After my son, Teddy, was born, I was trying to figure out how to be a mom to two kids and how to pivot in my career—it was the recession and I had been writing primarily for magazines for several years, when all my regular markets started closing. I was in freefall on multiple levels and really wanted—and needed—to focus both on my family and my work at the same time.
So what did I do?
I listened to the conventional wisdom that says that you have to limit the number of things you’re trying to accomplish because you will not be able to do multiple things well. I figured I had to let something go, so I stopped any form of mind-body practice. And I thought it would give me some extra time to either work or be with the kids and I would feel so much more productive and get so much more done.
What really happened is that I started needing some other way to take my edge off, so I turned to wine—two, sometimes three glasses a night. Which then interrupted my sleep, which then made me tired and cranky, which then had me reaching for carbs every afternoon for energy and comfort, which made me develop a spare tire, which made me crankier.
Turns out those glasses of wine were sucking up a lot of good energy and creating a lot of negative ripples. It wasn’t until I saw what was happening and I discovered I could meditate while I was doing things I was already doing on a daily basis—namely, breastfeeding and sweeping—that I plugged up that energy leak and I started to figure out not only how to be a mother and a writer but also a coach.
I am a big proponent of doing multiple things that you love and will generally not be the person to tell you that you have to choose between two passions. Or three. Or maybe four.
And yet. We are subject to some laws of time and space. You can’t do everything you want to do, all the time. And while you typically have more time and energy than may at first seem available, these two important quantities do have limits.
So…how can you do more things, and do them well, without running yourself ragged and frittering away your energy?
The first step is to plug up any leaks.
Imagine that your time and energy are both contained in a big bowl. Now imagine that the bowl is a colander. The holes in the colander are the leaks I’m referring to.
A leak is any chore, worry, activity, or expense that you do with regularity that is heavier on the take side of the equation than the give. The more leaks you have, the harder it is for you to do the things that you want to do.
Here are some of the leaks I’ve plugged up in my own life:
- That second glass of wine
- Paying an exorbitant amount of money for cable that I hate watching anyway
- An after-school class for my kids that they don’t like and I don’t think is all that great
- Having an always clean kitchen (dishes really can sit in the sink all day or overnight and it’s OK)
- Most coffee dates (they’re just not my thing; I’d rather go for a walk together)
To help you figure out if something is a leak, ask yourself:
- How do you feel while you’re doing it?
- How do you feel after?
- Or, How much value does it contribute to the world at large?
- How much value does it contribute to your individual life?
- Do how much energy does it take?
- How much energy does it create?
Whatever’s dragging you down, find a way to get it off your plate. If you can’t stop doing it altogether, you’ve got a few strategies at your disposal: minimize, delegate, ignore, or accept—because sometimes the leak isn’t the thing itself, it’s the time or energy you spend on resisting it.
The bottom line is, you can say yes to pursuing multiple things and do them well without wearing yourself out IF you say no to the things that are weighing you down.
When you do, you can up your contribution to the world while reducing your overall stress, and that is a beautiful thing!