Almost every Friday, I go to a cafe to work, to send out freelance pitches, to finish drafts of articles, and rewrite drafts of articles. Inevitably, by Friday there is something (often multiple somethings) that I’m stressed about not having done.
On those Fridays, I meet a friend who is also a writer for a working date. We chat and catch up for the first hour and then we both get into our work.
A couple of weeks ago, she told me about a creative opportunity she was thinking about pursuing and I told her about the tasks I had to do and the applications for residencies and grants I hadn’t yet completed.
“You have to think about what goes on the tray,” she said.
“Only so much can fit and you have to figure out what goes on and what comes off to be able to keep everything in balance.”
I thought about carrying a tray at the cafeteria in college. If you tried to put too much on, you were in danger of spilling the entire contents of it before you got to your seat. Not only would you be embarrassed, you’d be hungry.
So, what did my tray look like? And was I in danger of putting too much on it and getting stressed?
My friend’s metaphor has stayed with me since then and has been a good check about how to prioritize and how to keep everything in balance.
So often, we feel like we’re failing it we don’t do it all. We’ll have goals for our career, our romantic life, and our personal life that we must accomplish. Add to that an overflowing email inbox and neverending social media feeds. Got any text messages that aren’t answered? And by the way, have you meditated today?
All of that can just be a normal week, what happens when new opportunities come along? You want to pursue great new possibilities, like those that can help you take your career to the next level, but will you have room on your tray to take it on?
Right now, on my own tray, I have my writing career, this website, my romantic relationship, my relationship with friends and family, my health (including making time for a more ambitious gym schedule), and creative projects just waiting for me to get back to them.
In any given week, I may find that some things can’t be on the tray. Maybe I can only have a quick check-in with a couple of my girlfriends or maybe I give the editor for my latest assignment a deadline farther into the future to make sure that my tray doesn’t tip over.
Creativity will always be on the tray and so will self-care because without those two I’m not much good to anybody. Then, I can add to the tray from there carefully and thoughtfully.
What’s on your tray? What stays on this week and what should come off to make sure you stay balanced and less stressed?