Other duties as may be required

November 7th, 2011

I like Monday mornings. They are the reset button of my week. Out with the old to-do list, in with the new. I put on coffee, open my email, and start digging–through school reminders, junk mail, social invitations, scouting memos, blog comments, twitter and facebook notifications, reader correspondence, loose threads of various story pitches, bill alerts, etc.  It takes me all morning just to figure out what I need to do with the other six and a half days of the week. To answer the question, “what’s my job?”

It’s a puzzle of a thousand jumbled pieces, with no picture on the box to go by. Some of them are easy to sort, like a writing assignment with a deadline and a contract, or a bill that needs to be paid, or a parent-teacher conference. There’s no question about where or whether those tasks belong. Those are the straight-edge pieces. But others are harder to place–the blog, volunteer stuff, books I should be reading, exercise I’m not doing. Some of those are vital parts of the whole, and some are pieces of somebody else’s puzzle, not mine.

I wish I could get better at telling which from which. I wish there were an HR department where I could request a copy of my official job description as a writer, mother, wife, friend, citizen, human. Not what society expects me to do, but what my own particular contract with the universe decrees. Laminated, and in columns. On Monday mornings, I’d just cross reference it against everything in my inbox, and not feel one bit guilty about letting go of the things that I wasn’t brought in to do.

How about you? Do you have any thoughts about setting priorities? How do you sort through all the things that come at you?


8 Responses to “Other duties as may be required”

  1. Christa says:

    This really hit home for me. To say that prioritizing is a weakness for me would be a massive understatement. I am not a parent; but juggling all of the aspects of the personal and professional are incredibly challenging for me. Thanks for sharing.

  2. kazari says:

    I do the stuff that keeps my life running, first.
    (ok, when I say first, I mean after the baby is asleep, around 8pm, because the first 13 hours of my day are taken up with getting us up and out of the house, off to work, home again, cuddles and dinner and bathtime and bed)
    so i wash the dishes, get our food and clothes ready for the next day, and check my email.

    then i have a list of four things that is stuck on the bathroom mirror. write, clean, strong, beautiful. if i can do fifteen minutes on each thing (writing, cleaning or fixing something in my house, making myself feel beautiful, and some random could-be-called-exercise thing) then i know i’ve done all the right things for the day.

    of course, all that takes a back seat to the urgent deadliny stuff. it’s more aspirational than anything else. but it stops me being overwhelmed by all the ‘shoulds’.

    • KyranP says:

      I like your bathroom mirror list! I’ve been experimenting with broad categories, too, to help me sift through all the incoming “shoulds.” I have three running to-do lists to capture stuff as it comes in: personal (includes family), professional (in my business this is harder to identify than you’d think), and volunteer. I select items from those lists to put on the daily list. Which some days is sheer wishful thinking. 🙂

      • kazari says:

        i’m glad you like it. when i wrote it down, it suddenly looked really, really anal (maybe like three separate to-do lists?) but how else do you keep all the balls in the air?

  3. Mariellen says:

    Well the short answer to your question is: Very badly. To which I’d add another ‘indeed’. When I was in a more corporate setting I responded a lot to the constant drive of things to do..and now, looking back on it, I see and deeply regret how truly badly I took care of myself. From providing myself new challenges so I got used to a pink noise level of fear and learned to trust it it as a non-malevolent force, to safeguarding some greater degree of financial security by saving more, to simply looking hard at the extent of professional abuse I was undergoing but didn’t want to to see it happening to me at the hands of others. I still have many of these things to overcome but oh, how I wished I’d had a mentor, or the self courage if no mentor was there, to prod me into greater self awareness as I trundled through so many years of my life.

    The acid test for that works best for me is asking myself if, in 6 months or a year’s time, will I regret not doing XYZ. Sometimes the timeframe is longer, but the technique seems to work. It takes the short term out of the equation and forces a longer term view, and that is usually enough to chose and feel OK about what I’ve chosen.

    For all the list makers, apprently one is more likely to achieve a goal that is written down. I’ve not seen a lot about how the goals being achieved because those that write them down also ask on a regular basis: what am I doing about this goal, to achieve it? If it was a weekly ritual, perhaps we’d find the demands on us and the outcomes edged just that bit closer to each other? I wonder.

  4. The Mommy says:

    For the most part, I just make sure that the “must do’s” become routine (this includes household stuff, school responsibilities – sidenote: Why does no one tell moms that we are going to have more homework than our children?!?! – and exercise). Everything else is prioritized by need – If it’s a need (cuddling with my babies falls into that category nowadays) I find 15 minutes to make it happen. If it’s a want, it makes the list but get removed/reprioritized as necessary. And somedays we get the stomach flu and the whole damn thing goes right out the window and you just try to survive the next 48 hours.

  5. Cid says:

    So timely for me too. I am going through a bit of a transition as my boys are getting older and needing me less. I need to reprioritize things around home and I am also finding myself retreating from the outside world a bit in reaction to the boys being out more without me. Not quite empty nest syndrome yet, as really the only thing that is empty around here is the fridge.

  6. […] As a work-at-home, self-employed mom, I continually struggle with defining my job. […]

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