Playing the Long Game, Slowing Down, and Becoming Better

Recently, I had a choice to make. I was working on a book and I could try to get that published and be a writer full-time. Or I could go to graduate school and keep learning. And I chose to go to graduate school.

I love writing and I want to write for my career (my career goals are to write books and teach college classes). I wanted to start writing multiple books and articles and blog posts and figure out how to get a social media following.

I went to a nonfiction writing workshop this spring, and at the end of my workshop, I talked with my teacher and told her I was thinking about graduate school. She suggested I was young enough that I could put my book away and just focus on graduate school and that what I would learn would enable me to be a better writer for the future.

That’s hard sometimes. It’s hard to play the long game, to work on improving yourself and your skills instead of just going for things.

And sometimes that is not the right decision. I know some people who may have spent too much time developing their talents and not enough time sharing them. Some people hesitate when they need to go for it.

So how do we know when we’re ready? How do we know when it’s time to slow down, and when it’s time to speed it up?

First, I think we always should be working on self-improvement and becoming better. We should be continually learning and improving ourselves, even if we have obtained some success. We should maintain humility that we can become better.

Second, we should look at our long -term goals and see if slowing down would work better for those long-term goals. I could have pursued writing full-time, but I have always wanted to teach college classes, and so going to graduate school was the opportunity I really needed.

Third, we should look if our actions are governed by fear of rejection and failure. If you don’t think you’re good enough, is that simply because you are afraid that you might fail? Would there be any harm in trying?

Fourth, we should always be working on good long-term goals that will enable us to improve ourselves and help others.

You might not have a clear direction of exactly where your life is going, and that’s okay. But how can you become better? How can you serve others? In what areas of your life do you need to slow down and in what areas do you need to go for it? Maybe your answer is that you need to do a little bit of both–step by step, improving yourself, sharing with others, and working towards being the best you can be.

Two years ago, we built this wall brick by brick. It was a long and slow process, and we weren’t very good at it, but we tried our best and it worked out.

The Heaviness of Unfairness and Finding Peace in Commotion

There’s been a lot of commotion in the world today. I don’t want to look at the news that are filled with violence and confusion. I don’t want to hear stories about house prices and gas prices and inflation that make it hard for people to afford basic necessities of life. I don’t want to hear all the frustrating developments in politics.

So many people are struggling. It wears at my heart: empathy drives me to mourn, and in that mourning, I want to act.

But what can I do? What can I do that has an impact?

I find myself realizing that I am powerless in so many ways. I can list out the problems in the world and I can list solutions, but there seems to be a chasm between the two–a chasm of power and money and inaction. Solutions are too complicated when too many people have their opinions and they never agree.

I want to do something, but I don’t know what, so I do nothing. Maybe I’m making excuses. Maybe there is something I could do to take this world a better place, but I don’t know what it is.

If I speak up, my voice just feels lost in the crowd and I am often ignored. Other people live their life, make their own decisions, and I must sit back and simply watch.

I feel too privileged, unfairly so. I know people have worked harder and have less. I have to sit in my nice house knowing that so many people can’t afford a home. I don’t deserve this.

And what do I do when all of this wears at me? How can I continue to try to live my dreams when I know of so much struggle?

I realize that there also needs to be happiness in the world. There needs to be people living good lives and serving in small walls and being kind to others. There needs to be people raising families. There needs to be people creating. We are working towards a better world, and so there needs to be joy somewhere.

While I am undeserving, I can also be grateful. And there is work for me to do–maybe I won’t change the world, but the small things I do do can increase happiness, step by step. I can visit friends. Listen to someone who needs to talk. I can mourn and pray. And I can write and speak, trying to make sense of a nonsensical world and finding some good that can bring a measure of peace.

Running as fast as I can

Kids running GIF

I don’t like to run. I did track in junior high, and my best event was the 400 meter, which is a horrible event. You have to run fast and long. (It is slightly better than the 800 meter.) I wasn’t fast. And I don’t like going on long runs. The longest I have ever run is a 5k, and I did that once.

But I do like to pile things onto my to-do list. I want to work on everything now. My current projects include finishing my inspirational self-help book, writing a new novel, writing a new inspirational self-help book, leading a writing group in my community, beta reading for another writer, building up my Instagram account, doing a writing workshop, and updating my blog. That’s just writing stuff. Then I am working to finish the Khan Academy calculus bc course, keep learning how to code in R better, and read nonfiction in the areas of rationality, philosophy, and economics, including finish reading that macroeconomic textbook because I didn’t do well in macroeconomics in college and it bothers me. I am also renovating a house, and today I painted the laundry room walls and flooring, and I need to put that room back together. I need to mud and tape my whole house and paint it. And I need to prune my apple tree and work on my yard, including taking care of my birds. I am trying to be a good neighbor and want to go visit others more. I volunteer at the school. And I need to keep my house clean, which includes dusting on occasion and doing a lot of laundry. I also am trying to touch my toes, do more push-ups, and drink 64 ounces of water every day.

And I want to be a good mom, pay attention to my kids, teach them piano, and read with them. And I have a husband whom I really like.

It’s sort of a lot. But not really. Because I don’t have to do all of that at once. I can only do one thing at a time, after all.

Sometimes I need to simplify and slow down. But that doesn’t mean I need to give up on my goals–a lot of them can be pushed to later. I can prioritize by realizing what season of life I am in right now, and then being patient with myself when I can’t do everything right now, but I can do everything over time.

Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you … but be diligent unto the end.

Doctrine and Covenants 10:4

I don’t need to remove things from my to do list for forever. Just for right now. I want to pace myself by not trying to do everything every day, but just a few most important things every day.

Today, I’m not worrying about my novel, or my writing workshop, or reading my macroeconomics textbook. Those things can happen later. Today, I am focusing on working on my laundry room, finishing the draft of my inspirational self-help book, and taking care of my kids, one of whom has pink eye, and another one who threw up last night (but he’s fine now). I’m writing this blog post as they happily play with Duplos.

In the evening, I’m going to watch one of my favorite TV shows with my husband and work on the Semantle and Nerdle puzzles for the day, because I don’t need to be productive all the time. But hopefully things like entertainment and spending time doing nothing on my computer can be minimal: because while I want to avoid running too fast, I do want to keep running instead of getting distracted and forgetting what direction I’m heading.

Where are you running to? Are you going too fast? Do you need to pick up the pace a bit? What can be put off until later and what needs to happen right now?

How to Take a Break

I’m not good at taking breaks. I’m good at getting really exhausted and then checking social media, but that is the worst way to take breaks.

My friend Amy recently told me that she doesn’t let her car get under a half tank. She wants to be prepared. And then she said, “Why can’t we do that for ourselves?” If we can manage to keep our vehicles full of fuel, we can also work to keep ourselves fueled and ready to go.

Which means we need to take breaks. And not breaks when we’ve become exhausted and empty–instead, we need breaks when we’re half-empty, before we’re exhausted.

But some breaks that I take are just horrible: Checking social media. Looking at the news and pandemic trends. Watching YouTube videos. Staring mindlessly at a computer screen is not a good break: it doesn’t replenish me and makes me feel more drained.

Here are some ideas on how to take a real break that can actually give our minds and bodies the rest we need and invigorate us to keep going:

  • Exercise.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Go outside.
  • Read a book.
  • Talk to a friend.
  • Play with a child.
  • Do a small act of service.
  • Say a prayer.
  • Sit in silence.
  • Meditate.
  • Say something you’re grateful for.
  • Eat a snack. Preferably a somewhat healthy one.
  • Drink some water.
  • Clean up. Even doing a tiny bit can help.
  • Sit there and do nothing (but don’t look at a screen).

Sometimes taking a break is difficult. I have a hard time changing my focus and I want to just get stuff done. But it’s not efficient to get stuff done by working and working until I’m overly exhausted and I can’t do anything else.

I’m going to keep working on taking breaks–the right sort of breaks that will help me feel happier, energized, and live the life I want to live.

Possibilities and Planning

I want a five year plan. I keep on rethinking the directions I’m heading and want to feel a little bit more stable about my options for the future.

But I know that this plan isn’t going to be linear and clear. Life turns out a lot different than I expect it to. Five years ago, I had little idea of where I would be right now. I just graduated with an economics degree and now I have a part-time job working for FamilySearch doing image audits. I have four kids who take up most of my time and attention. I’m writing a book.

I don’t know where I will be in five years (possibly in the exact same place, but I really hope I’m sitting on a different couch). But I do know that there are a few different options that I want to pursue.

So instead of a five-year plan that looks like this:

I want a five-year plan that looks like this:

A plan doesn’t need to tell me exactly what I want to do. Instead, a plan gives me guidance on which opportunities I want to pursue. And then some of those opportunities will work out and be the right fit, and some of them won’t be.

Technology: Pushing it out of your life

Like most people in the world today, sometimes I waste too much time on social media and other websites. They are designed be addictive, after all, and rabbit holes are encouraged in the never-ending display of suggested content.

But when I focus on getting rid of that wasted time, I usually fail. I have created some better habits. On my phone, for example, I don’t have any social media apps. I’ve also removed email and my web browser. The only notifications I have are for texts and calls. I also unfollow people, try to have screen-free time, have a blocking program on my computer (FocusMe), and use one site ( to check on news.

All those things aren’t enough. I still waste time on my computer and phone–it’s not a personal weakness as much as simply a really difficult problem.

But here is the one thing that has worked the very best: crowding out wasted time with doing good things. When I have free time, technology sucks it up like a vacuum. But when I have lots to do, technology gets pushed out of my life in favor of better things.

This week was very busy. I had to work on painting my house to get ready for winter and I had two papers to write for my classes in school. It’s also Halloween and I worked to spend time with my kids. When I planned to do many good things, I didn’t have time to waste.

Good habits are better formed by crowding out the bad habits in favor of something better. Focusing on my negative technology use and trying to eliminate it is focusing on the wrong thing–I should instead look at what that technology is preventing me from doing, and work on increasing good works in my life.

I want to read books and write and play games with my family and learn new things and serve others. When I plan for that in my life, my technology habits take care of themselves.


Option 1: Abigail is living her life. She has her routine: wake up, get ready, work, spend time with her family, read a book, go to bed. She has the occasional events with church and work and community and life. She lives in her own little sphere, and it’s pretty happy there. A bit lonely, but she has her routine that she keeps doing over and over again, so it’s okay. Social media and videos help with the loneliness. And if she gets feeling down, she does something special like taking herself out to dinner and travelling to see something new.

And then one day, Barbara knocks on her door at 7:00 in the morning. She brings Abigail breakfast with orange juice. It’s weird, but Abigail likes orange juice. Abigail isn’t sure what to say. And Barbara isn’t sure what to say either, but they exist there together eating toast, until they both resume their routine and go to work. Abigail is late, but she finds that she is happier than normal.

In the evening, Abigail texts Barbara and tells her thank you and that they should get together sometime. Abigail doesn’t expect a response, but Barbara says, “How about we go to lunch on Saturday?”

And so Abigail ends up having sushi with Barbara, and while she is there, Barbara offers to babysit her kids so that Abigail can have a date night with her husband next Friday night at 6:30.

But Abigail feels confused. She had been living happily in her sphere and no one bothered her, but here is Barbara, inserting herself into Abigail’s life and she feels like she finally has a friend.

Barbara comes and babysits on Friday. And then Abigail decides she is going to text Barbara something a few days later, though this feels a little awkward and weird. “Hey–do you want to go have lunch again tomorrow?” And she nervously clicks send.

“Sure! That’s sounds awesome!”

And so it continues. Abigail finds out that Barbara has lots of other friends, and then Abigail get lots of other friends, and then she don’t exist in her own little sphere at all. She doesn’t feel lonely very much anymore.

Option 2: Barbara thinks it is too awkward to bring someone over breakfast first thing in the morning, and so she stays home and sends the occasional text message but never feels like she has any friends.

Friendship is not about giving people space. It’s not about waiting for convenient times and it does not take place on the internet. Being a friend is when you insert yourself into someone’s life and you both end up happier because of it. It can be awkward. There are missteps and confusion. You do things wrong a lot, but that’s okay. You can’t keep waiting for an invitation. Friendship doesn’t wait for an invitation. Friendship is the invitation, and it comes from you.



I was angry with my husband the other day. I really sort of wanted to be angry at him. It didn’t last long, because as I was talking, I realized I was being a complete hypocrite.

I was doing EXACTLY what I was mad at him for doing. I was holding grudges. I was not forgiving. I was picking fights. I was being distant and distracted. And I wanted to blame it on him, but it was totally and completely my fault.

In fact, when I think about it, I often try to blame my own faults on other people. Like thinking that no one invites me anywhere when I don’t invite anyone either. Or thinking that everyone else is cranky, which is a sure sign that I am the cranky one. Whenever I feel tired, it’s okay if I don’t do as much. But if someone else is tired, I get can sometimes get mad at them for being tired. It’s ridiculous.

But it doesn’t seem ridiculous in the moment. Only when I take a step back do I realize that I am being a hypocrite, and I am putting different expectations on others than I am on myself.

I think I hate the faults of others the most when they reflect my own faults. I don’t want to admit my own weakness and so it’s a lot easier to just push the blame elsewhere. But I do have a lot of faults. I’m selfish and proud and distracted and lazy. I stay inside my comfort zone too often and I expect too much from others.

So I’m going to try to be a little bit more humble and try to keep improving my own self instead of blaming the problems of my life on others. It’s hard. But it’s good too: if things are my fault, that means I can fix them.

Recent life hacks

Rituals are really helpful in order to express love. We love our children and our spouse and our family, but often we just think expressions of love will happen naturally and spontaneously. They don’t. We have to plan it a bit.

Love means that we always kiss each other good night. Or that we tuck kids into bed and sing them a song. Or we call our moms every Wednesday. Or that we make take time to wrestle every day at 4:00. Or we cuddle every evening. Or we end conversations with, “I love you.”

Everyone wants something dependable and safe, and creating rituals of love can be so helpful in feeling more loved and showing that love more often.


Two days ago, I watched a video on YouTube by Jordan Page about a block schedule productivity system. I’m always looking for better ways to manage my life, and this one wasn’t entirely unique, but yet it was just what I needed at the time.

She basically separates her days into a few large blocks, with a timer on the phone to tell her when it’s the next block. I really liked it because instead of using lots of small blocks of time, it was a few big blocks of time, generally categorized but flexible and not too specific. And it was pretty much what I was already doing, but just a slight improvement on it.

For me, I came up with the following blocks:

  • Morning (6-9). Wake-up, scriptures, prayers, mental health, exercise, family scripture study, breakfast, showers, kids ready, cleaning, home projects.
  • Learning (9-12). Homeschool and playing with kids.
  • Lunch (12-1). Lunch and clean up.
  • Projects (1-3). The kids watch movies or play. I work on school, blogging, and other projects.
  • Family/errands (3-5). Time to play outside, go and do things, etc.
  • Dinner (5-7). Dinner, clean up, and whatever.
  • Bed time (7-8). Tubs, stories, bed.
  • Evening (8-10). I catch up on projects and spend time with my husband.
  • Sleep (10-6).

It’s pretty easy. What was super helpful to me was I organizing my to-do list by block. It sort of just made things fall into place more. Instead of thinking what I needed to get done, I was planning on when I was doing it and then not worrying quite as much.


Put yourself out there

When I started learning more about economics, I ended up adding some economic blogs into my feed reader. One of them was The Enlightened Economics, by Diane Coyle. She mainly does book reviews, and a lot of her posts were very interesting to me. But I am new to the subject, and I wanted recommendations so I could have a starting point of interesting books, particularly related to economics and philosophy. They don’t teach that sort of thing very often in undergraduate classes.

So I wrote an email and I asked.

I could have talked myself out of doing that very easily, because I am a lowly undergraduate and she is a busy professional. Sometimes I get scared to actually write something that I know someone else will read and respond to. But I did it anyway.

She answered. And then there was a Twitter post (I don’t really do Twitter, but there were 58 comments on it, and retweets as well). And a blog post, with comments on the blog post, and a fairly long list of around 50 books at the end of it. I will probably never read all the books on that list, but I will read some (they are on request from my school’s library).

Not only am I grateful for that list, but it is also helpful for other people who are interested in the same thing. They exist. I haven’t met those other people yet, but maybe one day I will.

I am really glad I asked. So many times we talk ourselves out of asking the questions and sticking ourselves out there. Even if people are somewhat famous and successful, they still often will help others, and do it gladly.

It’s good to just apply. Send an email. Call someone. I have had plenty of rejection and some embarrassment, but sometimes it works out really well.