Nailed It!

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the following questions:

What would you do if you didn’t have to do it perfectly?

If you dared to be a beginner, what would you try?

What’s something you would never try but sounds like fun? 

I read those questions in A Book That Takes Its Time: An Unhurried Adventure in Creative Mindfulness, (love this book!) but they originally appeared in the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. (haven’t read this book, but have always meant to!)

I especially love the first question because I am a perfectionist, which for me translates into either not finishing or not even attempting a lot of things. If I never finish something, it will never be done incorrectly or fall short of what my vision of it was. If I never attempt it, I can never fail. It’s a foolproof method except it keeps me from doing a lot of the things I really want to do, like host dinner parties, finish my novel, write this blog, landscape my yard, etc.

It’s frustrating because a lot of what’s most important to me, a lot of what’s on my life list, is stuff I’m afraid to fully pursue because I’m afraid If I really go after it, I’ll just mess it up. So it keeps me stuck in this loop of wanting to do something that I ultimately don’t do because I am afraid to fail. Very annoying.

So, how do I get off this self-defeating merry-go-round and actually make some progress towards my goals?

This is going to seem like a weird transition, but stay with me. Have you seen the new Netflix show “Nailed It!”? My kids and I have been cry-laughing over this show. On “Nailed It!” inexperienced but enthusiastic bakers attempt to make impossibly difficult cakes and cookies with hilarious results. Here’s a description of a scene from the show from a recent New Yorker article:

 “I don’t mean to laugh, but your princess is terrifying,” Byer says to a contestant named Toni. She’s doubled over in laughter in front of the final reveal: a collapsed phallus of a castle tower made of underbaked vanilla cake coated in liver-beige frosting. The princess is demonic: a disembodied ball of fondant perched on one of the layers, with giant, staring white eyes, two snakelike nostrils poked in with a toothpick, and long blond hair that snakes down the buttercream walls like lumpy, overlong Cheetos.”

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There is something about the earnestness of the contestants trying to make these incredibly challenging cakes that just cracks us up and brings us pure JOY. It is so refreshing to see other people struggle and NOT accomplish what they set out to do, but have the ability to genuinely laugh about it right along with the audience.

I wish I could bring the Nailed It! attitude to accomplishing my goals. This, I think, would be the antidote to my perfectionism.

After all, the stakes are only as big as they are in my head. I think my perfectionist brain lies to me and tells me the stakes are enormous, that everything depends upon the outcome of whatever it is I attempt to do, whether it be writing a book or having people over for dinner. When really it’s about the process. I like the process of writing. I like the process of cooking and being hospitable. Doing these things makes me happy and helps me feel connected to other people. Why am I denying myself the pleasure of doing something that makes me happy?

I’ll tell you why. Because perfectionism is whispering in my ear, telling me it could be a disaster. It could be humiliating. Some dinner guest might wander into the wrong room and see that we actually live like a pack of animals, and the rest of the house was just cleaned up for the benefit of outsiders. My toilet might overflow and send a river of toilet water down the stairs (this actually happened at an office Christmas party I hosted. Still trying to laugh about it.) The food could be terrible and we’d have to order takeout. The book could get a bad review and it would make me cry. My blog might be trolled by Donald Trump. “There are so many things that could go wrong! Better not to try at all,” perfectionism warns.

And I totally believe all of this. This all sounds very plausible and like solid advice. So I don’t do the things that scare me. And everything stays very safe, and for the most part nothing bad happens because I haven’t risked anything.

But then again nothing happens.

And the thing is I want stuff to happen. I want to accomplish the goals that have been on my New Years Resolution lists for the past decade. I’m forty-something now. One day I will be really mad at myself if I don’t do some of the stuff I always meant to do. And there’s no telling when that one day will be. It could be a long time from now or it could be sooner.

Perfectionism has literally gotten me nowhere. It’s time to listen to a different voice.

It’s all about the story you tell yourself. I have been telling myself a pretty intense story. My current story is like Mission Impossible, where everything depends on me and the stakes are very high and I’d better not mess it up or else the whole world could blow up. The Nailed It! story is way on the other end of the spectrum. Nothing is at stake. Maybe you could win $10,000 if you are the winner, but that’s like a bonus. Nothing bad will happen if you are not the winner. And either way you will have had a blast and probably spent some time doubled over in laughter. So why not give it a shot?

If I could just scooch my story a little further towards the Nailed It! side of the spectrum and away from Mission Impossible, I think I would be much happier and get a lot more accomplished. So that’s my new goal.

Back to the original question I’ve been pondering: What would you do if you didn’t have to do it perfectly?

The answer is anything I want. Everything. Because nothing is ever going to be perfect and that’s ok. It’s not just ok, it’s wonderful! It’s such a relief. It’s the kind of news that makes me want to cry happy tears.

What’s the story you tell yourself? Do you struggle with perfectionism? What would you do if you didn’t have to do it perfectly? I’d love to hear.

Nailed it!

Elizabeth

 

 


Goals Part 2: What’s on your life list?

 

My friend Meredith is such an inspiration to me in so many ways. One way I want to be more like her is to be the kind of person who gets up early and journals. Meredith gets up early every day and writes all of her prayers, her worries, her goals in one place. It’s more than a habit for her. It’s a daily spiritual practice that sets her compass on the things that matter most to her.

Recently I was talking to her about some worry I was having about one of my kids. I think it was something silly like a standardized test score, but at the time it was feeling like a big deal. She gently reminded me that everything she has heard me say about parenting rejects the idea of reducing kids’ achievements to how they perform on a test on a certain day. She reminded me of a Facebook picture I had posted recently of my boys hugging each other goodbye before one of them went away to camp.

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“That’s what you care about,” she said. “That picture. That’s who you are raising.”

Oh yeah. I forgot. She’s totally right.

But if Meredith hadn’t reminded me I might have spun myself into a little shame cyclone, and you know my kids would have had to bear the brunt of all that craziness. I mean, I had already gone out that day and bought a workbook. Who knows what other tiger mom shenanigans I was capable of if left to my own spinning, anxiety-fueled thoughts? Instead, Meredith was able to help me steer my rudder back to what I actually care about–raising loving kids who love each other–and focus on that.

She told me that on the inside cover of her journal she always writes a list of what she hopes to accomplish. These aren’t goals that you cross off of a to-do list. Meredith’s list is basically a catalog of what she values above all else, so that when she gets herself worked up about something and feels lost, she can go back to her list and see clearly again. She can remember, oh right, this is what I care about.

Here is Meredith’s journal that she very kindly shared with me and gave me permission to share with you.

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I am calling this a “life list” because I want to distinguish it from just a normal to-do list.

I love this list so much. I want to steal all of Meredith’s things because they are what I want too, but I feel like this would be cheating, so I decided to create my own life list. Like Meredith I am starting each sentence with “I want.”

My life list:

  1. I want to make the people around me feel safe and loved exactly as they are.
  2. I want to show the love and grace God has shown to me to others.
  3. I want to connect with nature by gardening, hiking, trail running, and being outside as much as possible.
  4. I want to take care of my body by eating foods that fuel me and by exercising regularly.
  5. I want to use my love for writing to connect with other people and feel known.
  6. I want to raise children who know they are loved by their parents and by God no matter what they achieve, or do, or don’t do.
  7. I want to raise children who love their neighbors as themselves and who use their gifts to make the world better than they found it.
  8. I want my actions to reflect that God is at the center of my life.

Now the nerd in me really wants to make an algorithm out of this list. Something with lots of boxes and arrows that I can pull out whenever I want to take on a new goal. But Teddy is waiting for me to finish this post so we can go to the library. I will have to geek out another time.

But I would encourage you to make your own life list. These are the big things you want to accomplish with your life. The values you care about most. Not to be morbid, but think of this as a list of what you will care about most when you are taking your last breaths.

Eek. Pretty heavy stuff. But I did say you should always start at the end when making a new goal, right? 

When you want to start on the journey towards accomplishing a new goal, first check that this goal aligns with what you truly value and what you want your life to be about. Because what’s the point of chasing a dream that in the end doesn’t line up with who you want to be?

Ok, off to the library now.

Please share your life list with me! I would love to be inspired by you! You can comment below or on my facebook page.

Happy list-making!

Love,
Elizabeth

 

 


GOOOOOOAAAALLLssss!!!!

This is a post about making goals (not the soccer kind, but the life kind).

I am a dreamer. I love thinking BIG about what is possible. I see potential in everything. I love brainstorming, envisioning something as new and better than what it is today. I love extreme makeover shows where in one 30-minute episode someone conceives of a complete home renovation and then makes it happen practically overnight.

I wish real life were like Fixer Upper. I wish I could just sketch out a plan for some huge thing I want to accomplish, have a quick convo with my team of experts and then boom everything happens just as I had envisioned.

But of course real life does not work this way. For most of us goals take a long, sometimes boring, tedious slog through self-doubt and long stretches of  asking yourself “why am I doing this?” Until hopefully you get to that glorious finish line.

This post is the first in a series that will explore how to make goals that are achievable and strategies for actually accomplishing what you set out to do.

So, let’s say you have a goal in mind. You want to run a marathon, write a novel, start a business. You didn’t just come up with this goal on a whim. It is something that has been tapping on your shoulder for a while. It is something you feel is worthy of the time and energy it will take to accomplish. Great! Now, it’s time to figure out where to start.

STEP 1: START AT THE END

I have run three marathons and trained for each one somewhat differently. During this last training I learned the importance of starting at the end. One of the biggest mistakes people make when running a marathon is to do their longest training run too close to the race. I made this mistake when I trained for my first marathon. People are understandably nervous about running 26.2 miles and want to make sure they can run the distance, so they sneak in a really long run of 20+ miles right before the race, thinking that having that distance under their belt will give them confidence come race day. It makes perfect sense intellectually. But physically it puts you at a huge disadvantage. You need about a month to recover from running 20-something miles. You have broken your body down right before you need it to perform at its best. Not a good plan.

So what I learned with marathon training is to start with the end and work back. If my race is January 1st, then I know that my longest training run needs to be no later than December 1st. I plug that distance into my training calendar and then work backwards from there decreasing mileage each week until I get to my starting point.

To use another example, if I know I want to submit to a writing contest, I would work backwards from the submission date creating a timeline of drafting and revising milestones from there. Sometimes this process forces me to come to terms with the fact that my goal is completely unrealistic. Kind of a sad face moment to be sure, but it allows me to not waste time and move on to a new, achievable goal.

Sometimes goals don’t have an obvious end date or deadline. This is when you have to invent one for yourself. Maybe there’s not a contest that you are submitting to, but you need a deadline for finishing that book anyway. That’s when you make a pact with a friend that you will send them a finished manuscript by X date. You create your own deadline, and you stick to it.

This strategy is hard for me because I have really nice friends who I know will still love me if I miss our deadline. It works better for me to find a contest deadline. And thankfully there are always writing contests and grants to apply for.

STEP 2: BUDGET YOUR TIME

In a previous post I wrote about the limitations of time. We have more time than we think we do, but time is still a finite thing. If you start a new goal, the time you will need to accomplish that goal will have to come from somewhere. You are spending time on something new, and that means you will be spending less time on something else. Sounds super obvious to say that, but we don’t like to think about the nitty gritty of how much time something will take. (Hence, the popularity of the 30-minute home renovation shows).

So, in the case of training for a marathon, you need to crunch the numbers and see where that training time will come from. Ditto for any other goal. Figure out your end point, work backwards and plug that time into a schedule. Doing Laura Vanderkam’s time log is a great way to see the cold, hard facts about how you currently spend your time and where there is wiggle room. Think of it as your budget. If you wanted to buy a new car you wouldn’t just go buy whatever car you wanted regardless of what it cost. You would look at how much money you have and how much you can afford to spend. You have to budget your time the same way.

Hopefully these first few tips will set you up for success! More goal making strategies are forthcoming, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, keep taking those daily baby steps on whatever bigger journey you are on. I am right there with you.

Love,
Elizabeth

P.S. Thank you for reading! I would love to know more about your goals. Tell me what you are working towards so I can cheer you on to the finish line! You can comment below or on my facebook page.

Whatever your goal is I hope you take a step towards achieving it today!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Summer Solstice

 

If only there were a sunscreen to protect you (and me) from all the blue light absorbed into our bodies and brains each day.

I would slather it on thick as frosting.

I’m writing this online while I listen to you and your friends play–each of you in separate houses with headsets on. You guys are a squad, and you’re looking for people to, let’s face it, kill.

At least it’s kind of social, I rationalize. At least you’re talking while you kill people.

Meanwhile, I’m typing stuff that maybe someone will read if I let them.

You guys are laughing at least, connecting. I should stop typing and make you take your headset off and we should go outside. It rained earlier and the grass is still wet. The light is perfect. It’s like one of those Instagram pictures people hashtag “no filter.”

But what would we talk about? It would be so quiet. We might have to come up with something to say. We might find ourselves boring. And there are so many ways to avoid that awkwardness. Me at my computer, you and your headset.

Which is how we got ourselves into this situation in the first place.

You walked in as I was writing this and I let you read it over my shoulder.

My words made you sniffle a little laugh at first. Then in the end you felt like I must hate what you love and that made you mad. I tried to explain myself. It’s not you, it’s me. That old line. I don’t hate what you love. I feel guilty. There is a chorus of moms like a Greek play in my head, shaming me for letting you check out in this way. For not always giving you the perfect childhood that I dreamed up from books and movies. I feel guilty for being lazy and checking out on my own screens too much. For me it’s not about the kills. It’s about the likes. But we are the same. Only I should be better. I should be all the things I want you to be.

The summer solstice is Thursday. Thursday there will be the most light-filled minutes there will be all year. Let’s fill each of those minutes like a bucket, with real things, things that aren’t stitched together with code. Let’s walk to the bakery and take the dog. Let’s make lemonade from actual lemons.

 

 

 

 

 


Turning the Car Around

This past weekend we learned a valuable lesson in parenting teens. Sometimes you have to be willing to turn the car around.

Let me explain. We were on our way to a camping trip that had been on the books for two months. Our friends had invited us to go camping at a dance hall in the Texas Hill Country. We’d swim in the Blanco River, eat a yummy potluck dinner and then dance the night away to Texas swing music. I was really looking forward to it.  It was exactly what I wanted to be doing last Saturday. The perfect little getaway.

But the two teens in our family had different ideas. Charlie had been invited to a marathon scavenger hunt birthday party that lasted eight hours and involved every single cool thing you could do in our very cool city. We compromised and said Charlie could go to half of the party, then we would go camping. By the time we rendezvoused to pick him up at the scavenger hunt, the party was at an escape room and Charlie was not happy to be missing out on that. He was pissed actually.

Meanwhile Emma had been invited to hang out with her friends that night. They were going to walk to get pizza and then watch Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.  My daughter who rarely cries, was wiping streaming tears off of her cheeks about the prospect of missing out on eating pizza for the second time that weekend and watching a Netflix show with friends she sees everyday. And not only was she missing this stuff, she was going to have to sleep ON THE GROUND. Oh, the injustice!

On the other hand Teddy (age 9) was already wearing his bathing suit and really pumped to swim in the Blanco River and go camping.

Did I mention we had a cooler full of food and our car was one hundred percent packed with camping gear? And we were already on the highway to the Hill Country?

After some pretty intense discussion involving gems like “you never listen to us! You always just do what you want to do and don’t ask us!” I gave Brandon the throat slitting gesture, which I intended to mean it was time to abort this mission (and not “you’re dead,” which thankfully was not how Brandon interpreted it).

We turned the car around and took Charlie back to the escape room. I didn’t know if they would let him in late and told him that. “It’s okay, I’ll just wait in the lobby until they’re done,” he said. That was how much he didn’t want to be going camping with us. He’d rather wait by himself in the lobby of an escape room. Thankfully they let him in. I left just as the escape room lady was explaining to a very happy Charlie, “your mission is to stop an evil wizard by finding eight potions…”

I walked outside in the bright, sunshine-y, 80-degree weather (perfect for swimming and camping) to our overstuffed car where Emma, Teddy and Brandon were waiting in the parking lot. We came up with a plan so that Teddy, who was sad to be missing out on swimming, could still take a dip in a natural body of water. We drove across town to a park on Lake Austin where there was a little public beach. The four of us had fun hanging out and playing in the water and enjoying the beautiful summer-like temps until it was time to pick Charlie up from the party.

When we got home, Emma walked over to her friend’s house while the rest of us unpacked the car. The act of unpacking made it feel like we’d actually been somewhere. In a way we had. It felt like we left that morning the parents of kids and came home the parents of teens. Not really your dream vacation, but all part of the parenting journey. We greeted our dog as though we’d been gone for a week, and admitted that it was going to be pretty nice to sleep in our own beds.

And you know what else is nice? That feeling that comes from listening to your kids and giving them a voice. It’s hard to know how to show love to a teen sometimes. They’re not really into PDA anymore. But turning the car around and showing them with your actions, I hear you and I get it. That is pretty much their love language.

I’m not arguing that your teens get to decide everything you do as a family and that their needs and desires always trump what you have planned. But in this particular case, it felt right to sacrifice our idea of fun to let them have their idea of fun. Plus, has anyone ever camped with a sullen teen? Neither have I, nor do I ever want to.

 

 


Wasting Time

I worry a lot about time. And whether I’m wasting it. Whether what I’m doing is productive, whether it “counts” towards one of my many to-dos.

Because if it doesn’t, then what’s the point? I will have squandered this precious commodity. There is only so much sand in the hourglass. That laundry isn’t going to do itself.

This is one of the main reasons I tend to avoid writing. It feels like wasted time. I won’t finish whatever it is I’m working on in the amount of time I have, so what’s the point? Better to clean the toilet instead. Then I can cross something off my list.

When I tell people I’m a writer, I want to cringe. A voice inside me says, “You liar. You would rather clean the toilet than write any day!”

Writing feels like deciding to wander around in a maze. I go into it knowing, I probably won’t get to my destination in my allotted time; in fact there is a good chance that I will probably just get more lost.

I read two pieces of advice today from two very different sources, but both of them seemed to be speaking directly to me about how I spend my time.

The first was from a devotional on my Jesus Calling app. In case you’ve never heard of Jesus Calling, it’s a daily devotional based on selected Bible verses and written as though Jesus is talking to you in the first person. Here’s what I read today:

“Talk with me about every aspect of your day, including your feelings. Remember that your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communing with me. A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with me, even if many things remain undone at the end of the day. Do not let your to-do list (written or mental) become an idol directing your life. Instead, ask my spirit to guide you moment by moment. He will keep you close to me.”

Then I also read this piece of writing advice from Anne Lamott:

“The most important advice I would give my younger writer self is what I’d give my younger woman self: What other people think of you is none of your business. And I wish I had believed when I was a young writer that I had some time to find out who I was and that I was going to find a precious community of older colleagues who would help me. The American way is to do it yourself, figure it out yourself, stick to the decisions you make — and all of that was a lie. I was taught as a child ‘we don’t waste time; we don’t waste paper.’ If you stared off into space when I was eight, a grown-up said, ‘Don’t you have anything to do? Is your room clean?’ I’d teach my younger self to stare off into space more often. I would tell her to waste more paper. I would tell her she doesn’t need to stick to a decision; she can change her mind.”

Could it be that my to-do list is controlling me instead of me controlling it? I had never thought of it as an idol before. But maybe all this focus on executable tasks is keeping me from what is really important. Perhaps wandering around in the maze a little lost is a much better use of my time and not a waste at all. God is with me in that maze and will likely guide me exactly where I need to be if I am willing to hand over the reins to him. The more I enter the maze, the better I will be at letting God direct my steps.

When I’m not writing I don’t feel whole. When I’m not seeking God, I feel lost, rudderless. I can tackle all the to-dos in the world, but if I’m not “wasting time” writing and connecting with God, my life will still feel unfulfilled.

My prayer: God, I want to give up the need to control my life and my time. Please help me trust that you will be there with me when I sit down to write. Give me the courage to write even when it feels safer to clean the toilet. Give me the desire and the discipline to carve out time that has no defined purpose other than to connect with you. I will enter the maze. I trust that you will direct my steps. Amen.


How Much Time Have You Got?

I have been reading the book You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. Well, re-reading because I originally started this book back when my kids were younger, and I think I just gave up. My time was just so unstructured and at their mercy at that point in my life that it was too frustrating to try to act like I had much control over it.

This is the first year that all of my kids are in school, and I am not working outside the home. If ever there was a time that I could put some structure around my time, this is it. So I’m turning to Vanderkam’s book once again for help.

The thesis of the book is twofold: Given that there are 168 hours in a week, “you can choose how to spend your 168 hours and you have more time than you think.”

The first exercise the book asks you to do is to track your time for a week. You account for every hour of the day, including when you are asleep. According to Vanderkam’s research people sleep a lot more than they think and work a lot less than they think. We overestimate time spent on things we don’t like to do, such as emptying the dishwasher or paying bills, and underestimate how much TV we’re watching. We tend to avoid activities that take initiative or thought, things like spending quality time with our kids or exercising, and we try to squeeze these things in as after-thoughts, making us feel pressed for time. When actually we aren’t.

Vanderkam poses the question: “what if we viewed every minute as a choice?” How would we spend our time differently?

It helps me to think of time as a concrete thing, like coins or tokens. Let’s say you have 168 tokens for a week. How would you spend them? Would that make you think differently about spending an hour mindlessly clicking on Container Store storage baskets you will never actually purchase? Ahem, just to give an example.

So, I logged most of my time for a week and learned a lot. One thing I learned is that I really don’t get enough sleep. I get about 6 hours a night. Life with teens starts early in the morning and goes until late at night when our oldest is still completing homework. She has A LOT of homework. She then also has to get up at 6 am to be at school across town at 7:30. So, in order to have a little time to myself before she wakes up, I get up at 5:45 am. When you go to bed at 11:30 and then read for 30 minutes as I have been doing, this is not enough sleep. So this is an area where I am not spending enough of my time tokens, and my body feels it big-time. I am really dragging most weekdays.

Another thing I learned is that I spend way too much time cooking dinner and cleaning up after dinner. I enjoy cooking. And I enjoy eating, so I don’t mind spending some time tokens in this way. But there were several days last week where I spent 3 hours cooking and cleaning up dinner. I’m not even sure how that happened. I think I made more complicated stuff than I normally do. I get interrupted a lot, which makes any task take longer. I always seem to want to add one more roasted vegetable, which requires 10 minutes to wash, peel and chop, or I think to make a salad “real quick,” which turns into looking up a salad dressing recipe I remember reading about online, printing it out, oops, printer’s out of paper, where is the laptop? Who left the laptop unplugged and open so that the battery is drained, etc., etc. Somehow a little salad that no one will eat but me has cost me 30 minutes.

Want to know the dinner my family absolutely loved last week? Quesadillas. Those took about 15 minutes. They were a desperate plan b when my Instant Pot French Dip sandwiches took about 2 hours longer to cook than I expected.

In other words, I could spend a lot less time on cooking and spend it sleeping instead. The world would keep spinning on its axis if we didn’t eat such elaborate meals, and I would probably be a happier, more well-rested person.

Also, and this is painful for me to admit, for someone who has big dreams of publishing a novel, I spent a whopping one hour writing last week. Sad face. I’m not a total bum, I promise. I spent my would-be writing time doing other, good things. I made a meal for a friend who lives an hour away who just had twins. I spent two hours driving and two hours holding babies. About three hours went into shopping for and making the meals and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I also went on a Silent Retreat my church offered. I spent two hours driving and talking with a friend and three hours of silent prayer, journaling and Bible study. These pursuits didn’t result in additional chapters in my novel or a cleaner house, but they time well spent in my opinion.

I’m not here to beat up on myself or congratulate myself for how I used my time, but looking at the raw data of how I spent 168 hours has already inspired me to make some changes.

An exercise that Vanderkam recommends doing once you’ve completed a week-long time log is to make a list of 100 dreams, a list of activities you’d like to try or accomplish during your life. She encourages you to cross off the ones you’ve done and note how they made you feel. Here’s a few entries from my list:

  1. Run a marathon  This made me feel like I can do anything if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and don’t quit.
  2. Write a novel. This made me feel like I am a “real” writer, not just an aspiring one.
  3. Publish a novel.
  4. Spend a week alone writing, reading and being outside.
  5. Travel to a foreign country with my whole family.
  6. Go on a family vacation at a working farm.
  7. Have an organized, clutter-free house.
  8. Run a 50-mile race in a beautiful location.
  9. Have close, authentic, fun relationships with each of my children and my husband.
  10. Write a book of essays.
  11. Start a gardening program at our elementary school. This made me feel empowered and made me feel like I was making a meaningful difference in a place that is very important to me.
  12. Create a beautiful native landscape on the hill in my front yard.
  13. Do a pull-up!
  14. Blog about topics that help other people grow and feel empowered and more joyful.
  15. Read the whole Bible.
  16. Raise kids who grow up to make the world a better place.
  17. Go to the Grand Canyon.
  18. Learn how to snowboard.
  19. Have a regular front yard gathering with our neighbors.
  20. Ride my bike rather than take my car.
  21. Have fresh flowers around the house.
  22. Go on a trip with each of my children individually.
  23. Host more dinner parties.
  24. Start a supper club.
  25. Live in a foreign country.
  26. Rent a house somewhere completely different for one month in the summer.
  27. Have a big garden that could feed our family.

Next, Vanderkam says you should answer these two questions:

What do I do best, that other people cannot do nearly as well?

Well, no one else can write my novel or have close relationships with my kids. That’s only something I can do.

What things do I spend time on that other people could do, or could do better?

Someone else can cook, clean, do landscaping projects, make cookies for the bake sale. I don’t have to spend time on these things unless I choose to.

***UPDATE****

Since this is sort of a secret blog at this point, I forgot to publish this post and am coming back to it a few months later. I think I’m doing much better with how I spend my time. Like, for example, I’ve figured out how to get myself to write everyday and I’ve been making some good progress on my novel. Two of my writing group friends are fashioning a silly hat that I will have to wear at the coffee shop where we meet to write if I do not write 500 words a day. Talk about motivating! I am not a silly hat person, so this is working like a charm! Also, the last few times I’ve brought a meal to someone who was sick, I have brought them takeout. I used to think that wasn’t allowed, but then I thought, would I mind if someone brought me takeout if I were sick? No, I would not mind one bit. In fact, I might prefer it actually. Anyway, these are some small changes. Letting myself off the hook in some areas, and then not not letting myself off the hook in others.

The key mindset change for me is realizing that I do not have all the time in the world. I have 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week, 8,760 in a year. Now this is starting to sound like a song from Rent, but you get the idea.

We only have so much time, but how we use it is up to us.