When I was a young teenager growing up in a medium-sized town in Iowa in the 1980s, I had two options for summer activities: Little League Baseball and my Boy Scout Troop. Baseball practice or games took up about three days a week for part of the summer. Scouts met weekly and I enjoyed one week per summer at camp. Even with an early morning paper route and a list of household chores from Mom, I still had plenty of time to ride my bike to the town swimming pool, play Nintendo in my friend’s basement and follow my older brother down to the crick (that’s a creek to some of you) to catch frogs, build forts and mess around. It was easy to not overschedule myself because my town simply didn’t have that many structured events in the summers.
My summer schedule was leisurely compared to the schedule my wife and I could create for our three daughters today. We could fill up five days a week with just dance practices – not to mention soccer, scouting, volunteering, church activities, weekly camp, language lessons, coding class, summer violin lessons and more. Thankfully, my wife and I have recognized the value of unstructured time and we collaborate with our daughters to choose “only” one or two activities.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I think it’s great that there are more activity options for children and adults. But regardless of your age, it is easier than ever to suffer from activity overload. We can choose from a wide variety of classes, watch any TV show or movie ever created, access thousands of games from our phone or tablet and get lost for hours in the worlds of YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and/or Facebook.
Activity overload is not just a part of our personal lives, it also a part of our professional lives. Funeral service and product vendors continuously come up with new offerings. And while I think it is great that families have so many personalized options from which to choose, each option is one more thing that funeral professionals must present to the family, order, keep in stock, manage, etc.
So how do we deal with so many activity choices and regain control of our time and energy? I believe there are two key imperatives:
First, we must acknowledge that if we say “yes” to many activities, then we will devalue everything else we’re doing. It is impossible to juggle many things and provide each of them with enough attention and energy to do them well.
Second, we must be intentional about saying “no.” Or put another way, we have to actively work against FOMO – the Fear Of Missing Out. By saying “no,” we are renewing our “yes” to the activities in our lives that really matter.
Is this easy? Absolutely not. I am continually breaking my own rules by stretching myself too thin personally and professionally. But it helps me to remember that I can’t be my best self – the best father, husband and professional I can be – when I have scheduled every minute of time with an activity.
Dr. Jason Troyer is a grief expert, author, former psychology professor and therapist. He helps funeral homes and cemeteries connect with their communities through Facebook content and grief support materials and provides community presentations, professional workshops and trainings.