“Where do you find time to do all this?” The question is posed over and over again. Most people say that we make time for things that matter, and although there’s absolute truth is that statement, there’s also the reality factor—24 hours in a day are not enough for everything that matters.
So, what truly matters to me? I notice that there’s a pattern with how my time is spread out between what I call constants and sides. The constants are my sons and my job, but the sides have fluctuated between my health, my home, my social life, and my writing. I’m proud to be a dedicated mom and dedicated teacher, and it’s obvious to the people around me when I become a dedicated something-else. I lost fifty pounds and felt great when I made time for my health; I gained half of that back when I switched sides. I had garage sales and tackled debt and cooked dinner every night when I made time for my home; stuff-stacks cluttered the rooms, payment reminders flooded the answering machine, and the microwave timer beeped throughout the evening when I switched sides. I caught up with lifelong friends, people whose relationships I treasured, when I made time for my social life; I hunkered down on the couch with my laptop or book when I switched sides.
“Where do you find time to do all this?” What people don’t realize is that I don’t find time with all those sides! What helps is that I get focused with one, while I try to simply manage the others. For example, I’m using this spring break to start walking again. Small steps, a half hour each day. I’ve also set up my next doctor’s appointment and am trying to stay away from pasta and bread. Not completely successful, mind you, just trying to manage the disappointment of having gained back so much weight from the last time my health was my side of choice. As far as my home goes, each weekend I’m attempting to do one thing - bills or cleaning or, like this past weekend, the taxes (ugh!). Comcast, of course, pulled a trick on me and delivered a new cable box that needs to be set up. Luckily, I’m still on spring break and hope that I can get to that between grading papers and driving my sons back and forth to activities.
Point 1: When vacation time is coming without the actual vacation destination, whether it’s a day or week or more, set aside a few hours to look at those sides that have been neglected.
I’m managing my social life with a few breaks for friends. I had a wonderful overnight with my lifelong girls (note the picture), and if I’m fortunate to have a few pals join me for a walk, that would make life great! My husband and I even splurged on an anniversary dinner, something, sad to say, we haven’t done in a long time. Then there’s the writing gig. This is supposed to be the current side of choice. What I’m finding is that there’s been so much attention given to the novel, that I don’t seem to have a ton of hours to write new material (such as this blog post!). The good thing is that I already had a couple old pieces I tweaked for an anthology deadline; the post I pitched to Writer’s Digest was written long ago, so when the editor recently responded with interest, I was able to reply within a day; the “success story” that will be printed in an upcoming newsletter for FundsForWriters.com, is actually the thank you note I had written a while back, and they’re waiting to print until we find out my last status (finalist or winner) after the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author is announced. I guess that using my focused time a few months prior is paying off in my present life.
Point 2: When you have a side that sneaks into a constant role, give it your all so it’s easier to manage when you return to not having time for it.
Like the walking with friends idea, I like to, as “they” say, kill two birds with one stone with my constants and/or sides. With my job and writing, some of my newer poetry was a result of reflection on my curriculum. “Autumn’s Myth” came after a mythology unit with my freshmen, while “Winter’s Solace” came to me on a student retreat, and “Rise and Weep” came after reading A Tale of Two Cities with my sophomores. My sons have started a new sport—tennis. They have practice or matches almost every day after school throughout April, so I hope to walk at least twice a week instead of going home and wasting time only to turn around and pick them up. The other days I’ll stay at school to work on lesson plans/grading/parent contact, etc. And here's an exciting thing—friends and relatives have requested my coming to book club meetings because they're choosing LINES-- as their monthly read!
Point 3: Double up on sides whenever the opportunity allows. (Not at the buffet, though!)
And no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I’m always on the look out for character traits and conflicts, plot twists and settings. I wish I could say that I have a notebook with me at all times, with constants and sides alike, but I’m not that organized. It’s good advice, however, so here’s another point...
Point 4: Keep a notebook handy for writing down ideas and observations that could be useful down the line.
The last thing is something that I tend to preach but don’t practice enough.
Point 5: Give yourself a break.
P.S. Today I actually took a walk, made dinner, called a friend, and wrote this blog post! Score one for the sides! (And a day off, of course!)