything – Greg McKeown,   Essentialism

It is 1144. I am sitting in our conservatory writing this. It is my day off. Like most adults, I have a list (partially written, partially mental) of things which I ought to do. Some of the items are urgent, others less so. Most of them feel fairly important or else they wouldn’t be on my list.

I have filled a reasonable number of my recent days off with these fairly important actions. Today when I woke up I decided to remove the urgent and instead concentrate on the essential.

My essential actions so far on 21st May 2019

14 Obvious essentials

  1. Go to bed early – ok that’s a cheat as technically it’s from yesterday but a good night’s sleep is essential for my general wellbeing.
  2. Wake up
  3. Cuddle at least one munchlet. Today it was E- she was very excited about climbing into our bed to show me the gap in her mouth as her tooth had fallen out since I’d last seen her. As recently as last year, I often skipped this step because I was in a hurry to get ready and leave for work. Now I think this time, which can be anything from a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes, is essential to my day.
  4. Meditate. I’m probably meant to do this out of bed, sitting up and without a wiggly, excited 5 year old next to me but sometimes you have to make the most of what you have.
  5. Make our bed. This is something so automatic that I wouldn’t usually mention it but I used to listen to a podcast where the host always asked people if they made their beds and a surprising (to me) number of people said no. It’s essential that I make our bed when I get out of it or else I’m tempted to crawl back under the covers. Whoever is last to get out of the bed makes it. It’s generally me. Feel free to judge.
  6. Again something so automatic that I wouldn’t have mentioned it but I need a morning shower to wake up and feel fresh- I’ve recently learnt that not everybody does.
  7. Moisturise etc.
  8. Help the kids shower and moisturise etc. A while ago I came across a general question on social media “What is a surprising thing that you love?” I immediately thought of moisturising the munchlets after a bath or shower. I make a special mix of jojoba oil and shea butter and moisturise their back and face while they do what ever else needs to be done. It’s a small thing but they always request it and it’s a short but nice bonding ritual as we chat about nothing in particular.
  9. Talk to my friend on the phone. I’ve heard that many millennials have a fear of using their phones to actually talk to people. Being born in 1980 means that I’m probably slightly too old to be a millennial and remember life when people still used landlines to talk to their friends. In my personal life there are many people that I only ever text but for some I prefer a phone call as it’s closer to being with them in person. On a Tuesday morning I talk to my friend G while he’s on the way to work.
  10. Grab a banana. It’s not even lunch time yet and I’ve decided to sit down and write a few hundred words. You could be mistaken for thinking that I’m one of those super productive people who runs a marathon, goes to the gym and finishes all their work before 0900. Nooooo. I really love my bed and I’ll stay in it for as long as I can manage. This means trade offs- no makeup and sometimes not enough time for breakfast. However, eating is pretty essential if I don’t want a migraine and want energy to do everything else in my life so… banana time.
  11. Walk with M and the kids to school. Again, this is newish for me in my working life and now my part time working and general job flexibility makes it possible. Sometimes its wonderful and we have loads of fun, other times the walk is punctuated by squabbles and I secretly wish I still started work at 0730 every day. Over time I’ve realised it’s an essential part of my routine in order to build the kinds or relationships I want with the people I live with.
  12. Walk with M to the station.
  13. Porridge at Greggs. This follows on from number 10. “Grab a banana”
  14. Texts to people in my life I want to keep up with
If you had a day where you filled your morning with only the actions you considered essential for the life you want to live and create, how would it look? Share on X

3 Hidden essentials

The previous list is fairly standard for me most days of the week. There are a few variations in timings depending on whether I’m working or not (and where) but they are mostly non-negotiables and I don’t think of cutting them. There now follows a short list of activities that I realised were essential for me today and longer term but that easily fall off the radar to be replaced by the “to-do list” items or varying degrees of urgency that I mentioned at the start of this blog.

“Time is something to be made or produced. A man is not a slave to time but creates time for what is needed” – Emma Dabiri, Don’t touch my hair

  1. Go for a walk in the woods. I don’t like the gym. Running or jogging looks excruciating to me. Organised sports are not generally my thing. I do however love walking, preferably in nature. Too many days or weeks without an extended walk and I start to get sluggish and tetchy. However, I like my walks to be 1-2hr minimum. It doesn’t always feel like there is time. Today I made the time.”
  2. Read a book. Again, this is one that often slips off the list. I’ve noticed that I feel a very particular kind of calm from reading a book. It can be physical or on kindle but the feeling is not replicated via reading short articles online or posts on social media. Today I sat on a bench, turned off my phone and read some more of The book You Wish Your Parents Had Read… by Philippa Perry (which is excellent btw)
  3. Create something for my own enjoyment. Recently we’ve been watching Killing Eve, it’s good. It’s funny and well written, with great performances. As mentioned above I like to read. I also realised a few years ago that as well as consuming artistic content, I have to make my own. For its own sake. Because I want to. I’ve also learnt that at times I need to share this to start a conversation with other people in the world and to learn and improve. I can be quite creative in my job and I keep something akin to a daily log inspired by both my training as a mechanical engineer and a suggestion from the writer Austin Kleon but it’s not enough. If I don’t create and (self) publish it feels like there is a backlog of ideas in my brain, my thinking gets clogged and I feel mentally sluggish.

Today’s blog is my public creative act.

It is 1252. Time to stop, have lunch and finally tackle my to-do list.

What next?

If you had a day where you filled your morning with only the actions you considered essential for the life you want to live and create, how would it look?


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Making time for the essential