Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin: Set Priorities

Thank you Tim Ferris for revolutionizing the concept of work life balance.  Yet I have some qualms about his book. The 4-hour Work Week simply is unrealistic for for recent college grads with no job, no money and no small business. While it has great ideas I’d love to implement someday, and some of them I already implement (limiting news watching, email checking, etc.)  I can’t just ask my bosses to do my job from home.  Even though I could actually do my job from home, I’m a work-study student being paid by the government. Working from home as a work-study is probably illegal.

I’ve tried to find some other ways to implement Ferriss’s suggestions. But I’m not going to spend time outlining them as Improvised Life does here.  What I’m really looking for is a way to take control of my 500 responsibilities, and spend more time enjoying life.  For my friends and I, if we do have a small business, it involves selling our individual talents (personal training, freelance writing, web design, acting, etc.)  The amount of money we earn for these types of gigs largely depends on the amount of time we actually spend working.  Yes, I can revolutionize how I spend my administrative time, but outside of working, 4 hours just wont cut it.

I’m doing everything I can to make sure I can find a job (to pay back my debt) when I graduate from this master’s program. I’m also doing everything I can to ensure that my future dreams and goals met. These are my priorities:

  1. Master’s Degree- Thesis
  2. Certification activities to teach in Florida- Studying for and taking the General Knowledge Exam (GKE).  I’ve rescheduled the test about 3 times since February.  My current test date is June 30th.
  3. My part-time, work-study job
  4. Volunteering
  5. Maintaining this Blog- writing weekly (so far so good), active discussion via twitter, facebook & other blogs
  6. Maintaining my blog about writing- Writing weekly (hit and miss on posting regularly), active discussion/promotion via twitter, facebook & other blogs
  7. Creating, editing and uploading YouTube videos about being black in America- Posting weekly, active discussion/promotion via facebook, twitter, youtube & other blogs
  8. Finding a place to move for August
  9. Changing my eating habits
  10. Exercising more
  11. Freelance writing- I haven’t found any new work yet.  I’d like to for the money, but I haven’t had time to even look.

As I complied this list, I realized that I’ve spread myself far too thin- the list is exhausting just to look at.  It doesn’t include maintaining personal relationships, taking care of my dog, or doing anything fun:  these three go without saying.  Most of the stuff on this list is work related. How many priorities/interests are on your list? Some of the items on my list are absolutes, while others must begrudgingly go on the chopping block.  I decided to get down five priorities for the month of June.

  1. Master’s Degree- Thesis
  2. Certification activities to Teach in Florida- GKE is June 30th.
  3. My part-time, work-study job
  4. Maintaining this Blog weekly
  5. Changing my eating habits

It is difficult to remove some of the things I love from the list. Yet  just because they are coming off the list today, doesn’t mean they are coming off of my priorities list permanently. I have to remind myself of that, or else I’ll try to cling to dear life for some of them.

I’ve decided to take an indefinite leave of absence from volunteering and allocate that time to studying for the GKE.  I haven’t been studying at all, and the pressure for getting this test completed amplifies as time passes. I enjoy working with the kids at the Boys & Girls club very much, but I had to take it off the list.

I also had to remove video blogging and maintaining my writing blog from this list.  I don’t love the video blogging as much as I thought I would and it isn’t relevant for what I’m trying to accomplish short term.  Additionally, I enjoy maintaining my writing blog, and I think it is valuable to reflect on my writing process for my thesis; however, I actually need to get some writing done for my thesis.  Writing about my thesis all day long won’t actually get it done.

Over the last week, I went ahead and took the steps necessary to (temporarily) eliminate some priorities.  I think the hardest part was telling people: “I can’t do this anymore.” Some of them didn’t care as much as I thought they would. However, I’ve found that once I got the courage to say “no more,” I’m worried about fewer things.  That’s not to say that all of my stress has been eliminated, yet it has been greatly reduced.

I have a dry erase board on which I wrote down those 5 priorities.  I look at it every day to remind myself I don’t need to worry about anything else.