Friday musings: Planning a balanced life

We are in for our first freeze tonight. The temperature is supposed to drop to 23 by Saturday morning, which means the fall flowers may be gone soon. However, in the meantime, here is a photo of the mums for reader Cate (who, being from the UK, thinks of mums as moms — a very different sort of concept!)

On my calendar for today: many phone calls, and also a spot of time for planning the next week. In my talks (including my TED talk) I suggest people plan their upcoming weeks on Friday afternoons. I also suggest creating a 3-category priority list for the week: career, relationships, self. The reason to do this is that it is pretty hard to create a 3-category list and then leave one (or more) of the categories blank. This little hack will, right there, nudge you to plan a more balanced life.

This is one of those areas where I usually do take my own advice (I don’t always…what can I say). This week has been, and will continue to be, pretty good on that front.

I had a couple professional priorities: turning in the next round of edits on Off the Clock, which has now gone to copy-editing, writing 6000 words in my fable, being on a panel for the Room to Grow “Power Breakfast” in NYC on Wednesday morning (which involved the lovely Deborah Roberts and Lauren Smith Brody) and planning a few more podcast episodes.

On the personal front, I wanted to go for a run in Central Park on Wednesday morning (since I was in the city overnight). Knowing I wanted to do this motivated me to set my alarm for 6:25 a.m., even though I was in a hotel room and could have slept for another hour before my event. (The fact that I went to bed at 9:25 p.m. also made this seem quite doable. Going to bed early is how grown-ups sleep in). I was rewarded with absolutely gorgeous autumn scenery. I ran past the grand stand — still there! — where Shalene Flanagan won the marathon last weekend.

Also on the personal front: I have plans to go to a concert given by the staff singers at my church on Sunday afternoon. I made sure to talk about this with my husband last week, so he knows to expect me to leave at 1:45 p.m. on Sunday. (Of course, he may have forgotten. But he was told!)

On the relationships front, I got together with my little brother for dinner in NYC on Tuesday night. Szechuan food and beer. It was great! I also hosted playdates for my older boys on Tuesday, which they had off from school. (The playdates were in the morning; I left for NYC on the 3:25 p.m. train).

(I am also working on the new activity schedule for the new activity season but…this is a work in progress. Why does my 8-year-old’s swim group have to practice at the exact same time as his age group for wrestling??? Then I met with the designer who will work on my kitchen, living room, and master bathroom. This doesn’t fall neatly into any of the categories…but it is a priority of some type.)

Various other stuff came up, both personally and professionally, that I had to deal with. Life was not all roses this week by any means. One example: the 2-year-old was up from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. Monday night (technically early Tuesday morning). He also woke up at 4 a.m. last night. I turned on a movie and got another hour of sleep. But having a relatively limited list of things I KNEW I wanted to get to meant they happened. Especially with something semi-speculative, like the fable, putting it on the priority list is key. I did 2000 words on Monday, 1500 on Tuesday, 500 on Wednesday, and 2000 on Thursday. On all those days, I actually stopped as soon as I hit the word count. I could have written more but I believe in the 20-mile march concept (which I think is from Built to Last?) Doing less than you could somedays means you can push yourself to do a little more than you think you can other days. Being willing to leave a little bit on the table means you can keep going. And ultimately, it is the long-term consistency that leads to things happening.

Now, on to planning the next week. Sarah and I are recording 4 podcast episodes, 3 of which feature guests. I’m giving a short (and thankfully local) talk one evening. I plan to write another 7000 words in the fable. I plan to get my 2-year-old’s application for preschool filled out (!) as soon as I get the printer working. My daughter doesn’t have school one of the days so I’m pondering taking her out for breakfast. I’m still debating the personal priority for the week. I might try to get that long fall foliage run in that I didn’t quite manage on my fall fun list. Or I might aim to do a speed work session. Or order those darn photos from the beach photo session this past summer! Or maybe the Christmas card? I’m not sure. Once I decide something is on the priority list it does generally happen, so I need to make sure I’m selective about what goes on the list. Because life does come up…

How do you plan your weeks?


10 thoughts on “Friday musings: Planning a balanced life

      1. I’m glad it gave you a giggle Laura, me too! If I re-read it I will still imagine some mums amongst the mums because we don’t tend to have porches here and it seems such a lovely way to spend some time!

  1. Laura, love your posts but wish you could send them in a black typeface. The gray is hard to read on a phone. Thanks!

    1. MaryBeth – if you push the “reader view” on the upper left of your browser (looks like a few parallel horizontal lines) the type will become bigger, black, and perfectly formatted for the sceen!

  2. “Going to bed early is how grown ups sleep in” I love that! That’s one of the nice things about being an empty nester. I can go to bed at 9:00 on a Friday night if I feel like it without having to worry about what time the teenagers are getting in. I’m a lark so I’d rather wake up early and enjoy the solitude before my husband gets up. Hopefully your little one will start sleeping in before you have teens keeping you up late!

  3. Reno! Your readership will demand (ok, politely request) pictures!

    Last year we did a kitchen renovation including a bump-out, adding another living room, reflooring the old living room (which now has no name but “the room with the fireplace”), gutting a powder room, and redoing the master bath. It was an… adventure. Much like childbirth, however, once the pain is over you’re so glad you did it!

    It’s also a great excuse to lower expectations on cooking for a while, while also rekindling an interest in it. After 3 months of takeout every night we were ready to get back to the chopping block!

    1. YES to all of this. We did a 4 month remodel back in 2013/2014 and someone gave me the good advice that I would likely cry once. Another person said I would be so glad it was done and the four months of badness would disappear after we saw how nice it was in the end. They were both right 😀

      We’re about to do some less intense remodeling at our new home, and I’m not looking forward to the process, but am super excited about the end result 🙂

      1. @ARC – I don’t think mine will be too intense. Possibly the bathroom reno, but not the kitchen/living room, as we don’t actually need to knock anything down, or even change appliances. It’s more face lift than major reconstructive stuff. But I am looking forward to seeing it look better!

  4. I’ve been trying to plan my weeks as you suggest–weekends on Wednesdays, Fri afternoon and Sun evening to prepare for the following week. This doesn’t always happen, but it’s gotten me to think about my weekends further in advance, resulting in better weekends. Sometimes I end up planning for the work week on Mon morning, which may not be ideal in terms of using peak alertness to do lighter tasks, but it works for me right now because my kids are in preschool Mon and Tues mornings and I end up in a nearby coffee shop. I can do “deep work” tasks like article writing, but if I haven’t already prepped on Friday, the more distracting environment lends itself to email and organization/planning.

    P.S. Here’s the article you were kind enough to let me interview you for (I just noticed a typo in the last sentence of the intro–ugh, will get that fixed! Thanks again, Laura!

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