I spent Monday and Tuesday of this week at a conference in DC, joining a learning intensive as faculty and a panelist. After the conference on Tuesday, I scurried back to Frederick just in time to join a book club meeting that evening. Too tired to do much of anything Tuesday night, I went to bed early, woke up at the crack of dawn the next morning to do some work before my Wednesday yoga class, then rushed home to shower, change, and load the car for our board's quarterly meeting last night.
In news that will likely surprise no one: I felt under-prepared for the conference on Monday, I hadn't finished the book in time for the book club meeting on Tuesday, and I forgot a few significant pieces of paper needed for the board meeting on Wednesday. I have been, contrary to Ron Swanson's words of wisdom, half-assing not just two things, but many things all at once.
This is a mistake I've made more times than I can count, and you'd think I'd know better by now. Luckily, none of the mistakes I made this week were catastrophic in nature, but I spent more energy stressing out over what I couldn't remember I'd forgotten than I needed to, and all because I haven't yet found the capacity within myself to say no.
I say this not because I was pressured into doing any one of these things this week: I was excited about all three things on my calendar and am energized by the enthusiasm and conversation that came in each. But by failing to recognize my own capacity--not just to physically arrive in one place after the next, which was its own kind of challenge, but to be there mentally as well--I failed to bring my best self to any or all of these activities.
I'm not the first person--and certainly not the first woman--to write about the difficulties of saying "no." We as individuals are constantly asked for things, for support, for time, and I know I've made huge strides in saying no to opportunities and requests that I know are not a fit for me.
But how to say no to things I want to do? How do I balance the time and energy I have in a day with all of the many, many places I want to be in that time? I want to maintain my blog and write for Shelf Awareness and try my hand at writing about books in new ways for new sites. I want to participate in the conference and also make it to that book club meeting and also be on top of my game for our board meetings. I want to take amazing photographs and find time to edit and share them and also walk my dog and go for a run and have a clean house. I want to read all the review books I'm sent and also all these classics collecting dust on my shelf and also every book my friends have recommended to me.
What I've always done in an attempt to do more and be more and think more is try my best at multi-tasking: I write reviews during my lunch breaks from work (and have to go back to edit them later); I listen to audiobooks while I clean the house (and often stop the cleaning to listen or rewind when I realize I've missed a section); I read ten pages book club book on the metro ride out of DC after the conference (and retained very little of it). My constant push for efficiency at all costs has made me inefficient. It's time for a reset. It's time to going back to doing--and enjoying--what I'm doing at any given moment for what it is, not for what it allowed me to do simultaneously. It's time to start whole-assing one thing at a time and stop half-assing all the rest.