first of the month: busy busy


I’m a week away from a deadline. It’s not THE deadline, but it’s a big one nonetheless- big enough to have me up when it’s dark and still writing when it gets dark again. At the heart of this, I love what I’m doing, but still, part of me looks out the window at the world and the garden and the birds and I just imagine everyone having so much fun out there. Sometimes it feels like everyone I know is sitting out on my back porch, drinking my favorite beer while I type away the day.

And that’s where I start telling my own story, and I’m starting to think it has more room for improvisation than I thought.

This is how it looks: I run out to the store or to pick up the girls from school, and someone asks me how I am. I sigh. I’m good! I say. But busy. Busy! It’s all good stuff, but I just can’t get it all done. I’m so busy.

Then there’s a nodding of the head from the friend who asked me. “I hear you!” they say. “If I could just make 12 more hours of the day…” We shake our heads, commiserating over our busyness, and then we say “Let’s get together when everything quiets down.”

But that quiet isn’t coming, and honestly, I don’t think I really need it to. I want to work hard and create new things and be helpful. I want to go to the girls’ performances and I want to write more books. Life is full and wonderful and good. I think it’s me that needs to quiet down. I think I need to stop telling this story about how busy I am. Because the more I tell it, the more I feel it. And in the end, the busy story seems to lead to my absolute least favorite way to spend time, that is, thinking about how I don’t have enough time. 

So I’m working on it. Just a little bit (because I’M A WEEK AWAY FROM A DEADLINE AND I’M REALLY BUSY!!! sorry. I just slid back into it. I’m back, I’m back.) This is how:

I am trying to do only one thing at a time. I might only have a few minutes to weed, or cook dinner, or to hear about the girls’ day, but for those few minutes. I’m all there. No phone. No multitasking. (Read this, if this idea speaks to you.) In the moments I can make this happen, it works wonders.

I’m also trying to quit it with the busy talk. If you ask me how I am, I’ll be honest, but I’m trying to take a breath (not a sigh) before I answer, just to check in with how I’m telling the story.

And here’s the big one- ready? I’m excited to tell you about this one. Last year, I met with my friend Lorne Holden. I’ve known her since I was a kid, and basically everything she touches is wonderful. She’s been working on a project to give people tools to feel good about the time they have and how they use it, and she’s got a online class coming up next week. The class is based on her book, Make it Happen in 10 Minutes a Day, which has already brought some big changes around here. She offered me a place in the class and then she asked if I might work with her to spread the word.

To learn more about the class, head over here, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and listen to Lorne’s “ten talk”.  That talk alone will get you started, but there’s a lot more to come. She’s offering a 20% discount to EFTGU readers if you sign up through that link, too. I’ll be there, doing my best to get my work space organized in 10 minutes a day. Lorne swears I can do it, and as she’s seen my bill drawer, that’s saying a lot.

So for this month’s First of the Month (ironically at the middle of the month as, well…), can we talk about all this busyness? Do you feel good about how you use your time? And if so, how do you do it?

(Thanks so much as always for chiming in. These discussions are some of my favorite all month, and it means so much to me to hear your thoughts.)






  1. Caitlin Hotaling says

    Again so timely! I ranted on Facebook about this just a bit ago due to “summer” schedule starting. Used to be summer meant relaxing, not any more, it’s more like what can I let go and skip so I can get what needs doing done? The bit about being present in any given moment is soooo true for me. I tidied a bit today and got dishes done and did a load of laundry and still managed to “work” and relax and shop for a dress for the dance Thursday night that we just heard about for school. It was a busy day but it felt good, not stressful because my mind set was a little here and a little there, not, OH MY GAWD I HAVE TO DO ALL THIS…. You know the feeling, but like you said and like I know when I can be in that space, it will all get done, if only a little at a time and with some slipping back here and there. My priorities need to shift though to, and that is a mind set thing for me too. I can’t make every concert, play, event, sale, party, summer shindig, etc. that occurs in the summer in our glorious area. I can not, for many reasons, not just time. Now, what do I do and want to do and need to do that makes me and my family happy and complete? My self imposed pressure to “do” is no one’s fault but my own. I will endeavor to release this little by little all summer long so I can enjoy it and not feel like I missed so much when it’s over.

  2. says

    The best things I ever did to create more time for myself was to stop using an alarm and to stop wearing a watch. There is plenty of time! It is in the decisions we make on how we want to use it.

    • alana says

      Yes, Maxine! I feel like smartphones are the new watch these days too, and they beep and yell at us and ring when we forget to do something. Turning off the phone (or putting it on the other side of the house) is one of the ways I remember there’s plenty of time, too.

  3. says

    I’m learning this. My son just finished kindergarten. Before he went to school, he was home all day, and I knew how to get most things done and still spend time with him. Now, I feel as though I have to relearn it all, and I’m lamenting my lack of time, despite really having enough. I’m learning to take five minutes to tackle a task, even if I think it’ll take hours, (weeding, I’m looking at you!) but progress is progress and it’s still worth it. Accomplishing things, even if its only pebbles off my mountain, is still accomplishing things, and an achievement to be celebrated. Much better than lamenting the mountain. :)

  4. Michelle B says

    Yes, this! I agree that it’s really all about focusing on 1 task. I try to ask myself, what is my goal RIGHT NOW? Whatever it is, I remind myself to focus on that and only that. If I can get it “done” all the better, so that at the end of the day, I can at least say I accomplished one thing to completion. This also helps me prioritize. What is the goal of dessert? To bribe my kid to eat her dinner or to elongate the family time spent at the table? Okay, maybe a little of both, but this keeps my butt in the seat instead of rushing to the sink to get a “jump” on the dishes.

    • alana says

      Oh, I love this Michelle. I’ve been thinking about dessert lately (working on book stuff) and about all the good things about it. This is a big one–just hanging out at the table longer.

  5. Kat says

    It’s the school year that kills me – I teach full-time every weekday and then 2x a week after school I hop in my car, drive an hour, and profess at another school as well. Hubs is a professor and designer and our kid is in school full days plus extracurriculars of her choosing. Luckily, my professing gives me a month off at christmas and finished up in May. Only 1.5 days of teaching left! I ditch my watch on the weekends and nearly all summer long. I specifically schedule our family fun outings, no matter how simple, on the calendar so we don’t keep pushing them off to do “when the work’s all done”. I start each morning with a reasonable list, not an insurmountable one. And I let go of all kinds of things go for the sake of the big picture or find better ways to deal with them. It’s not perfect, but we manage nicely most of the time.

    • alana says

      Congrats on the end of the year! I love the idea of being really serious of about putting outings on the calendar- that’s a great one.

  6. says

    I love your thought that the more you say it, the more busy you feel. So true.
    So many of the things we are busy with are good things. If I spend time complaining about how they take up my time, then it causes stress; but if I spend time being grateful for them, then I see their value and feel less stressed.

  7. says

    I used to deliberately avoiding answering “busy” when someone asked me how I was doing – I want to be more mindful about that. And also, with money, I have learned not to say, “I can’t afford that, ” but rather “I don’t want to spend my money on that.” It’s reframing the situation to make it MY choice. I think the same thing applies with time. We make time for what we want to, and I want to think it through carefully to make sure my time is going where I want it to go.

  8. Margit Van Schaick says

    I tend to work too much. Partly because I have a good work ethic (being a child of Hingarian immigrants), but mainly because that’s how I support myself. I’ve ha d two major surgeries since 2011, and although I am now well, I essentially have had a two-year gap in income. So, I’m very motivated, for if I can’t make enough money,I won’t be able to continue to live independently, and there’s nothing I want to do less tha live in group Senior Citizen living . I’m really near to being okay, so I’m entering a transition phase, trying to figure out how to balance my life better, between work to earn money and giving myself permission to engage in projects tha I’m passionate about– gardening, reading, being outside, exercising, getting started on the book I’ve been meaning to write for a long time now. We’ll see how that balance goal develops!

  9. Margit Van Schaick says

    Please excuse all the typos. It’s an example of what I’m doing these days–trying to embrace life, enjoying being engaged as many minutes of the day as my stamina permits (even when I should stop and go to sleep!). So many typos come from enthusiasm and fatigue, combined. I love being alive, something I’m especially aware of following very challenging medical issues. I do focus on the present, here and now. And, I would say to Caitlin above to try to be happy with every breath you take, try to feel at peace in doing small tasks like washing dishes, as well as huge, epic experiences such as seeing great art, travel, witnessing life passages. We can’t do it all, yet if we pay attention and truly focus on the moment, humble as well as grand, we can create a tapestry of life fully lived.

  10. says

    I headed over hear to link you to the hummus of your recipe I am making and find, as always, another good reason to head to the kitchen. Our girl camps out at the table to do all her homework there, no matter what the desk situation elsewhere. So, food and company are suddenly easier. Here’s to another really good ten minutes with you! xo S

  11. says

    Love it. Reminds me of this 2012 OpEd which was so great, about “The Busy Trap” —

    Since reading that I try never to let myself say that I’m busy — when I start to say it, I have to grab myself by the collar and say — I’m thankful for all I have to do! And if I feel busy, it probably means I’m letting too much nothing crowd into my days. Shutting off the phone and being present with whatever I’m doing – just like you say – are my best guards against feeling busy. Also pausing for breathing, at least once a day – finding that calm within the storm really helps it all seem less stormy 😉

  12. Chelsea says

    Thanks for starting these conversations, Alana!

    This article ( was a great reminder to practice acceptance – lists will never be complete, chores will never be fully finished, and the tables in our mind and our busyness will never be cleared. In the midst of all that, and before the ‘day when things will settle down’, there is the stuff of life and the moments we need to be present to.

    The parts I’m working on: getting better about drawing and sticking to the boundaries between work and family time (without ambivalence!) and finding ways to be more realistic about what can be achieved in a day/week so that I don’t feel that I’m running to catch up all the time. Trying to see it as a practice…

    Congratulations staying with your writing!

  13. Kristina says

    My husband and I got married in October and bought a new house in April. We both have jobs that we LOVE but leave us mentally and emotionally drained most days by the time we get home. I feel like I can never find the time to get our home and lives together as well as I would like. If you find the answer I’m hoping you will post it!!

    I have an amazing friend who is a huge champion for what she calls “self care” and I’m trying very hard to follow her example and I’m finding that I am a much better wife when I take at least one night a week off. Usually, that means trivia night with some friends a a local bar, for dinner. I go and hubby fends for himself at home. The next day I’m more productive at work and home and our relationship is better for it.

  14. Nat says

    Hi Alana! I am a huge fan….I lovingly poor over your book when I begin my ‘busy self talk’ as it is a reminder of the simple things, seizing moments, enjoying family rituals and being present to my family. I work three days a week and the other 4 I enjoy time with my three boys, 4, 2 1/2 and 10 months. We only have one life to live and I too am trying to be present to the moment. In a previous lifetime I enjoyed yoga regularly and although times have changed in terms of available hours, I am able to enjoy thus and other things I love in small doses. I am relinquishing hmm all or nothing attitude and like you say, just 10 minutes of focused energy on those things you love still helps the feelings of inner wellness. Thanks for your book, can’t wait for the next, much love from brisbane, australia.x

    • alana says

      Oh, thank you Nat! It’s so nice to hear from you, Here’s to things we love “in small doses”. I love that. xo


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