Organizing Priorities aka Crazy Brain


Over the past month I’ve seen several blogs talking about prioritizing your life in order to help you get all of the things you need to do and want to do done. This is great advice. It makes perfect sense, and I’m sure works beautifully for the emotionally stable people out there. Are any of them writers??

The first problem I run into is trying to figure out what my top priorities are. I have a list of emotional priorities and real life priorities and few things cross over. Let’s take a look at how this process works. Don’t worry you can’t catch crazy.

Real life priorities: work, my kids, hubby, showering, social media, editing, formatting, and working out.
Emotional Priorities: writing, my kids, hubby, friends, relaxing, and reading.

So only my family crosses over, and in my day-to-day life, they get very little of my time because of the work thing.
Explanation of work thing: okay to truly empathize with me and understand the crazy, you need to understand what I do for a living. I am a houseparent at a group home for children who have been removed from their homes by child protective services. I go to work at 3pm–right before they come home from school–and I work until 9am the next morning. I work all weekend, three times per month. I do get ten respite hours per week. I parent the kids: homework, bedtime stories, hygiene, etc. The more I interact with them, the easier things are, but the less time I have for other things. My own family lives upstairs (think two-story apartment building) so they can come down and I can see them; but if I’m with them, I’m neglecting the work kids, and if I’m focused on the work kids I’m neglecting my family. A perfect example of the battle between real life and emotional priorities.

Okay, so far all is calm, but once I get into my list, the “should” begin to creep in. You know, those nasty little voices that start to list everything you have failed to do—ever. Who cares that I’m making a list now and organizing my life now. I should have been taking care of: the dishes, laundry, dinner, making lunches, playing games, calling friends, posting more on twitter, editing, reading more, doing yoga with my daughter, working out, eating better, dusting, filling out paperwork, formatting, writing, cleaning my room, cleaning the house, baking, going on dates with my hubby, helping with homework, and, dear God, when was the last time I cut my toe nails? Quick put on some socks and hide those nasty things!

Now a normal person might clip her toe nails and realize she can’t change the past so she takes a deep breath, lets it out, and figures out how to change things so she can do her best from this day forward. I begin to spiral into the pit of despair (queue eerie music). Now this can range from feeling like I suck and pouting for a bit to falling into the pit binging on eggrolls, ice cream, and allowing every crappy thought I’ve ever had to fill my brain. Yes, I have gone to counseling, and, yes, I do have some tools to keep myself from falling too deeply into the pit. The biggest two are daily exercises and eating healthy food. I also have an angst-ridden story that sucks. I write the story when I’m in this mood. Those poor characters take a lot of abuse.

So how does one so emotionally fragile and freakish make a list of priorities? With help. I ask my husband, good friends, or even my therapist to help me figure out what is most important. They validate that the things on my emotional list do have as much value as the things on my real life list. Someday, I hope, my work and writing will be the same thing, but for now I have to juggle two jobs, one hubby, two personal children, five work children, two households, working out, and talking to a friend now and then.

And before anyone comments on hubby helping, let me tell you that he also works full time, takes care of our kids after school, makes 98% of the meals, and does 95% of the housework. So he helps enough. I would be lost without him.

So how do you prioritize your time? Do you need help, or are you able to fit it all together in one shining, color-coded spread sheet?

And just to lighten the mood and let everyone now I’m not currently wallowing in self pity- this is what I which balancing looked like in my life.

10 responses »

  1. What a great but demanding job you have Alica! Taking care of kids who have been removed from their families can be an emotional job as well. Thank you for the things you do for them. Having worked at CPS for 9 years in the past, I know the challenges you face: the rewards and the heartbreaks. Taking care of yourself has to be on the priority list, too.

    And I beg to disagree…I think you can catch crazy! You haven’t met my family. LOL

  2. Great post, Alica. I’m sure we can all relate to the challenge of juggling “real” life with our writing. I find that prioritizing writing first, whenever possible, is key for my well-being in the real world. When I had an early morning non-writing work gig, I woke at 4:30am to write beforehand… SO worth it.

    I think the whole world would benefit hugely if we all prioritized and pursued our passions more…just MYO. 😉 So glad you have friends, a fab hubby and therapist in your corner!

  3. Great post, Alica. Sounds like you’ve got a lot of balls in the air.

    I’m sure the children you work with, as well as your own kids, are like kids everywhere. The more time you spend present and caring, the better off they are. I was a good mom with one child. Could pretty much meet his needs and feel superior to my peers. Then I had his sister. My standard quickly dropped to, “If they can afford their own therapists when they grow up, then I haven’t done everything wrong.” And I don’t even feel superior to myself any more, much less my peers. But that’s a good thing. 🙂

    I am not a multi-tasker. It helps me to remember that to everything, there is a season. I had to simplify my life, and I tell myself it is just for now, because this is the season. Just for now, if it doesn’t have something to do with writing, my family, or my health, I say, “no.” It makes my decisions very simple. And when it comes to writing, I remember the number one rule of prioritizing work when I was a lawyer. Do the paying work first. 🙂

    A very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.

    • Thanks Piper I need to remember there is a time for everything when I just can’t juggle and have to focus on one thing at a time. It drives me nuts because I feel like there is so much to do an no time to do it all! Yes, definitely do the paying work first.

  4. GhetToes. I think I have to throw up.

    Your job makes my job look like a sissy. Tough work, but I’m glad there are folks like you to do it. I think a big first step is knowing what one’s priorities are. A second step is admitting they aren’t what you wish they were, and what you wish isn’t necessarily what people think they should be. You’ve made an excellent start.

    I need to think about my emotional priorities.

    • Aren’t they horrid! LOL- I don;t know each job has it’s challenges and everyone has things they are good at. There are definitely jobs i couldn’t do. Once I moved my writing to a higher priority I felt calmer and able to fit a bit more into place. I’m still struggling I bet I’ll always struggle, but I feel a little clearer.
      I think when we ignore our emotional priorities we become resentful and bitter- or at least I do.
      Thanks Bill

  5. Hi Alica,

    Thanks for sharing the reality of your life schedule. I was surprised that social medial was something you consider a real-life need, whereas writing’s an emotional need. Am I missing something? I consider writing to be my second job, albeit currently a non-paying one, so wouldn’t that overlap into real-life. Social media provides me an emotional connection to other writers and people in general. So I’d have that overlap too.

    Ghet-toes. Horrible, but you certainly make a valid point. I haven’t had a chance to color my hair in two-and-a-half months. Black roots galore…Ick!

    I feel for you with the work. You are torn between home and work responsibilities. I can relate. I recently told my husband I felt that when too much is expected of me I end up only doing a half-@#$ job in everything. I pray that your children are older so they don’t feel your absence as much and that you get to spend time with them and/or husband during your respite hours–doing something special together.

    Where is time for Alica? That’s a priority I didn’t see there. You must make time for yourself or you won’t be any good to anyone else.

    Hang in there, and kudos to you for doing a job that has it’s inherent challenges. 🙂

    • I’m working to get social media back to a fun place, but sometimes it can be very overhwelming and I feel like I have to do it. But as I find more balance in my life I enjoy it more and more 🙂
      My time for myself- well the wirting and gym are both things which help a lot. Other then that I try and multi-task- critique group with friends and such.
      Thanks Jolsye!

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