What amazes me most is that we used to do it. In high school, we managed to balance AP English with AP Economics, with calculus, with AP art and AP Bio, and soccer practice, the school musical, writing papers, sleepovers, dinners, and sneaky girl conference calls. We managed to juggle subjects, exercise, friendship, love life, parents, 90210, and Nintendo, all in a day.
Now we see craft blogs with gift tags, elephant & strawberry pincushion projects, articles about keeping things juicy with your husband, Martha Stewart cookie a day emails, spring cleaning closet organization tips, perfume and product reviews, "must have" fashion look books, featured kitchens, nursery rooms, offices, living rooms, mud rooms. Food blogs. Photo blogs. Photoshop filter recommendations, brushes, actions. Paper/ graphic design blogs. Chocolate covered pretzel wand recipes. And, quite frankly, I want to do it all (complete with planning a drunken hickfest of a bingo night with friends). I want to be an expert in every last thing. Because I love it all equally. Almost. All this, while attempting to keep a food log and develop an exercise routine. It just ain’t happening.
Jen Lancaster and I began our Balance is Bullshit SXSW (#balanceisbullshit) panel by ping-ponging our way through our to-do lists. Aloud. Jen and I covered everything from picking a winter’s worth of dog shit off a lawn now that the snow has melted, to reading up on potty training techniques (for my children, not my dog). From working on our next books, owing outlines, chapters, proposals to agents, to my Moose outline for film, to her new column, to my network pitch document for a new TV series, to her being nice to her husband, to my making at least one body part sweat and planning a date night with Phil (not necessarily simultaneously), to taking her dog for chemo, to reconstructing a leek bread pudding and remembering to photograph it for my blog this time, to gearing up for book tour, to populating my featured content gallery on this blog (yes, that’s what the rotating display is above this most recent post). The point being, like everyone else, we have shit going on. And just because you can prioritize a to-do list doesn’t mean that you’re balanced.
MAKE CHOICES. SAY NO. THEN, SAY YES!
The Tyra Banks Show phoned me, asking if I’d consider being their relationship expert. I considered it, but I ultimately declined. Because it’s not what I wanted to do with my life. I’ve learned to say, "No," even when everyone around me thinks I should say, "Yes!"
Yes, there are probably items on your to-do list that don’t exactly bring you joy, but for the most part, your list should be populated with things that excite you. (On mine: Construct a chicken pot pie, with homemade crust that involves a puff pastry rooster cutout baked on top). No, no one enjoys getting her girly gadgets checked by a gynecologist—it’s a necessary evil—but if you’re dreading other items on your list, things that don’t involve your health, ask yourself why they’re there at all. You can’t do everything. You need to make choices. You need to learn to say, "No."
I haven’t posted a He Said, She Said video in a while because editing the videos is time consuming. So they’ve slipped off the list, and I’m okay with that. They’re not essential to my life, as much as Phil and I do, actually, enjoy making them. Instead, I use the time to work on projects about which I’m passionate, writing projects. And that’s the way it should be, fill your days and "do’s" with your passions, and leave your weekends free from work. Neither of us work on weekends.
"WORK HARD, PLAY HARD" IS JUST HARD
The fact is, we rarely feel balanced. There are days I suck at being a mom. Other days when I suck at being a blogger, writer, friend, emailer, daughter, wife, neighbor, sister, baker, foodie, tweeting fool. It happens. I can’t possibly construct Montessori moments with my children, complete with sifting and sensory activities, batch-edit photos, create new TV characters and concepts, weed through a feed reader, update my blog design/fonts/blog entries, make a new workout mix, download music, update my Netflix queue, analyze movies, and also find time to exercise, scrapbook, grocery shop, cook, bake something with the over-ripe bananas, read the "book club" book, and write. Never mind socialize! I can’t do it all at one time, but I can find time to do it all. The key? I’m always pursuing what it is I’m most passionate about AT THAT TIME. Most everything else slips away for that hour, that day, that week. And that actually works, with a few exceptions…
I NOW SET BUSINESS HOURS
I can’t, as much as I’d like to, spend my day baking, crafting, watching movies, and keeping up on interior design trends. Instead, I follow my work passions of the moment during business hours. Whichever project has the closest deadline gets my full attention, unless of course I’m procrastinating, but even when I do that, it usually involves working on the "wrong" work project. If for example, I owe a producer a draft of an act, I might end up working on my next book instead. Or on the network pitch for the new series I’m working on. That, or I’m wasting time on Facebook. But I piss away fewer hours now that I’m trying to work, uninterrupted, from 9am – 4pm. When I know there’s a hard-stop in place, I’m far more disciplined. And it keeps the man happy, because come 4pm, I’m all about my family. Like it or not. And yes, sometimes, it really is NOT. Because when I’m on a writing roll, I don’t want to stop. But I’ve learned, for the health of my marriage, I have to stop, EVEN when Phil tells me not to.
APPS DOn’T ALWAYS HAVE TO BE A TIME-SUCK
Sometimes an app can be a time-saint. Some of the mac applications that help me keep on task: Spirited Away (focus, clears inactive windows), Focus Booster (time), Pomodoro (time), QuickSilver (search), Scrivener (writing), Evernote (to-do list with web sites, photos, emails, sync with iphone, reads text in photos you take), Things (to do list), TweetFunnel (schedule/assign tweets). Sorry, I don’t have the time (oh, the irony) to write about/ to link to each application. But they’re easy to find with a simple search.
Here are two other recaps of our Balance is Bullshit SXSW panel (sorry, I know I’ve missed others, but you get the overall gist). I’m still recovering from all the panels, parties, movies, and music. I took the week to learn and live, and now I have some serious Pomodoro sessions scheduled to plow through my work (which I find especially delicious now that I’ve taken a short break from it. It’s good to get back to it!) Which I guess is where I’ll close. Sometimes you’ve got to close down, recharge, and get the fcuk outta dodge. Or spend your time in front of the TV planning your next vacation. (We’re still planning a trip to Vietnam/Thailand).
Now, then, never mind. I have to go bake something with over-ripe bananas that will eventually involve cream cheese frosting.