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The other day, I was having a discussion with a colleague who, like me, is both writer and educator and puts her whole heart into both. Our discussion about fitting together the puzzle pieces of the writing life (even aside from the teaching life) reminded me of a blog I wrote a few years ago.
When I pulled it up today to share again here, I discovered two things: I'd written it at the end of the first week in November and, despite the fact that I was not yet working almost full time again, there never seemed to be enough hours in the day.
I needed a reminder to take stock of what I accomplish, and a prompt to use the systems that work, even when I'm overwhelmed. And, since I thought you might, too, I'm reposting the blog here.
Whether you're a mom, a writer, a teacher, something different or all of the above, don't forget to give yourself credit where credit is due.
Before I retired, I envisioned having the world at my feet - infinite possibilities, time to do the things I loved (on smaller scale, since I was semi-retired) and to accomplish all the things on my list that I'd lacked the time to tackle previously. I'd have quiet days while my daughter was at school and my husband was at work to write and to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. And you know what?
It's been a lot like that.
The trouble is, my list is too long - it always has been - and I quickly found myself falling into the same bad habit I'd had when I was working. I always saw what had been left undone, instead of what I'd actually accomplished.
Finally, after about a week of feeling really crummy and overwhelmed, I made a list of all of the things I wanted and needed to do, and I color-coded it by category. Writing is blue. Teaching and class prep are green. Leisure reading (the thing that never quite seems to make it onto the list) is yellow. My Thirty-One business is pink (surprise, surprise!) and household chores, duties, obligations and errands are orange. I actually would have liked to add two more categories: rehearsals/music and devotional time/ journaling, and when I find a purple highlighter, I will highlight one of those categories. For now, I just write them onto the page.
Next, I dug out a "days of the week" notepad I'd purchased in one of my previous attempts to harness time. It was, not surprisingly, nearly new, so I put it to use. Each day, I jot down a few words about what I do, and highlight each it in its color. Sometimes, I just dash a quick line of color in if there's not enough room in the block for that day. By the end of the week, I can see at a glance what I've accomplished and what I've neglected - in that order.
Suddenly, my perceptions have been reversed, and that's a good thing. In fact, it's just what I needed. It reminds me a lot of when my daughter was young, and we were told not to concern ourselves with what she'd eaten that day, but rather, what she consumed over the course of a week. Left to their own devices and with healthy options, even little kids' bodies know what they need and compensate over time.
And so do adults - particularly those who approach projects on a mood-driven basis, when they have the luxury of doing so. We're not so very different from toddlers in that respect - if we just listen to our bodies, we know when to work, when to rest and when to play.
And just in case I need permission to do that last one, I have my color-coded notepad to remind me.