By the time you read this I should have been getting up at least 45 mins earlier every morning. I should done 30 minutes of yoga and had a shower before breakfast. I should have dealt with my emails after breakfast and I should have taken Jack for a quick walk around the block. I should have gone to yoga classes at least four times a week and had all day on Saturday off. I should have been drinking hot water and lemon first thing, to clear the skin, and I should have turned the lights out at 10.00pm
None of which has happened.
No, that’s not 100% true. I am getting up earlier. My alarm goes off at 6.15am and I am out of bed by 6.30: 45 mins earlier than before. What was meant to follow hasn’t happened. Instead … I went back to the way it was – only earlier. Get out of bed, feed Jack, brew up some coffee, make some toast and start reading emails. Next thing it is 11.30am and I am still in my dressing gown. And the day has taken a track of its own.
I started all this in response to a piece I read by the editor of Elle Deco in the UK. She was talking about how she had let her life become unmanageable by not scheduling her day more tightly. I was feeling the same: trying to maintain a number of jobs is tough, regardless of how much time is allocated to each. Technically I have one four-day job, a one-day job, a half-day job and three articles to write each week. I need to do a drive-past the one-day job on the weekend, which is not included in the one day. The Nans stay over twice a week and there’s the shopping, beautifying, finance management, cooking and maintenance of self- and home- that needs doing too.
Don’t get me wrong – I am delighted to have this work to do. It is far better than the alternative. Plus, the great thing is all of these jobs can be worked flexi-time. But what it has also meant is that work never stops. And I have started feeling frayed and frazzled – and wanting to go away on long trips to Asia. Always a warning sign that I am over-stretched.
So, back to Elle: Michelle Ongundehin recalibrated her day – she set her alarm to ring 5 minutes earlier each week for three months until she had regained an hour. She made a proper breakfast, read and sorted her emails (do, dump, delegate, file) and prepped a lunch to go. Her commute became a time to think, read or write – instead of a wrangle with intermittent email access. Her exercise component was sorted by walking or Boris biking from station to office at the London end. By the time she strode into Elle’s doors; she was set for the day.
“I could do that …”, I thought, “looks dead simple”. Of course, I work from home and have no assistant – so I had to make a couple of alternate plans or work would just run on. I decided to break down the days into blocks of work time and, each morning, decide what had priority. Walking Jack and yoga would become my exercise and meditation. I would catch up on late emails for an hour at the end of each day, so I was prepped for the next. Then write my posts. My reward for all this scheduling would be (mostly) work-free weekends. Just like regular working people.
There’s a cruel truth in Woody Allen’s bon mot: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Within days of setting myself up beautifully – colour-blocked schedule and all, I was way off piste. The weather turned nasty, so walking Jack at the allotted times wasn’t possible. My uncle’s funeral added travel to a week that had no anticipation of it. A friend arrived from London, demanding dinner and a catch-up. Job number two required that I spend much of the weekend chasing all over Cape Town looking for chefs and expensive tonic water. Jasper’s birthday party, a fundraising opportunity that has grown exponentially and requests for phone counselling all added (important to do) hours to an overstretched week.
Life happened. And I was frustrated about it. But what to do?
I was grabbing an overdue haircut today when Elle (once again and quite appropriately, I thought) offered up a suggestion: “Don’t make changes too complicated. Just begin”.” And I realised I had: made things complicated. But I had also: begun. The reality is that my version of portfolio living simply doesn’t allow for too much fixed structure. Not with the kind of jobs I do.
So I have replaced the colour-coded screen saver with a picture of Jack (reminder – walk me) and, over coffee at 6.30am, I now make a short list of today’s must dos. I still need to make plan about the yoga – but 3 times a week, not four, and I have dumped the exercise at 6.30am … just not realistic. I will still get up at 6.15am and try to go to bed by 10.00pm.
Having said that, it’s 11.30pm and I need to finish this post. The Nans are whistling and muttering in their room, and I have to get them off to school at the crack of dawn. Then there’s the … and the … and …
Oh what the hell, I am going to have a cuppa and a bath. As a feisty broad once said: “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
(Title apology to David Bowie. Image of crazy schedule campari&sofa. Photo of Wall Art in Oslo – copyright Elizabeth Riksen. Image of Skater found in the Public Domain. Job Board found at GPSA.co.za)