It’s the time of year when I have a lot on my plate. I get to work with my 1:1 coaching clients and my Atelier clients. I have a great group of people in my Devoted Writer workshop. I just launched a private art studio space where I invite patrons into my art process. And I am working on a major writing project with a December 18th deadline. I’m also volunteering with Denver Food Rescue, Denver Metro Caring, and will be training this weekend to be an election judge.
Plus living life, trying to stay in touch with family and friends, maintaining my health and well-being, and savoring the final weeks of my garden. And oh, the world’s shitnanegans to process, too, mainly emotions about the election.
I don’t say any of this to say, Oh look at me, I’m so busy! We were discussing the toxicity of busy culture in the Atelier the other day. I don’t subscribe to busyness as a good thing. And I also don’t intend to overburden myself so I feel like a victim and can’t enjoy my good fortune.
My plate is full because I work seasonally. I take ‘summer hours’, where I have less on my schedule so I can be offscreen and in the world. It was a lovely summer – well, it was a shitty summer, let’s be honest. But the space I gave myself allowed me to enjoy the realities of the present moment – time in my garden, watching things grow, and space to rest and process all the changes we’re experiencing.
One of my art patrons said How do you find time to do it all, Cynthia? I’m not super organized or disciplined. I don’t have a ‘team’ to delegate stuff to – it’s all me. I’m a lover of life with a tendency toward hedonism. I don’t believe in discipline as a way to be productive. So how do I do all this? Read on…
Helping people live their lives according to their values and priorities is at the core of my work as a coach. I believe that when we align with our way of being, we work and create with way less friction. I am not perfect. I am a work in progress. Being attentive to my strengths, needs, and weaknesses allows me to be productive and also to rest and enjoy life.
Some of my weaknesses include the following – are like this, too?
When I feel overwhelmed with projects, I immediately want/tend to add more. It’s the craziest thing. Usually, I can rein myself in but sometimes I need to hang up a sign that says ADD NO MORE. (I need that right now!)
I don’t tend to procrastinate, because I much, much, much prefer the feeling of getting something done over avoiding things. I’m a wuss and can’t bear the pain that comes with avoiding things.
But this year, it’s been easy to let my precious focus dissipate by reading news, newsletters, or other whatnot. Yikes!
It’s easy to get distracted when I have a lot of things going at once. I actually thrive on the variety, but sometimes I commit to too many things.
There are more weaknesses, but let’s look at how I manage to be productive and sane.
First, I remember how good it feels to do what I say I will. Integrity is one of my top values, and when I live according to my values, I feel great, even when things around me are in the pooper.
I have a loose schedule that honors my different roles. Today is a client day. I get to meet with clients all morning and afternoon. I don’t have to do or think about anything else. I get to just be with them and be present.
This single focus reduces stress. I have time committed to the other roles I play. Keeping my promises to myself to show up for the other projects is key to making this work.
Knowing that I have full client days this week, I spent Monday diving into my project. I needed to make serious headway in order to be able to focus with my clients and feel the integrity of walking my talk.
I dedicate the weekends to my art and my art studio guests. I know that during the week when I am at work, my artist will have her due and I will connect with my guests. It was tough last weekend. We were doing some deep cleaning of the nest, and that threatened my studio time. I had to put my foot down and take studio time first. I did my dusting and then had another session at the art desk.
I also sneak up on myself. I wrote about this productivity hack last year. It’s the best way to get stuff done. You may have notions about how much time you need to get things done. We often claim that we need time to get into the zone. We don’t like doing a little bit of writing and then being pulled away. Fair enough. I get it. There are certainly times when we need space to think and write things through.
And then there are times when we can sneak 15 minutes in. You’ve heard me say that productivity is less about time management than focus management. When I worked on my writing project last week, I had to go to the park, take nothing else with me, and set a timer for 15 minutes. Then I set it for another 15. I got 30 solid minutes in on the project. This leads to the next thing that helps me get stuff done.
I appreciate every single freaking drop of work that I show up for. The other day, I got one page of edits on my project. ONE! Measly, right? But I was jubilant. I felt the joy and self-respect of having done something. Because truly, every little bit counts. Most of the people I’ve worked with battle a part of themselves that won’t let them appreciate progress. One page completed just brings mockery or disappointment.
Friends, there is always more to be done. We never do as much as we want or expect. Consider this mindset of lack to be a frantic gerbil wheel of pain kept rolling by a patriarchal system that doesn’t want us to relax, ever. Don’t get on it! Give yourself credit for each little bit that allows you to live your values, feel good about your choices, and make progress on whatever you’re committed to.
A couple of other things
I do my personal writing in the morning, with meditative music, before I go to the computer. This journaling time grounds me and connects me to myself. It takes no more than 15 minutes.
I don’t have children, which frees up a lot of bandwidth. If you do have children or people you care for at home, you might need to lower your expectations for now.
I don’t allow clutter in my space. That drains me and overwhelms me. I keep things tidy.
I don’t expect to get things right on the first pass. This lowering of the bar allows me to get stuff done rather than being put on the sidelines by my inner critic.
Finally, I rest. On weekends, I make a list of things I want to do. This usually includes a long walk with Steve, yoga, time in the art studio and garden. Also cooking and reading and puzzle play. There will always be a segment of the weekend where I am lounging around reading.
This may not sound like rest, but for me, any time away from a screen is restful.
Giving myself space to rest is vital to my productivity. If I am going all the time, I get resentful and cranky.
I could go on, but you and I have other things to do! I snuck up on myself to draft this newsletter for you. I could easily have blown it off to later, but I knew that would bring more stress. I snuck in 20 minutes to write this using free-writing, and I snuck in another 20 to edit and polish it up for you. I am going into my client calls feeling huge relief that I made progress on this instead of stress that I didn’t get it done.
Listen, I am no saint and don’t pretend to be. I should call my mom more, spend more time with friends, and do more volunteering. But I’m also not into self-abuse and honestly, I am a hedonist. I want to live each day doing my work with as little self-inflicted pain as possible.
I am feeling the pain, tension, and stress in the world. Doing the things that allow me to live my values and feel a sense that I am contributing help me. Avoiding my work, both the paid and unpaid work, just makes me feel bad. It’s not discipline that motivates me. It’s seeking goodness as much as I can.
These are a few of the things that I’ve developed over the decades to make sure that I am a good boss, coach, teacher, and friend. I do my best, and I am sure you do, too. Be kind to yourself, friend.
What works for you to juggle all your roles and make time for yourself?