I am quite possibly the last person in the Western World who is still using a day planner. Rather than using a slick little electronic device to keep track of my life, I write down my every appointment and obligation in a cocoa-colored, leather-bound book.
There’s something a little dangerous, though, about those creamy blank sheets of paper, waiting patiently to be filled up. I see an empty page and am all too willing to fill it. I’m forever over-scheduling and over-extending myself.
Today, for example, my little day planner is scribbled with errands to run, appointments to keep, practicing to do, and a gig tonight. Until 11:00 this evening, every hour of today is allocated to a specific assignment, and already I am feeling unequal to the task. I am feeling frenetic and scattered just typing these words.
Adding to my adrenaline-fueled quest for productivity amid fears of inadequacy, the superintendent knocked on the door this morning. He wanted to know if he could bring a painter through the apartment to assess the damage from a recent leak. I felt a surge of annoyance. Why couldn’t he have told us in advance that the painter would be in the building today? Why didn’t he make an appointment? I have too much to do, I wailed inwardly.
But outwardly I smiled, opened the door, and ushered the super and the painter inside. After inspecting the damaged area, the two men conferred and told me, “Be ready tomorrow mornink. Vee come beck then to feex sheetrock.” And just like that, I gave away my tomorrow morning, too.
Why didn’t I say, “Sorry, guys, you didn’t tell me you were coming and tomorrow won’t work for me. Can we pick a time next week?” I suppose I was afraid of coming across as “difficult.”
I don’t, however, attribute the tendency to over-schedule solely to a desire to be accommodating. Women are natural multi-taskers, so perhaps a certain hubris permeates my sense of what is possible to accomplish in any given day. I do so much juggling in order to feel “productive”: exercise, writing, practicing and performing, not to mention the far more mundane (but just as necessary) tasks of laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, and errand-running.
Most troublesome of all is that I (and most women I know) can do a pretty good job of keeping all those balls in the air. We function so well under stress that we often don’t realize how much we need a break until we catch that nasty cold, or find ourselves short-tempered and exhausted, unable to enjoy our free time when it (finally) arrives.
If nothing else, I realized this morning that I need to be much more territorial about my time. I’m a singer, not a juggler.