Open, But Not Available

photo credit: Aziz Acharki

photo credit: Aziz Acharki


“Are you open on Friday night from 6-9pm?”

How many of you have said ‘yes’ to this invite, simply because you were open?  I used to do that, and ended up paying a price by being overwhelmed or exhausted at the end of the week. This snowballed into me cannibalizing my family time and my writing time during the days following, because I was off-center from too much out-of-the-house time.

I wondered why simply saying yes to an open night could get me into hot water. I figured out it was because I didn’t use the ‘zoom out.’ Zooming out was a technique I came up with when being invited to attend things or asked to help/serve/volunteer.

It changed my outlook the first time I tried it.

Here’s how it works for me: when I’m asked if I’m available, I not only look at that day, but I zoom out and look at that week. Many times, I may see I’m booked Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday nights. If I agreed to the Friday invite, it would mean I’d be out five nights in a six-day period. Accepting the Friday invite would make me exhausted and irritable. By the time I made it to my Sunday event, which I was looking forward to, it had no chance. In addition, my family time or bills or home repairs or writing time suffered during the following week because I was recovering from a relentless tide of events. In addition, it not only took from my time, but also from my energy reservoir. Too much Yes put me in a time and energy deficit, taking away from any writing I planned afterwards.  

Zooming out led me to create a phrase call ‘boulder time.’ Picture a rushing river where you try to keep your head above water. Imagine being able to jump out and take a moment for a welcome rest upon the warm boulder, being able to reset and recombobulate like after a TSA pat-down, before heading back into the river again. When I used Friday as my boulder time (by saying “no” to the request,) it gave me a break to put away Wednesday and Thursday, and ramp up for Saturday and Sunday, which I then attended with a glad heart. This also helped my next week go smoothly because I wasn’t frazzled by the marathon of previous nights. Zooming out helped me to see where I needed boulder time, a time slot I labeled as open, but not available. There’s a difference.

And you can pan back ever farther; it works for the month, and even for an entire season. How many of us have been booked every weekend of a summer, except for one? Don’t fill that weekend. Mark it as boulder time and fill it with pajamas, family or writing. Protect it fiercely.

Photo credit: Aziz Ancharki