THE BLOG

Living in Pencil

03/16/2015 10:29 am ET | Updated May 16, 2015
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I am a planner.

Each weekend, I sit down and plan out the week ahead. I assess what my work priorities are, and how housework, gym time, meals, social events, and other activities figure in. It helps me get organized and gain some sense of control over a busy world.

I used to do this exercise in pen, but saw that by Tuesday of any given week, my conscious planning seemed to be cast by the wayside. External forces took over and I was constantly shifting and adapting to the environment, readjusting to fit it all in. I became confused with my own system of arrows, sticky notes and scratch-outs. So I switched to pencil.

Living in pencil has allowed me permission to be flexible and reminded me it's okay to readjust. I'm still working towards my goals, just not in the order I thought. Paradoxically though, recent winter weather has put my eraser on overdrive. I've been feeling like I am constantly readjusting to snow days, ice storms, and shoveling (oh, shoveling, how I despise thee). I've been feeling less magnanimous towards life in pencil and want a little pen to filter in.

But rather than address the effect, I'm thinking I may need to adjust the root cause of the problem. We live in a culture of extreme "busy-ness." It's almost a badge of honor to lament about how busy we are, a competition, if you will. And during each of these moments of being busy, we aren't truly present in any of them. I am oh so guilty of this -- the busy-ness, the lack of presence, the difficulty of continually living in the moment.

It brings to mind the concept of contaminated time. Brigid Schulte discusses the concept of "contaminated time" in her book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. I admit with chagrin how often I experience contaminated time during a day - I'm half focused on three things, and those three things change constantly. It feels like there is a game of Mexican jumping beans going on in my brain at all times. No wonder I have to use pencil.

Perhaps rather than figuring out how to fit it all in, I can wield my pencil to erase unnecessary "shoulds" in my planner. You know the shoulds: "I should drop this off at the dry cleaners today, I should reorganize that drawer, I should call that friend." I get it, all of those items are important in their own way. But perhaps removing some of the "shoulds" would allow less contaminated time. It would allow me to use my eraser to remove items, rather than readjust.

I wish to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal. I can go there -- I like to be there, I WANT to be there -but it not's my preferred style. So yes, I want to continue to be adaptable and resilient with the daily little curve balls I encounter. And I will continue to use pencil in my weekly planner to allow for that flexibility. I like and need to plan, to build in a little sanity, a little reflection on my goals and priorities. But I will simultaneously assess the "busy-ness" factor to use my pencil to erase unnecessary items. Who knows, maybe some day I'll even be able to use pen again.