"Do you ever sleep?"
"How do you write so much and so well?"
"How do you keep up with all of the duties you take on?"
These are questions I'm often asked because of the amount of content I share on social media and the fact that I raise a son as a single mom, and I work as a full-time educator as the COO of Mastery Portfolio and a consultant, as well.
Agreed, it's a lot.
And although I may make it look easy, I'm really kind of like a duck on the water. What people see is a placid, beautiful animal gliding on the water, but just underneath the surface where people can't see, the duck's legs are moving frantically to help it stay afloat.
Being all things, to all people, all of the time is impossible, but I do my best to give as much as I can, as often as I can, and try very hard not to judge myself if and when I can't.
Being a mom and an educator already comes with a great deal of pressure (and guilt) and stress and add the need to feel perfect at it and any person would explode.
When other teachers or students persist in their questioning about how easy I make it all look, I remind them that it isn't easy at all, but that doesn't mean it isn't all worthwhile. The reality is that I often struggle with keeping up with my responsibilities, taking on only new ones that are really advantageous or meaningful, or helpful, and saying no when I know I've taken on too much.
Since I don't enjoy disappointing people, I have often had to give myself permission to say no if I am truly overextended. The bottom line is that I don't want to do a job I know I can't commit to 100% and when I take on too much I can't give it my all.
We all must remember that although we all have our special gifts and talents, not very much comes as easily as it often appears; that's the crazy part of perception and appearances. They aren't often as they seem.
Here are some ways that I gracefully handle the workload:
I'm ridiculously organized. Find a system that works for you and do your best to manage your time in a meaningful way. Personally, I have calendars all over the place. As a visual person, I like being able to write things on the calendar, make color coded choices and it makes it easy for me to stay on top of my tasks.
Set alarms for yourself. When I know I have upcoming events or responsibilities, I set alarms on my phone as reminders. Reminders are ALWAYS helpful.
When I have some "extra" time and I'm inclined, I will try to plan ahead. For example, if I know my upcoming weeks will be busy, I will try to write an extra blog post to schedule or solicit a guest post to take some of the edge off when I'm busy in other places.
Family time takes priority. Except for extreme cases, time with my son comes before everything else. As a divorced mom, I already share my time with the son and as he is getting older, I know I have only a limited amount of time left where he will want to hang out with me. I'm not passing up on that time. If I can fit in a school event that doesn't conflict with work or a baseball game on a non-custody week, I do. Our kids are only young once. Take advantage of that and be as present as you can be when you're with them. Logan and I also play a lot of board games like Scrabble or Monopoly together.
Use downtime productively. I like to read or check emails while I'm waiting on other things like lines at the grocery store or early in the morning before I get out of bed when my alarm goes off.
Be honest with yourself about what too much looks like and if it stops being enjoyable, or additional stress happens, make sure to pull back appropriately.
Try not to say yes to something that you know is going to become a conflict on any level or disrupt other plans already in place.
Remember it's okay to say no. Sometimes there doesn't even need to be a reason.
Many of us are able to do things well and make it all look easy. Whether it is maintaining a busy and productive life or being able to write a book or sing a song, just because it looks easy doesn't mean it actually is. We all have our quirks and insecurities and easy doesn't always mean better. Anything worth doing well is going to take practice and time and the easier it looks, it's likely that amount of mastery took a ridiculous amount of time.
What do you make look easy and is it really as easy as it appears? Please share
This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in July 2016 and updated today