I hope you’re enjoying the guest post series on how 10 women I admire create their lives. Today is Laura Roeder, the founder of Edgar. Laura is an astonishingly smart cultural transformer, through the vehicles of social media and business. I’m always learning from her. I hope you do too. Find her on twitter @LKR.
Slipping Into The Scheduled Life
I’ve always loved the idea that your calendar reveals where your true priorities lie. My calendar, perhaps surprisingly, has very little on it. And this makes me feel like I’m perfectly in line with my priorities – I don’t like being rushed, “busy” or overscheduled. I like to take my time, to focus on whatever is lighting me up that day. I deeply cherish my freedom, from the ability to choose what to do hour-to-hour to the bigger stuff, like where to live.
It’s too easy to slip into the scheduled life, where we’re desperately trying to keep up with all of the unimportant commitments that we’ve made. I say NO a lot, and sometimes I feel guilty or uncertain about this. I’m the founder of a new startup. Aren’t I supposed to be “hustling”, saying yes to every meeting and every possible opportunity?
Recently I was faced head-on with the truth of my calendar versus my real priorities – a last-minute family dinner was scheduled right when I had scheduled an interview to do a podcast. This wasn’t any kind of special dinner – no one was flying in from far away, and we weren’t celebrating anything in particular. But everyone was coming to my mother-in-law’s house to enjoy a meal together. This is the kind of thing that I claim is my priority.
When I realized the conflict, I felt immense pressure. I really wanted to go to the dinner, but I had already made a commitment to do the podcast. I hate going back on my word or letting people down. And because there was nothing special about the dinner, I couldn’t say that my aunt was flying in from Australia and this would be my only chance to see her, or anything like that. At first I said I couldn’t go to the dinner, figuring it was just bad luck for scheduling at the wrong time and it would be my loss.
Then I looked at myself – what was I doing? Why was I putting so much pressure on myself? The podcast wasn’t live – it could be recorded at any time. I probably wouldn’t even remember doing this interview in a year, much less in 10.
So I contacted the podcaster and politely told him that a family conflict had come up, and I would need to reschedule. I apologized profusely for cancelling at the last minute (it was the day before), but I did not waver in my decision. It would need to be rescheduled.
As you can guess, my business did not implode as a result of rescheduling one interview. I was not shunned by the Internet. It was totally fine. We recorded the interview a few days later, and I got to enjoy some time with my family. After the fact, I couldn’t believe I had let myself give in to so much worry about something so small.
My all time favorite quote is from Annie Dillard: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
It’s funny how we give ourselves permission to prioritize our personal lives for the big things. We’ll take a little time off for a wedding, a long-planned vacation or kindergarten graduation. But when it comes to the mundane family dinners, the walk around the neighborhood, the extra snuggle time in the morning – we feel guilty. The quote is a reminder that our lives are made up of the little things, the small and the everyday. You can cancel a business appointment in favor of a regular family dinner just as much as you can for an “important” one. And if you want to live a life that you love, you’re going to have to.
The truth is, it’s really hard to go against the grain and be deliberate with your time. To really choose what you say that you prioritize. Especially in the business world, we’re bombarded with stories about doing what you have to, going that extra mile, working harder than anyone else. Thinking about answering all the emails my company gets makes me want to hide under a rock. So I don’t do it. (Someone else does.) Does this make me worse than the founders that do? Less connected? Less caring about our customers? These are the things that make me second guess myself.
But then I look around at my life, and my company, and know that I’m right on track. Our team is happy. Our customers are happy. I’m happy. I’m enjoying how I spend my days, and how I spend my life.
Thank you for reminding me exactly what I attempt to live. And thanks everybody for reading along with this series.