That annual moment where we look forward to all that we want to do. I'm realizing that, professionally, I can be like the January gym rat. Full of ideas and ambition, then life and laziness and chocolate take over.
Last year I had similar thoughts, but it took me a while to put my finger on it exactly. I never set annual goals for 2017. Instead, I sat down on the first of each month and did an aspirational task list. Finish this particular quilt, query a manuscript so many times, catch up on Financials, that sort of thing. To do lists are awesome! Doing this allowed me to keep our family life in greater perspective.
I'll be honest, I don't put much credence into the term work/life balance. I don't like the implication that it is a seesaw. That balance somehow means stasis or that one is higher than the other when not in balance. So setting this monthly aspirational task lists allows me to look at what we have going on as a family (swim meets, dance performances, visiting family) in relation to teaching gigs and deadlines. Then I can see what I can realistically fit in above and beyond them.
This whole thing has been great for gaining perspective and managing expectations. I did not end the year upset that I didn't launch a new video course, for example, because I knew that there was no way I could have made the time to make it happen. No matter how much I wanted to. Oh, how I want to. I could have had my son skip ballet to do it. Or not get involved in the family business as needed to make it happen. But those other things were bigger priorities. Seeing my monthly lists in my planner, along with the family schedule keeps it all in perspective.
Another confession. I am feeling a lot of disdain for the quilt industry of late. Not for quilters or fabric or quilts or the sheer fun of making. But for the behind the scenes industry numbers game and operations, of the constant hustle. Those who play this game know what I am talking about. The regular consumer may even understand it too if you pay attention to launches of books, fabric, and patterns. If you don't need to know, then I recommend keeping it that way. But playing the game is exhausting, Sisyphean on a good day.
When you combine my busy real life with this disdain, it only adds to the need for perspective. I won't lie, just a few years ago this probably would have made me angry, real angry. Ambition is strong here. The clarity of the last year is so liberating though. I am okay with things, really. Last year was probably my quietest year professionally. I loved every second of teaching, I pitched articles and met all my deadlines, and that was about it. No major projects, no secrets ready to come out. And no early, early mornings to get it all in. No stress related tantrums. No TV as babysitter so I can get it done. (No gym much either, but we can't win at everything.)
All of this to say, that these monthly ambitious task lists are da bomb! Put 6-10 things on the list. Include things you know you have to do - planned classes, deadlines, entries needed. And include things you want to do. Refer to it often. Very often.
For example, here is my January 2018 List:
- Film and post a Shark Quilt Video
- Finish a baby quilt that has been basted for over a year
- Re-jig two quilt tops from the Quilts Under Construction pile
- Finish 2017 Accounting
- Write notes/outline for a new story I thought of over Christmas
- Finish Chapter 3 of my novel
- Send out 5 new Picture Book Queries
Ambitious yes, but totally doable with the time I have in between dance rehearsals, the gym, a synchro competition, a hockey tournament, time spent at 3 pools for the kids, making dinner and snacks, making love, and watching the new season of Workin' Moms. Early mornings, some late nights, stolen moments, and focused action. Let's do this!