I’ve written a lot about priorities and writing because, well, I need to help myself get mine straight over and over again. I love a lot of things in the world of ours, and I find myself drawn to them. The phrase “like a moth to a flame” keeps coming to mind, but since I hate cliches and moths . . . let’s just say, I have a hard time saying No to many things.
But I’m learning because I have to. When I over-commit myself, I’m not only grumpy, but I truly get depressed. The stress of looking at my to do list makes my chest ache, and I begin the day a little hopeless. So I’m learning to set my priorities and work on a schedule that suits me and helps me work well and enjoy life deep.
Here are the things I am working hard to schedule into every day:
1. Time with my own writing. At this moment, that time is spent in a final edit of Steele Secrets, which I hope to be sending out to agents in April.
2. Client Work. Obviously, we prefer having groceries to not, and we have a barn going up soon (the builder is bringing the contract this afternoon – gah!). So client work gets the second slot in my day.
3. Reading. I have to read to stay informed and filled as a writer, and I also really enjoy it. Just this morning, I finished Maria Murnane’s Wait for the Rain so fun. Next, I’m delving into Ed Cyzewki’s forthcoming book Pray, Write, Grow.
4. Research on Enslaved People – I’m working with a group to begin an in-depth research project about the people enslaved at this Louisa County farm, and I’m still working on research about the people who were enslaved here. Plus, I’m exploring my own ancestry as enslavers and free people of color while I also continue my work on the Board of Coming to the Table and the Steering Committing of the Central Virginia History Researchers. It’s hard but powerful work.
5. Farming – As I said, we have a barn going up, so that’s one big project here. We’re also getting my office ready for me to move in. Plus, we’re creating a farm store in the old voting house up by the road so we can sell eggs and veggies and beautiful things made by us and our friends.
6. Sewing – I find working with thread and yarn to be ultimately soothing. Just looking at the baby blanket I’m crocheting right now makes me breathe deeply.
When we add to that list the given priorities of family and friends, my life is pretty full and beautifully so. I LOVE saying YES to these things.
I’m also learning to say NO to several things, too.
- Long meetings – if a meeting goes more than 2 hours, I’m out. I’m a busy person, and I find that after two hours, a meeting is usually extended beyond its usefulness.
- A perfect house – while clutter makes me a little nutty, I’m giving up the hope of keeping the farm house perfect most days. Between the hay I track in and the mud that’s coming and my general lack of interest, I’d rather spend my time sewing.
- Leaving the farm more than one day a week – I’m working on streamlining meetings and errands so I can do them in one fell swoop in the car. That way, I get to enjoy my audiobook – still Tana French’s Faithful Place – for an extended period, I save gas, and I also maximize the drive, which usually is at least 45 minutes to any urban area.
Finally, I’m taking the wisdom my friend Sarah shared with me a few years ago. . . “No is a complete sentence.” I don’t have to explain why I’m not doing something; I don’t have to justify my choices. I simply have to say a complete and definitive no to the things I do not wish to give my time to.
And I’m learning to do that from the get go instead of backing out of things all the time. . . but when I do have to change my mind about something, I try to be forthright and tell the people involved that I will not be involved with an explanation if I feel it’s needed.
In short, I’m trying to live my life in such a way that it makes me happy and fulfilled and with respect for other people. I find it quite frustrating when people say they will do something and then don’t follow-through. I’d always rather a “no” upfront, so I’m trying to do unto others in that.
To be honest, some days, I don’t get to all my priorities – yesterday, I didn’t sew at all – but most days, if I turn off the internet and put my head down, I can get all of these things in . . . and those days, those days are the best.
What are your priorities in the day? What are some things you are saying no to so that you can say yes to the things you love?
By the way, I loved this post about decision fatigue by Modern Mrs. Darcy. While the thought about wearing the same clothes every day works for me in a big way since I only really own two pairs of pants and which I choose depends on how much poop is involved, I really liked the advice about eating the same things each day. For me, breakfast is always cream of wheat . . . now I just have to choose a daily lunch. . . suggestions?