It’s back to school season, and this is usually the time of the year where I re-prioritize my goals and daily activities. I’ve got a seventh grader, a fourth grader, and a preschooler this year.
The preschooler is only in school 6 hours a week, because I’m just not ready to let her go for more hours, yet. This means that I really need to manage my time wisely to make sure I meet all of my assigned (and self-assigned) tasks.
I’ve not always been the best about saying NO. I used to try really hard to get people/aquaintances/complete strangers to “like me” and ended up over-extending myself. I wanted to be the go-to responsible person for the PTA, or for girl scouts, or to help volunteer at the library. I wanted to be the trusted afterschool babysitter, and I wanted to be the carpool mom. I thought that was who I was, what my identity was.
And then I snapped.
I shared through email with my friend Crystal, of Money Saving Mom, what my tipping point was and after typing it out, thought perhaps it’d be best to share it “out loud” —- because I do believe we are all on our own personal journey. We are all just trying to do the very best we can on a day-to-day basis. Crystal helped me to remember that I have not always been the way I am now. I used to hold my breath to get through my day — as she words it: I wasn’t living; I was surviving.
Anyhow. Back in 2008, when I was in the final quarter of my Year of Slow Cooking, I kind of had a breakdown. It was September, and it was back-to-school night. Things were going well with the site, and I had just signed a book deal for Make it Fast, Cook it Slow. I had appeared on The Rachael Ray Show, and because of that, the site traffic had quintupled. I was working on the site, working for BlogHer ads, and was working for Bay Area Parent. I only had two children at the time, but I was fully responsible for all things in regards to them — afterall, I was home.
I came home from Back to School night and crumpled to the floor. I had on a cute outfit, I remember changing my clothes a few times before leaving the house to man the PTA table. My hair was straightened, and I had spent more time then I care to admit on my makeup. My goal was to look breezy and put-together, and trendy-but-not-too-trendy. I shook hands and made small talk.
I probably looked the way I wanted to look. I probably fooled a bunch of people.
but the second it was all over, I remember hugging my knees to my chest in the corner of my bedroom and sobbing. For hours.
the very next day I quit almost everything. I’m sure I disappointed quite a few, but I took back my time. I took back my priorities.
and to this day, it was one of the best decisions of my life.
This “take back” of my time is why I don’t have a personal Facebook account. This is also why I don’t own a smart phone.
excerpt from Totally Together: Shortcuts to an Organized Life
It is a wonderful feeling when a trusted friend, co-worker, or supervisor asks for your help. It is difficult to not let ego take over when you are told that you are “perfect” for something or that the school’s Popsicle eating contest “can’t be done” without you.
Don’t get talked into doing something that your heart isn’t in. Someone else will step forward, and if not, the world will not stop spinning if the Popsicle eating contest doesn’t happen as scheduled. If somebody complains, let that somebody be in charge. It is not worth stretching yourself thin to please other people—you and your family come first.
Say no to the committees, say no to the bake sales, and say no to anything that you don’t really and truly want to do. If later on in the year, you find that your time is a bit more free, there are numerous ways to ease back in to service. It’s always better to say “no” right away than to say “yes” and then fall short of the required responsibilities.
Learn also to say “no” when choosing sports, musical instruments, enrichment classes, or out-of-school camps with your children that might stretch your calendar thin. It is so easy to sign up for more than you or your child can handle, and the outside obligation can quickly take over family life.
Pick and choose carefully, and ensure that you and your children completely understand the commitment and responsibility required. Some families have found that limiting choices to one indoor and one outdoor activity at a time works well.
My days now feel more balanced. I’m not perfect, and I still lose my patience and temper more than I probably should, but I feel much more at peace than I used to.
and that’s a great feeling.
This contest is now over. Thank you for all who entered!! The winner has been notified via email. Have a great school year!! –steph
Thank you to Staples for providing a backpack for me to review (and for my daughter to keep), and for providing another backpack for a reader give away. Your generosity is appreciated.
It’s back-to-school frenzy season. I have a bit more time with my kids before they head back — our district isn’t beginning until after Labor Day this year. In fact we JUST got the supply list this past week and I was startled when I checked around that the local stores were already picked clean and were gearing up for Halloween!!
I don’t host very many reviews or giveaways on this site, and opt to keep them on the review page, but wanted to make sure that you don’t miss out on this cool offer.
I’ve got a seventh grader this year.
A VERY PICKY SEVENTH GRADER. (said with love, lots and lots and lots of love. I was picky in seventh grade, too.)
Her chosen backpack last year didn’t hold up to being jammed into a locker and kicked around after school during soccer practice. The bottom seam ripped and I ended up securing it with duct tape in April.
The backpack that Staples sent over? It’s wonderful. It’s terribly durable (it’s made by SwissGear, the founders of the Swiss Army Knife) and meets the seventh-grader-it needs-to-look-cool-but-not-too-cool-like-I’m-trying-to-look-cool-test.
I like that there’s a padded pocket in it for future laptop use, and I like that since we don’t have a laptop for her, she can stuff an extra binder into that slot. The straps are nicely padded and don’t dig into her shoulders even when it’s weighed down.
There are a few “secret” compartments, which is quite helpful since she just got braces and needs to carry around dental supplies.
I think you’ll really dig this backpack — it looks like it will hold up for a very long time; I’m impressed.
Staples has got pretty much anything you might possibly need for back-to-school supplies, and
would like to offer a backpack for the student in your home. One lucky winner will receive a brand new backpack of their choosing — up to a $60 value.
To enter this contest, simply leave a comment below with a valid email address in the email line. I’ll randomly choose a winner in a week — so this contest will end on Tuesday, August 27th at 5pm pacific time.
I’d also like to throw in a copy of my Totally Together: Shortcuts to an Organized Life book for the lucky winner since it follows the school calendar. This is it! This is the year you’re going to get organized!
good luck to all!
this will be the best school year, ever. I promise!
This is part of the Business of Blogging Series. You can see all of the posts, here.
I’ve done a bit of speaking this summer at various conferences, and I’ve said a few times to the audience (and been met with great laughs), “Let’s face it. Bloggers are narcissistic.”
While I do love laughter responses, I’m completely serious when I say that in order to be a good blogger, or to put yourself out in the public eye, you’ve got to have a part of your personality that believes that You Are Better Than Others.
and this is a challenge. It’s a struggle for me, and I know it’s a struggle for many of my friends. It feels wrong, it feels fraudulent, and it feels deceitful to decide when you wake up in the morning that you are going to make and write about THE WORLD’S BEST BEEF STEW.
or the best way to fold a fitted sheet.
or write about a completely ordinary trip to Walmart but in a way you just *know* your readers will appreciate.
or heaven help you, post a #selfie on instagram.
I wasn’t raised to seek the spotlight, I was raised to sit quietly with my hands folded while the grown-ups talked and not to interrupt. And that is how I’m raising my children. Nobody likes a know-it-all who interrupts. Blogging is about interrupting.
DID YOU HEAR ME?
gah. It’s loud, it’s annoying, and it feels icky.
So what do you do? How do you balance the self-doubt, the negative voices, and the twingy feeling that you are doing something wrong when you decide to put your heart and voice online?
I can tell you that it gets easier, but I can also tell you that I personally stress and analyze every time I write anything online. This is the list I weigh in my head before posting (on any of my sites, on facebook, on twitter, and even on pinterest)
1) How does this help my audience? (and helpful can just be a feel-good moment. there doesn’t need to be a lifelesson in everything you put online, nor does it have to be a how-to tutorial.)
2) Am I writing this only because so-and-so has written about (kale) a lot and I feel like in order to stay relevant I need to write about (kale)?
3) Am I jumping on the bandwagon about a certain event that has a lot of drama and I want people to link to me when they, too, write about this certain event?
4) [related to #3] am I stirring an already-bubbling pot? Is that what I want to be known for? Pot-stirring?
5) In 3 days, will I still be proud of my writing?
6) Am I writing this because I’m getting paid to write about it (like a sponsored post)? Have I told my audience this truth?
7) Will my writing be search-engine-friendly? If not, how can I massage my words to help with SEO?
8) and then back again to #1…. am I being helpful to my audience?
If you respect your audience, they will respect you.
If you jump in front of the
camera keyboard every single time any fleeting thought passes through your head, you might gain lots and lots of followers initially, but they will leave in the longrun. Build a lasting legacy — something that you enjoy, that you can see yourself working on as your life’s work.
As for the negative thoughts? Embrace them. Listen to what they have to say. Maybe you are posting too often, and without anything valuable to offer your readers. Maybe you are only tweeting 7 times a day because some expert told you that’s how many times a day you should tweet. Maybe you are solely only writing about the latest conference drama because you want to be in the spotlight and want to be someone “in the know.”
and if after some soul-searching you realize that you don’t like your current path, then tweak it a bit.
But don’t let the voices win. We ALL have something to offer. We are all on this life-living journey together, and we all have something to share and to teach. Differing perspectives are fantastic — that is how we, as readers, as humans, make decisions. That’s why we read Amazon reviews — our culture needs to know as much as possible about pretty much everything right now. Right this instant. We can’t even wait to get home to our desktop, we have to whip out our phones in the middle of the store and tweet a picture to the masses to see if these shoes are actually a good buy.
This is a great time to be writing online. Do not let self-doubt or shyness prevail. Yes, bloggers are inherently narcissistic. We have to be.
And that’s okay. Just make sure to acknowledge it.
Does this scenario sound familiar?
You’ve been blogging for a few years now, and you feel stuck. You’re not quite sure where to turn for advice, since all the advice you find contradicts each other anyhow.
You aren’t having fun anymore. You want to quit. There are people in your circles who seem to have the “magic answer” and you don’t get what they have that you don’t.
It’s okay. This is an easy one to fix — and all you have to do is to change your mind, change your vocabulary. You aren’t a blogger; you’re an entrepreneur.
What’s the difference? A LOT.
Bloggers are writers. The term blog comes from two words pushed together: web log. This is essentially a running first-person narrative or a daily journal. That’s what blogging is supposed to be, and what writers want it to continue to be. Because writers (and bloggers) are narcissistic and egotistic. This isn’t a slam; this is the truth. Who else but an egotist would take a daily self-portrait and put it on instagram and link it to facebook, twitter, and pinterest?
You see my point.
I know — you’re not like that. You have a filter, and you are providing valuable content that comes straight from the heart and all you want to do is to help other people just like you!
The thing is, though, that you have to be a bit of an egotist to make success happen. You have to decide that YES. MY CHEESECAKE RECIPE IS THE BEST THAT EXISTS SO I’M GOING TO WRITE ABOUT IT EVEN THOUGH THERE ARE ALREADY A BAZILLION AND ONE CHEESECAKE RECIPES ON THE INTERNET.
So being an egotist, in this case, is actually a good thing. And since you’re already blogging, you’ve probably already got this important step covered. Good.
The other is to think of your site as a business, the way an entrepreneur would. If you call yourself a blogger, and think of yourself as a blogger, than you are essentially limiting your growth. Your blog, your business, can only work if YOU are actively writing. The only way you get visitors to your site is if YOU write and then YOU promote and then YOU do it all over again.
and that’s exhausting.
An entrepreneur, on the other hand, builds a site that is a destination. This site is well-designed and all of the top notch articles are easy to find. This site has LOTS to choose from, and readers can easily get lost in the archives for hours. This site is bookmarked, and shared, and pinned, and people you don’t even know recommend this site to their friends. And those friends recommend it to their friends. Again. and Again.
Even if you haven’t actually written anything new for weeks. Or months.
And this site starts to build momentum, and your ads are beginning to make money, with or without you.
That’s the difference. A blogger works for himself and needs to check in to work pretty much every day or the blog dies. An entrepreneur works really (really) hard for a year or so then lets momentum take over so he/she can move on to something else.
and isn’t that pretty much The American Dream? To build a business that creates passive income so you can do the things you really want to do: spend time with your family, figure out how to grow snap peas in the middle of winter, and take the time to blow dry your hair?
It’s not too late. If you’ve been blogging for a few years as a blogger you’ve got a LOT OF MATERIAL already on your site. Look at it with fresh, entrepreneurial eyes. Find the best of the best and highlight those articles in your sidebar. Make sure everything is linked to each other so readers can discover just how much there is to learn and know about you. Let them get lost in your archives. Make them want even more so they bookmark your site and pin it and tell their friends all about it.
you can do this.
this post was part of my The Business of Blogging series.
need help getting organized so you have more time in your day for the fun stuff? The Totally Together Planner is a great resource for busy families!