Studio Musings

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I'm Back, have you missed me?

It seems that I've been running nonstop, full tilt, tiger-by-the-tail crazy with deadlines stacked one behind the other since at least last Fall.  I keep telling myself that as soon as I get past "X", (X being the next major deadline), everything will settle back out, and I keep running.  Sound familiar?  I'm guessing I'm not alone in this. 

Earlier this month my folks, who happen to also be some of my very best friends, invited me to tag along on a cruise with them.  Since we live about 1800 miles apart, we don't get to see each other nearly as much as we'd like. I jumped at the chance.  While cringing at another week lost in my schedule, I thought it would be a good opportunity to review what I've been doing and how I might get it to work better as I was definitely approaching burnout.  At least that's how I rationalized it going in.  :)

I hadn't anticipated just how difficult it would be to say goodby to the Internet for the week.  Out in the middle of the ocean, there are no cell towers, nor easy access to Internet, which I knew going in.  What I hadn't realized was just how much I counted on having that access.  Especially as I went into the trip knowing that I was way behind on my sadly neglected blog and my blog reading list. 

Then to top it off, I returned just in time to start jury duty for King County Superior Court, where I ended up in not one, but two jury selection pools.  With the second, I seriously started to think I might end up a juror on a criminal trial that could last several weeks.  Yikes!  All I could think of was my To-Do list, growing longer and longer as I fell farther and farther behind.  Self-guilt and recrimination building that I 'hadn't planned things right'.  That I couldn't do it all. 

Well, I'm not on the jury as the powers-that-be decided to postpone the trial and start again with a new jury pool.  Thank you!  But the vacation and especially the panic attack have told me I need to make some changes.   Since I know that I'm not the only one in this particular boat, I thought I'd share where I'm at. 

Here's what I've come up with:

1) Admit that this is my life.  I am an over-scheduler (do they have a 12-Step program for this?).  I plan for months at a time, starting with the deadlines and working backwards, figuring out timelines for tasks and expected bottlenecks.  But I tend to 'Error on the Side of Enthusiasm' and I've errored quite egregiously of late.  I get excited about an idea and throw it onto the pile.  Surely I can stitch three beaded beads, build a window screen, do the accounting, weed the garden and paint the hallway today?  As long as I keep doing this, my life will never be sane. 

Strategic planning only works so-so when there's simply too much work for one person to accomplish.  

2) Especially as life always throws you loops, good and bad.  Minor construction projects that spiral out of control (like replacing an old oil furnace and discovering the tank has leaked underground and now you have a pollution liability cleanup situation), having to find a new studio space, pneumonia, unexpected (and quite lovely) vacations.  The one thing they all have in common is they wreak havoc on a too-full schedule. 

3) I like to sleep.  Yep.  Sleep is one of my favorite hobbies.  I'm a useless zombie if I try to cut into my sleep schedule for more than a couple days at a time.  Totally useless.  Sleep is good.  I envy those people who can get by with five or so hours of sleep at night.  That's not me.

4) Don't automatically cut all my favorite things.  Just because they're 'fun' doesn't mean they're automatically less important.  Does anyone else do this?  If something's fun, then it's not as important as the not-fun stuff you have to do?  Only works in the short term, if even that. 

4) It's Okay to Say No.  (Or "Maybe Later" for those things I just can't say no to).  I don't know which is harder, saying no to friends or to myself.  I'm not terribly good at saying no.  In fact, I'm pretty awful at it; friends and ideas come to me all bright and shiny and hopeful and well...  You know what happens next.  Then I run behind because there's too much to do, people think I'm a flake and I start hating myself.  So I'm trying to learn to at least say "Maybe Later".  And if it's a really great idea, I write it down on my list for that mystic time in my future when I have time. 

5) It's Okay to Ask for Help. This last is particularly hard for me on several different levels.  'Asking for help = failure'.  Everyone else is too busy too.  Figuring out what could be parceled out. 

I've been giving this last one a lot of thought.  I have the nucleus of an idea here.   One of the things I really want to do is to put together beading kits for my Fancy Fish.  My current stumbling block is simply finding the time to stitch enough samples of the various color-ways so that I can photograph them for my Etsy site.  Especially since with my early fish I didn't give kit-making a single thought and used whatever beads caught my fancy.  Tracking down the same beads is a nightmare.  I know because I've tried.  And I've discovered that many people expect the kits to contain the exact same beads as my samples - close doesn't cut it.  Did I mention I hate disappointing people?  

So, I'm thinking about ways to reach out and ask for help in a way that's fun and hopefully useful for everyone.  Expect to see more about this early next week. 

Since this post is getting way too long, I'll wrap it up for now with a question.   How do you decide what to keep on your plate and what to toss when life gets crazy?

And thank you for sticking with me!  


  1. Oh, honey, it's good to see you here again! The cruise sounds like it was a wonderful (and well-needed) bit of enforced relaxation. And I'm completely feeling you on all of your points, particularly #5...I think you'll find lots of folks here who completely relate!

  2. Lovely to see you back Karen, I think we all fall into the same pattern, we have our must do's and then all the great ideas and plans that pop up along the way. It's a struggle to fit them all in, and keep our commitments. As women we struggle with #5 asking for help or delegating.
    I think you need to have clear goals, both work and play, as things come up assess whether they fit either place or go to the maybe pile. And who am I to make suggestions? I also struggle with the word no, see new things or opportunities and think ooh that will be fun and before I know it have a full plate too. Good luck!

  3. great to see you back blogging! the cruise sounds like it was wonderful! I think sometimes I need to be forced to 'disconnect' ... my husband got to the point where he would confiscate my electronics at the beginning of a vacation! I do the same on timelines. I map out timelines months at a time with the deadlines and then work backwards. It gives me a sense of what I can get done (reasonably) or what just isn't going to be possible. I use it as a way to sort importance. But I do think I struggle with saying 'no.' Especially with beading, blog hops and blogging. I am always touched that someone has asked me to join, but then I realize that I'm completely over booked! I can count on one hand the times I've actually said that I really can't commit to the ask, and still I feel bad as I think about it now!

    You are not alone! I think so many of us have these same tendencies.

  4. Sounds like you had a great time and don't ever feel guilty about spending time with your folks when you can, especially if you live that far apart. One of these days, they won't be there and you will regret the times you "could" have spent with them instead of the times you "did" spend with them.

  5. This post sounds very familiar to me...I have to juggle 4 schedules and it is hard to finish anything before a deadline. Most of the time, we are finishing things at the last second. I am not great at budgeting time or saying no. I am ok at taking help when it is offered, but not asking for it. I see not taking it (when I really need it) as failure...failure to see that there are some tasks I really cannot do alone. I was raised by a long line of martyrs so to cancel favorite things is something I am in recovery from. So much more to say, but I am going to stop here. I hope you enjoyed the cruise and we not too worried about what wasn't getting done while you were away. I am sure your parents were thrilled to have you with them :-D Oh~and that "Once I get past 'X'" seems to be my coping mechanism too. I doubt I will be able to ditch that train of thought.

  6. Wonderful to see you back! The one thing I always make top priority is to write my blog posts. (just kidding. I don't write a blog but I sure do love reading yours) There are some good suggestions above.