You can’t do it all. But you can have it all.
It took me a long time to realize this. But in the end, it boils down to physics and the idea that “all” is a concept that is yours to define. There are 168 hours in a week. Not a minute more. And try as you might, you can only squeeze so much into a single day. Time is your most precious resource and so it’s important to learn to spend it wisely.
My "aha" moment came about ten years ago when I received a promotion. My kids were growing up and their schedules were getting crazy. My husband also worked and traveled. It was a Saturday morning and I was standing in my dining room, four different calendars splayed out across the table, trying to reconcile how I could be at four very different places that day. It was physically impossible. But more importantly, even if I could have bounced from event to event I wouldn’t have been engaged.
And that’s when it hit me – really hit me. I was totally overcommitted and it was within my control to change that. It was a very humbling feeling to know I just couldn’t give enough of myself to make good on all the things I agreed to do. So I owned this realization. I started by defining my core priorities and then I reduced and redefined (and in some cases outright resigned) my involvement in certain activities that were not core to the people and values most important to me. Up until that point, I’d been too willing to say “yes” and didn’t realize how essential it is to say “no.” Today, “no” is the most empowering word in my vocabulary, but learning to say it was really tough.
Success begets opportunities. The more successful you are, the more opportunities come your way. It feels good to be asked for your time and expertise. It can be flattering. Be it a board appointment, a big project or a mentorship opportunity, you want to contribute, to help out and pay it forward. But you also have to know when to pass and say “no.”
Some say a budget is a reflection of your priorities. Think of your calendar as a budget for your time. Decide what really matters to you most. Consider your total well-being – your family and friends, your health and finances, your career – and establish your core priorities.
Put those most important priorities on your calendar first. After that, you’ll see there’s little room left for what matters least. Keep checking in with yourself as moments in your life require you to shift focus from work to family and back again.
My son is now a junior in college. Our daughter will graduate from high school in June. For the past year, I’ve moved mountains to be able to attend as many of her sporting events as I can because, frankly, I missed some of my son’s events and really regret that. When my daughter leaves for college in the fall, I’ll take another look at my core priorities and reassess my definition of “all” once again.