Monday, March 13, 2006

Doing It All

"How do you do it all?" I encountered that question twice last week. The short answer is 'you can't.' You'll run yourself ragged if you try. You can, however, make changes in your life to make room for dreams, children, etc. Below are a few tips to keep in mind when making changes.

1) Know yourself.

Some people don't have a problem letting housework slide. Others, myself included, cannot focus in a messy, cluttered environment. Housework comes before writing in my daily routine because I want to be at my best when I greet the page. Some writers swear by getting up an hour earlier, some insist on sticking to a routine. I have a basic routine built around my daughters' needs. The important thing is to know your own quirks.


2) Prioritize

I can't (and won't) rank certain aspects of my life by how important they are to me. My top priorities are my daughters, my career, my marriage and myself. My physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing fall under the 'myself' heading. Friends, volunteer work and my extended family come right after those top four. If I created a pie chart of how I spent my time each month for a year, no two months would be the same. Circumstances sometimes demand that I focus more closely on one thing. If my husband was sick, he might appear to be more important based solely on the amount of time I spent taking care of him. If I had a deadline, my career might seem more important. I have interests outside of the seven categories listed above. I just don't pursue those interests actively at this point in my life. Last year, I planted flowers all along the front of the house. Weeds overtook the flowers. I wanted flowers but weeding isn't high on my priority list so that particular chore kept getting put off. This year, I'll stick to a few plants in decorative containers placed strategically around the yard. I don't see my friends often and I rarely sit down in front of the TV. When I do sit in front of the TV, it's not to watch a popular program. It's to watch a DVD with my children or husband. We got rid of Dishnetwork years ago. I think our TV picks up two local channels. I don't miss it.


3) Lower Your Expectations

Don't give yourself a 'to do' list only someone with superhuman powers can complete. I once talked to a woman who planned to make every meal from scratch, grow all her own vegetables, make clothes for her children, volunteer at the hospital, coach little league and climb the corporate ladder. After a short time, she lowered her expectations. She makes one meal from scratch on the weekend and other foods through the week when time permits. She grows a few vegetables and makes Halloween costumes. She buys the rest. She's volunteering as a coach for now and later, when her kids are grown, will volunteer at the hospital. It's great to have a list of things you'd like to do just remember you don't have to do them all now.


4) Don't Beat Yourself Up

There will be times when things fall apart. Even the best juggler drops a ball now and then. One bad hour doesn't have to ruin your day and one bad day shouldn't ruin your week. Make the next one better and cut yourself some slack. A bad day, week or month doesn't make you a failure at anything. It makes you human. People get sick. Cars break down. Life happens. We often look back after something happens and say, "I should’ve seen it coming. There were warning signs." To that, I offer Grandma's words of wisdom. "Shoulda, woulda, and coulda ain't movin' you forward."

There are a few important things to remember. The only 'wrong way' to be a writer is to never put a word on the page. What works for others may not work for you. Try different things until you find what works for you. Most important of all, if it's all a bunch of drudgery to you, make some changes. You should enjoy your life.

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