I did a real writerly thing the other day. When I take the long drives down the Saw Mill Parkway in Westchester, especially when the traffic is light and I can drive long stretches without stopping or slowing down, my mind churns busily. The way some people get their best ideas in the shower, I get mine while I drive. (Don't worry, mom, I'm totally paying attention to the road!)
Back to the writerly thing I did. I thought a thought while I was driving, and as soon as I pulled into my parking spot, I whipped out my phone, opened Evernote and wrote it down, this thought that I thought.
And what was it? I was mulling over my terrible Internet habit. Internet, I love you but you are a timesuck and I have no one to blame but myself for that. Here's the precise problem: I convince myself that the things I'm doing online are important, when they really aren't. I don't need to check Facebook every five minutes. I don't need to go through my Google Reader. I don't need to check my e-mail approximately 5 million times a day (only slightly exaggerating). What I do need is a sort of Internet schedule. I need to decide what it is important, and what needs to be done when. I've reached a point where I recognize that I could get a lot more done during my day if I scheduled specific times to check my e-mail, go on Facebook, whatever the hell it is I do online.
This leads me down a path where I question my purpose. What am I doing with my life that is meaningful, constructive and productive? For a long time, I had clearly defined roles. First, I was a student, then I was a teacher. But these new roles that I have now, being a wife and a mother, I'm still trying to figure out how to act out those roles. The roles of student and teacher are automatically imbued with a sense of purpose. Learn something. Teach something. That's simply put but you get the point. The roles of wife and mother are a little more abstract. It can be whatever I want it to be. For some women, it comes naturally. But sometimes, I just feel like I'm on one looooong vacation from the real world. We are not terribly busy people. I don't shuttle my children from activity to activity. We don't have a lot of appointments. I don't really have a lot going on, or at least, I don't think I do.
And I'm thinking wrong. Because the truth is, I do have a lot to do. I'm just hard-pressed to figure out when and how I'm supposed to do it all. I recently had to write a bio for an online book review site. I closed out the paragraph with "In my free time, I sew small items for children and train for triathlons." After I hit send, I realized that I wanted that statement to be true but in reality, I sabotage myself. I don't prioritize those things and I should. Another thing I don't prioritize is building my tutoring business, which is just plain silly.
But how do I find the time in my day to keep house, keep children and pursue my own interests? The answer, quite simply, is scheduling. When I was a teacher and student, I was a slave to my datebook. I needed that structure to keep myself together. Without it, I was lost. And it has to be a physical datebook, where I write things down with an actual pen. My iPhone is great but typing things doesn't impress details into my memory the way writing with a pen does.
Sometimes I'm blown away by what I figure out about myself as I get older.
(Also, I totally confess to checking Facebook about 1000 times while I was composing this here post.)