10 things I learned about time and money in 2010

I’ll be taking a break for the holidays, and then traveling for a week after that. So this may be my last post of 2010. What a year it has been! I kept my resolution to blog regularly here — something I intend to continue next year. Because I’ve been posting roughly five times a week, I’ve had to think a lot about time, and later, money. My musings have led me to a few conclusions, arranged, in standard blog format, into a ten-item list:

  1. When it comes to building a career, sometimes you have to think in terms of investment. I have worked long, tough hours this year. Not 80 hours a week since, as I’ve written many times, few people do that, but long hours nonetheless. The frustrating part of this is that 2010 was one of my lowest earning years ever. I know why. I haven’t been ghosting anyone else’s books, writing front of book stuff, etc. Just books and longer bylined articles. Which is what I want to be doing, and I do believe it will eventually pay off. However…
  2. Investment is easier when you have a cushion: either savings, or another income-earner in your household, and an expense structure that doesn’t require both of you to earn a certain amount. Frankly, though, I think this is a much better reason to save than for retirement: to have the freedom to pursue a career on your own terms — hopefully one you’ll never want to retire from.
  3. Time spent building a network is never wasted. This year has involved a lot of reaching out to people, and asking for support. People have been so willing to help, and the act of asking for help has strengthened these relationships. Just two examples: This spring, I emailed Alisa Bowman and told her I had a book coming out. She immediately ordered a copy, then sent me the names of three other writers/bloggers to contact. All of them (see here, here, and here) wrote about the book in one way or another. Stephanie Vozza, likewise, emailed me about something, and I asked if she could help promote my book. She wrote about it and gave me the names of others, which led to this, this and this.
  4. Books take time to write, but then they act as an additional PR person. I write better than I talk. People read the book, then reach out to me. (Like the Great Day St. Louis producer mentioned in this video). Cool!
  5. Even 24 hours can have amazing highs and lows. On the morning of June 28, I was on the Today Show, which was a lot of fun (especially since they were so positive about 168 Hours). By afternoon, I was watching my book soar up the Amazon rankings. Then I got on a plane for Michigan with my 2 children, we got delayed, my newly potty trained 3-year-old proceeded to soil the seat, the baby screamed and I had to rely on the kindness of strangers to make it through that flight.
  6. 5 hours is a long time to be running. I don’t mind half-marathons, but training for a marathon took more time than I can sustainably make a priority.
  7. Singing brings me great joy. Time spent singing and helping build my choir (which sold 700 tickets for the Christmas concert, raised $10,000 when we asked for it, recently landed the South Street Seaport caroling gig, and will perform at the American Choral Directors Association conference in Chicago in March) is time well spent. I will miss YNYC if we leave New York.
  8. Babies are tough for the first year and then they get easier. Sam is starting to entertain himself. My mother-in-law and I took him out for lunch today, and he sat next to me in the booth and dipped his chips in the salsa, which is crazy when you think that 2 years ago — just a bit over 17,500 hours! — he was nothing but an egg with potential. Two years from non-existence to knowing that when you sit in a Mexican restaurant, you put chips in the dip.
  9. Memories are pleasant, even when the experience is tough in the moment. Case in point: Going to the American Museum of Natural History was fun on Saturday, but we wound up having to hike back in the cold through Central Park, take a bus and then hike from 5th Avenue, with me carrying Sammy for big chunks of it. Painful. Those last two hours were long. But now it seems nice in retrospect that we all went to the museum together, and then had a walk in Central Park. Lesson: do it anyway. If you look only at current inconvenience, you’ll never spend time on things that will provide happy glances in the rear view mirror.
  10. Time spent fantasizing is productive. Because it sees you through tough times. About three years ago, after I’d spent my first 6 months trying (unsuccessfully) to sell what became 168 Hours, I had a vision, as I was walking past Borders, of my book splashed in the window. I kind of seized on that image, that it would eventually happen. In time. Then, this summer, I got off a plane in O’Hare, walked toward the book store, and saw multiple copies of 168 Hours displayed, prominently, next to The Help. Again, time well spent.

What have you learned about time (or money) in 2010?


4 thoughts on “10 things I learned about time and money in 2010

  1. I like this list. The one abut building a network really resonates- I recently posted about the fact that my network has really helped with my current job search, despite the fact that I’m in the early “intense” phase of parenting and haven’t been keeping up with my active networking. The effort early on is paying off now!

    You’re absolutely right about having a cushion, too. I work in a volatile industry, so we keep a hefty buffer. Knowing that we have that money in the bank has made this lay off much easier to handle. I don’t feel panicked about finding my next job (at least not yet!) and can therefore work to find a great job, even in this economy.

  2. I really like your comment about babies being tough….and getting easier. My daughter turned 1 in December, and I found the first year, which was combined with starting a new full-time demanding job, to be incredibly hard on a day to day basis. It was also the most joyful and amazing year of my life! My daughter is nothing short of a miracle (we had a long journey to her)! I feel like people don’t really acknowledge how hard it is though especially for the mom. As one example, I pumped breastmilk 5-6 times a day for 20 minutes for the last few months of nursing (well, not nursing as the case was). Think of the time involved in that. At work I did it hands-free and kept working, but still that is a lot of time! Frankly, I just don’t think men would do that. Now though, she is getting easier. She wakes 0-1 time at night, she can play by herself on the floor (so I don’t have to hold and carry her every waking minute), she will sit in her high chair looking at books even while not eating, and the list goes on. Anyway, I have always kept in mind that all of this is for a short period of time when you look at your life. You can do anything for a few months.

    1. @Hydrangea: exactly – you can do anything for a few months, and then it is much easier. I sometimes find myself thinking that if Jasper were an only child I don’t know what I’d be doing with all my free time right now. He is very independent – getting himself dressed this morning, going to the bathroom when he needs to. And Sam will be at this stage in 2 years, and already is playing by himself for some minutes. It’s still not easy yet (the baby is just 15 months!) but easier now than it was even a few months ago. Congrats on having a baby and starting a new tough job in the same year. Just goes to show we can do what we put our minds to.

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