By Caitlin Kelly
I know a younger writer who — ho hum — has produced five books and four children in less than a decade.
Laura Vanderkam is happily and lucratively obsessed with the notion of time management, which isn’t as compelling to me. (But it’s clearly working for her!)
I do love her stance on a default phrase we often use — “I’m too busy”.
No, she says, the words you want, and want to mean, are “It’s not a priority.”
The things you devote the most of your time to become, de facto, your priorities.
It’s where we invest the bulk of our energy, money and attention. Our hopes and dreams.
We sacrifice other things to make sure these are, and remain, a central part of our life.
It might be your pet(s) or children or partner or your job.
It might be a passion project.
It could be competing in triathlons and beating your own personal record, time and again.
It might be setting up a charitable foundation, as several people I know have done.
It might — as several friends of mine are facing — be recovering, far more slowly than they’d hope, from surgery, illness or accident, losing hours and hours to maintaining or trying to regain their health and strength.
Sometimes life makes sure whatever we think is a priority…isn’t anymore.
I think about this a lot because, like many of you, my life is filled with so many simultaneous things I hope to accomplish personally, professionally, intellectually, physically — from losing at least 30 pounds to publishing several more books.
So I make time to take a jazz dance class on Monday and Friday mornings which leaves my sweat in puddles on the floor and am finishing up my third book proposal, with a publisher already asking to see it.
I want my marriage (my second, 15 years in) to keep thriving, which means paying attention to my husband and his needs.
So we have both chosen to stay freelance (which means a sort of financial tapdance many can’t tolerate) so we can now sit and eat a mid-day meal at home together or travel much more often and widely because, as long as we have work and wi-fi, we can still earn a living.
I love to travel and am always planning the next journey, whether a road trip, a visit to a friend out-of-state or another flight across an ocean.
So I try to stay healthy enough to work hard, then take breaks. We nurture our relationships, so we have places to stay and friends to visit. We save money so we can afford flights, car rental, meals and lodging.
I want to make enough money to enjoy some real luxuries, whether beautiful new clothing, well-made accessories, regular massages.
Yet I also want to keep enough of a savings cushion I never have to fear poverty.
(That’s an ongoing conflict for me!)
I want to do work that deeply challenges me intellectually, no matter how much that can scare me.
What if I fail?
I now co-chair a volunteer board, The Writers Emergency Assistance Fund, (which sends a grant of up to $4,000 within a week or so to a needy writer who meets the criteria), so I’m testing and growing my leadership skills.
It’s already proving a real challenge to manage all the goals we’ve set for ourselves.
But which of all of these is most important and why?
How about you?
What matters most to you — and are you putting that first in your life right now?