Sunday, September 27, 2009

An Eight-Track Mind

A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. ~Annie Dillard

It occurred to me recently that I could view my life using the model of a flower, where each of the petals represents a major aspect of my life.  Some people have a one-track mind - mine is more like an 8-track, and I need to find a way to divvy up my time and energy and still maintain some sort of balance.

I've always been one to wear a lot of different hats.  My entire adult life I've never had a full-time job, but have often had two or three at once, as well as volunteering in various capacities.

For the past few months, I've been working on opening a business, a laundromat called GreenSuds.  And this semester, I started teaching college English classes after a year-and-a-half-long hiatus.  Now, on top of all that, I started this blog.  Adding these new components to my already busy life is what's prompted me to more deliberately prioritize.

So I went online to look for a blank flower diagram that I could fill in, and discovered two things:  1)  sites that used to offer that sort of thing for free when I was homeschooling my daughters are now subscription sites, and, 2)  apparently the concept of a flower diagram as an organizer is not a new concept.

(I always have mixed feelings when I discover that something I thought I made up already exists.  On the one hand, I feel confirmed, validated, and connected to the collective unconscious or whatever, but I can't help but also feel like I've missed a boat.  Did you know that I'm actually the person who invented grips on pens and fast food restaurants inside gas stations?  I'm the Tesla of trivial ideas.

I really should have known about the flower diagram, since I'm an English teacher and "clustering" is one of the concepts I teach my students for organizing their papers.  There's a fine line between a blob surrounded by and connected to other blobs, and a flower with a center and petals.)

Since I couldn't find a blank diagram, I used an actual photo instead, which is much prettier anyway.  I have to say, with this blogging business, I've been learning a lot of new skills, but the one that tops the charts this week is learning to put text into a photo.

After I got the basic categories down, I made a two-column list, one column for how strong my desire is to do each activity, and one for how much time that activity requires.  I didn't spend a lot of time thinking; I just did it off the top of my head, trusted my initial responses.  Looking at it now, I'm not sure how helpful it really is.  First of all, it makes me feel guilty, like certain things "should" be higher on the desire list than others.  The fact is, all of these things are almost equally important to me, which is why they get to be petals on the flower in the first place.  Trying to prioritize them is extremely difficult - at least, doing it this way, by a list.

So I went to Plan B.  I wrote out a blank weekly schedule, and then filled it in, and that's what really worked.  I realized that I have more time than I thought I did, and more importantly, that it's ENOUGH time to do all of these things, and do them well.

The real problem is when one thing interrupts another's allotted time.  For instance, my son keeps interrupting me as I'm writing this.  Getting other people in my life (i.e., my children) to respect the aspects of my life that don't involve them is definitely the biggest challenge.  Which is another reason why having a fairly orderly schedule is helpful - because then I can say, Right now is my writing time.  When I'm done, let's go for a walk.

I'm done.  I'm going for a walk.


  1. This is so clear and helpful, and INFORMATIVE!! I have been struggling with this same issue. This is helpful to me to see we are all working it out.

    Also, your site looks GREAT!

  2. Thank you! I'm glad to know this helps someone besides me.

  3. Outstanding post!
    >Green is THE biz to be in right now. You can not go wrong. "Free Advertising 4 U" reads your fortune cookie. Call up the newstations and the newspapers. They'e going to be all over that.

    >The blog looks awesome. And I loved the flower. My flower includes "sex" because I'm a freak like that. I did NOT just say that.

  4. Sex for me falls under the "sig. other" category. I certainly wouldn't exclude it!

    Thanks for the support about my business. Do you have $350,000 you could lend me? :)

    But seriously, if you have any advice about how to get financing (I'm a single mother of four with no real assets and no real credit history), I'd more than appreciate it.

    I have pretty much everything I need to make this business a success except money.

  5. Hi P

    thanks for finding me so we can share some of our loves and lives...

    I am sorry to say that I have used your 'original' flower idea many times to mindmap or sort ideas, so you can credit the 100th monkey phemomena for bringing it to you this week...

    It is a good way to brainstorm and sort...but I did notice that you do not have a petal for your physical self...your exercise, relaxation and so on and as a mum of 4 kids I found it important to prioritise that area of my life because it gave me the energy to sustain the rest...

    I am returning later to read back over your previous posts,
    until then

    Happy days

  6. Delwyn - I thought about putting the physical aspect in but didn't for 2 reasons - 1) it would have messed up my 8-petaled scheme :), and 2) I already have that one worked out with a class that I take.

    Since it's at the same time on the same days each week, it's not one of the things I'm having to try to juggle. That ball's already in the air, so to speak.

  7. And there I go being pedestrian and using a regular ol' pie chart to map out my mental and epistemological priorities. The flower idea is marvelous, and vaguely familiar somehow. So are restaurants inside gas stations. An entertaining post. Soon now I'll set aside some time to read over the rest of the blog (which does, to echo some sentiments expressed above, look good).

    Keep at it. And enjoy your walk.

  8. Can you drop me an email and describe the biz?

    >And good for you, btw!

  9. I found you! Now I need to bring you the laptop so you can read this comment...

    I'm so glad you're doing this blog. It will now be one of my new favorite places in the world.

  10. Postman - Thanks!

    Pies are as good as flowers in my book. Especially if they're pumpkin, cherry, chocolate cream, or pecan.

  11. Junebug - I'm glad you found me - now you need to start your own blog!



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