I was trying to find a good computing metaphor to define my state for the last few weeks. I started with threading, but decided on parallel processing. In theory parallel processing makes processes go more quickly. The first weeks of school, though, really do require one to run multiple processes at once, to keep many balls in the air. I let some processes crash. Exercise. Eating well.
I decided this morning to reset a bit. Things are not going to get any less busy. That’s not how my life works, but in order to accomplish everything I want to accomplish, I need to find moments to step back and see if what I’m doing is working, what should I keep doing, stop doing. Should I approach something differently, try a new strategy?
Some say, well, Randi Zuckerberg says that you can only keep so many balls in the air at once. Work, family, sleep, friends, or exercise, you get three. The other two things have to go. The last few weeks, I’ve managed work, sleep, and family. Exercise and friends just disappeared. And I do think it’s true that you can’t juggle all these things all the time. I’ll also note that household management, things like cleaning, making doctor’s appointments, scheduling maintenance, those aren’t on the list.
I found myself this week disappointed that I had dropped a couple of things. So I had friends over this past weekend, and I put exercise on my schedule for today. I think you can take the long view on these things. You might be able to, over the course of a month, get in all five things (and more!). But any given day, yeah, probably only going to get to three. So today will be work, family, and exercise. Tomorrow, a weekend, might be more than that.
Rather than focus on what’s not getting done today, I’m going to think about what is getting done, focus my efforts on what’s important, and look ahead to see what will be important next week, next month, over the course of the year.
This is what we do as individuals, and what we should do as institutions. In my work, that’s what I try to do for my own institution. I try to look at the big picture, step back and see what processes need to keep running, which ones need to stop (permanently or temporarily), and which ones need to be reset and restarted with new parameters. For me as an individual, it often means getting other individuals to start doing something, to refocus, or change how they’re doing something. And that means I also have to provide the conditions in which those processes can happen. It’s a tall order, and when I think about it, it makes sense that I might not make it to the gym every day and instead opt for a little more time at work with a glass of wine when I get home.