I love projects. I love planning and building and making. I love dreaming up a new thing and then seeing if I can learn how to make it. I love the moment when I step back and look at a finished product and think, “I can’t believe it turned out like that.”
However, if I’m not careful, I can forget that life is more than a series of projects. If I’m not careful, I find myself diving into multiple projects and getting lost in the making stuff only to realize that I am productive and creative and lonely. Often, it’s because I have underestimated how much time a project will take and overestimated my ability to get stuff done.
I hit this point recently. After releasing The Fireproof Teacher, I started working on a TEDx outline and plowing through the chapters in a book I'm writing for Corwin. I was also writing articles for the Susan Cain blog (due out soon). In the midst of this, I decided that I needed a site redesign and then when I wasn’t satisfied with it, I decided to add a second redesign.
On top of that, I realized that I had underestimated what Write About would mean. A year ago, I viewed it as a small side project. Now I’m realizing the time and commitment it will take to help ensure that this business is successful.
So, about a week ago, I looked at my to do list. It was growing like a hydra – packed full of things that were urgent but not necessarily vital to the life I wanted to live. I stared at this list and realized that I had five urgent items that I needed to do and yet it had been three evenings in a row where I hadn’t played at all with my kids. At first I thought, “Well, I’ll just push through a short period of being busy so that I can relax later.”
Then it hit me. There will never be an un-busy “later.” There will always be a new project. There will always be a new opportunity. There will always be "just one more thing." Always. But my kids won't always be kids.
After a few days of this, I found myself turning down a few opportunities that came up. I gave myself longer deadlines on things like books and articles. I figured out ways to automate some of my work for Write About. I blogged a little less frequently (I think I wrote 2-3 posts last week) and found myself stepping away from social media unless I really had something to say. I took all notifications off my phone and deleted the Facebook app.
I have a lingering thought that I’ve always known to be true and yet somehow still manage to forget:
I have never regretted a moment spent outside. I have never regretted a game of catch or a pillow fort or a leisurely hour listening to a longwinded description of a day at school. I have never regretted a game or astronauts or ponies or a meandering science project. Those are the things that make a life epic.