202: You Can Only Do So Much
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This topic might seem a little strange because in this community we usually encourage each other to go out, set big goals, and do the stuff we want to do. In fact, my most recent podcast interview episode was about living until you die and not making your age or situation or level of support an excuse for not getting things done or not reaching your goals.
However. As with most things, there’s a caveat. There’s always an “it depends” clause.
I’m bringing this up because of the chatter I hear and the messages I get from people who want to do all the things. They want advice about how to do all the things, because Amy, I just see all the things you’re doing and I want to do those things. But then they tell me their story and it is very clear that we are in two very different situations and two very different stages of life.
So, let me just throw this out here—as a “for instance”.
When we moved to the farm, my kids were almost 8 and almost 9. They are now 18 and 19.
Had I moved to the farm with a 2 and 3 year old, we wouldn’t have done half the things we did when we arrived here. And, if for some reason we would have, I sure as hell wouldn’t have been writing, podcasting, and making videos about it like I am now. I (personally) would not have had the mental capacity or the space in my day to do that.
It’s okay if you don’t, either.
Friends, hear me now. You can only do so much.
The problem is…
The problem is we want to do all the things. There are so many options of things to do, and so many people showing us the cool things they’re involved in, how can we not want to do all the things right now?
(Especially when the vast majority of you reading this are total go-getters who never take two seconds to sit down?)
The other problem is that we’ve got some people out there telling us—whether directly or by insinuating— that we can and should do all the things.
Technology helps… or does it?
When my kids were itty bitty, I would put them to bed at night, fire up the dial up internet, and eventually work on the computer with the goal of submitting a couple articles a month to magazines.
I sometimes wonder how much more I would have been able to do if I wasn’t constricted by the l-o-n-g wait of dial up.
Having said that, faster isn’t always better. Because as technology has made things “easier” and more attainable, there is an unwritten expectation that everyone can do more. They can fit more in to their 24 hour day because technology makes things faster.
But fitting more in doesn’t mean you have more free time. Fitting more in means you’re just doing more, faster, but you never catch up.
Because you can always fit more in.
You can always take on more.
Listen. You have limits. You can’t do everything. You’re not meant to do everything.
Understand what this means
We often hear that we should make the most of each day, and I believe that’s absolutely true. However, it’s important to know what that actually means.
Making the most of your day doesn’t necessarily mean you should try to fit 45 tasks into the space where 30 comfortably fit.
Making the most of your day also doesn’t mean feel guilty and lament over the fact that you have four kids under the age of four and can’t do all the things you did when you had one kid—or no kids.
Making the most of each day means this: doing what you logically can in the situation you’re in.
But I want to start a podcast, Amy.
I want to write a book, Amy.
I want to start a YouTube channel, Amy.
Ok, do that!
BUT. Understand this.
Everything you say yes to means you’re saying no to something else. And so while building a business might be the thing you want to do, if you pour yourself into it so hard that you never see your spouse/partner/kids, you have to realize the potential outcomes of that.
Side note: why is it when women pour themselves into starting a biz or work late hours to achieve their goals, it’s admirable… but when guys do it, they’re more often described as assholes who don’t care about their families? Food for thought.
The point here, as it always is, is balance. You have to find the fine line between here are the things I want to do and can do and here are the things that I want to do but are not right for me to do right now.
It’s okay if you have to wait a month. Or a year. Or until your kid is sleeping through the night. Or until your youngest is driving. Or until you move out of the city. Or until you add on that other bedroom. Or until you finish the roof on the shed. Or until you have more reliable internet. Or until your oldest kids can watch your youngest kids. Or until the promotion goes through.
In all the hustle and bustle that we talk about in “just do it!”, we have to admit that sometimes it’s not the right time, and sometime waiting is the better, more efficient, more productive choice.
(Also understand that in the waiting, you can be preparing for the thing you want to do, even if you’re not officially doing that thing yet.)
Figure out what (or who) is behind the drive to do more. Is it yourself? Other people? Is it about attaining solid, well thought out goals? Is it about keeping up appearances?
How would all of this change if someone told you right now, “you’re doing enough”? And instead of you puffing up your chest and pushing back with “oh yeah? watch me!” you actually listened and were just happy in the moment? What happened if we actually looked at the dandelion bouquet our kid brought us instead of worrying about the 14 books we haven’t written yet because we’re (sigh) so busy with our kids?
What you don’t see
There are lots of things we don’t see when we talk about how much other people are doing. Some of those folks “doing all the things” have a lot of help in the background that you don’t see. Having a YouTube channel is one thing. A YouTube channel with a crew that shoots and edits your video for you? That is something completely different.
The other thing we don’t see is the behind the scenes choices that every single person has to make. Every yes is a no to something else, right? Sometimes you don’t get to see what that no was given to.
For instance, if I do more in my Farmish business, I do less “at home”. If I’ve got a day of interviews scheduled, I’m definitely not canning that day. The busier I get with Farmish Kind of Life stuff, the less time I have to bake for people—family and friends included. The dirty dishes sit on the counter much longer than they used to, and I’m playing catch-up way more often than I realized I would.
If I do more on the actual farm, I do less with my writing/podcasting/videoing, or I have to change the hours that I’m working on Farmish. If I change the hours, that might mean I get up earlier or stay up later. Either of those choices have repercussions.
If I decide to go to the gym every day at 4pm (because that’s the time that works best for my husband and I to go together) that also means we’re not having an elaborate from scratch meal for supper. There’s not enough time for me to put that together between arriving home from the gym and my husband leaving for work.
Everything I add takes away from something else.
It’s the same for you, too.
When you look at how much someone else is doing, you sometimes unknowingly assume their household/work/family set up is similar to yours. Often times, it’s not. I don’t think people realize how much time I actually spend alone due to my husband’s job and the fact my kids are now adults. I’ve got a lot of time to organize things in the way I want to. My life now is completely different than ten years ago.
I bet yours is, too.
I really respect someone who can look at a situation and say “that’s not right for me right now” because something might be right for you, but it might not be right for you right now.
I really want to write fiction. Writing fiction makes me really happy. I cannot write fiction like I want to write fiction right now because something else would have to be taken off my daily list in order to efficiently and successfully write fiction in the way I want to.
How do I know this? I’ve tried to focus equally on fiction and non-fiction at the same time. I’ve tried to run multiple websites at the same time. It’s not efficient, and something always gives. Life became a lot easier when I accepted and realized that.
It’s all about what you can do, when. And right now is not always the right time.
Do you know yourself?
You have to know yourself.
Are you not answering the call to do something because you’re lazy? Or are you not answering the call to do something because it’s not the right time for you to do it?
You have to know yourself and be honest enough to answer the question.
Are you answering the call because it’s really what you feel you should do right now? Or are you answering the call because it’s going to make you look really amazing and awesome?
You should know yourself enough to answer those questions, even if you keep the answers to yourself. And if you can’t answer those questions, you need to figure out who you are before you attempt to answer anything else.
What can you do?
Theodore Roosevelt is often credited with saying, Do what you can with what you have where you are. And in the homesteading community we use that as a reminder that location or the size of our property should not be an excuse to not work towards a self sufficient, self reliant, sustainable life.
But what if the statement is really a caution to understand what you have and to work within those boundaries? As in, do what you can, but understand what that actually is at this moment in your life.
Do what you can. But also, know what makes sense for you to do.
Because you can only do so much.
— Amy Dingmann, 4-12-22
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