It’s been almost two months since I left my software career (i.e. set aside my golden handcuffs) to get after my “someday.” It’s been absolutely amazing! One of my challenges has been adapting my schedule so I both have fun and feel productive every day. It was a quiet retreat in the woods that helped me crack this puzzle.
There are two ways my schedule has been a challenge. One. I went from clear cut to complete flexibility. I generally worked 9 to 5, and had lunch at noon with my fellow weirdos. Two. My work is a balance of two big things: writing my memoir and coaching. Easier than the three from before! Still, I had to ask myself, how do I want to spend my time?
I’ve tried some things. To avoid the inefficiency of task-switching, I first tried full days: Monday and Wednesday on memoir, Tuesday and Thursday on coaching. Have you ever written about your life? I mean, really written in excruciating scene-setting detail about moments for which you still hold on to some bitterness, heartache, or remorse? Just the other day I was refining a scene where we put down my first dog Cinnamon, our sweet yellow lab who broke her hip jumping out of Dad’s pickup truck during a quick drive around the block. I lived this moment ages ago. I wrote about it. I’ve read it and rewritten it a dozen times. Yet that day, as I crafted a more childlike description of the vet clinic where I said goodbye to Cinnamon forever, I wept. Monday was so intense that I struggled to get going on Wednesday.
I thought more flexibility might help, so I tried out a loosey-goosey schedule. Each morning, I’d write a potential to do list. Then I’d imagine doing each thing, and notice how it felt in my body. (This is the “shackles on, shackles off” test Martha Beck writes about here.) Then, I’d do only the things that felt awesome. It was great! The first day, my body told me it wasn’t so jazzed about yoga (even though I thought I should do yoga)… but omg a walk outside with Keira would be amazeballs! I noticed how much I wanted to do a little home decluttering. Sure there wasn’t much explicit “work” that made the cut, but the movement brought spontaneous business ideas. The clutter had been covertly zapping my energy. The day felt both productive and fun. Great success! By the second day, however, I was a little concerned about how much fun I was having. So instead of tuning in, I wrote down what I thought was most important. I didn’t touch my memoir all week.
When I noticed I’d let my memoir, a project that feels inexplicably important, sit untouched, I considered putting coaching on hold. Warren Buffett suggests focusing on what’s most important and saying no to everything else. That didn’t feel great either. I feel so driven to help people go after fulfilling careers! With exceptional questions and a bit of intuition, I dig deep to unearth the root of someone’s pain, and I consistently shine light on creative possibilities that have gone unnoticed. Plus, as I said above, writing my memoir is an emotional workout. This book has to move forward at its own pace. It needs to be protected from demands to hurry up and finish so I can move on to something else. It has always developed alongside other projects, and it will always be so.
Last week I spent three nights alone in a cabin in the woods. Each day I let my body guide me into doing what felt the most delightful. I learned, for instance, that I love me some early afternoon naps! It also became crystal clear that I am at my best, most creative, most energized self in the morning. Since my memoir is the most challenging and most creative work I’m doing, it makes sense to offer it my most powerful time. This beautiful book wants to be written as the sun rises.
As of this week, I’m playing with a schedule of memoir writing in the morning, coaching in the afternoons. I cap off the week with Flexible Fridays: maybe learning, maybe coaching, maybe (like today) ending early to spend time with Bob. I’ll continue to play with this balance of tuning into both my body and my intellect to schedule my days.
How is your balance of body + mind these days? Where can you tune in and adjust?
Finally, since you’ve likely been hearing about my memoir for over a year, I thought I’d share an excerpt!
An excerpt from I Killed My Mom and Other Lies I Tell Myself by Mandy Kubicek
…I start to rediscover warm, loving memories of Mom. It’s like there’s a treasure chest of these memories that have been locked up for twenty years, too much for a child to bear. Now, bit by bit, I’m able to crack open the shimmering golden chest and peek inside for a moment.
I remember Mom in the garden. A sunny day. We’re crouched down together, our tennis-shoed feet on the grass just outside of the brick wall that surrounds Mom’s strawberry garden. Our faces close. She’s teaching me about plants and watering and picking berries and the sunshine. She is so pretty. I feel loved and special. Her blue eyes look right at mine from behind her big eyeglasses. Maybe she has long gardening gloves on. Or maybe she gardens bare-handed, because she’s tough.
Mom teaches me to sew. Sitting at our antique oak dining room table, she cuts two matching hearts from purple fleece and shows me how to turn them into a tiny pillow.
She teaches me multiplication by lining up empty pop cans in rows on the laminate kitchen countertop. Red Coca-Cola cans and silver Diet Pepsi cans waiting to be squished by the crusher hanging on the shed wall.
She reads to me at night, sitting next to me, her back against the headboard, turning the crisp pages of Berenstain Bears books. She changes her voice when Papa Bear talks. She stops and lets me look at the pictures. Answers my questions…