3 Lessons in balance

1. If you eat the frog first, you may not have energy to do anything else. So do the smallest, most important things first. Sometimes I just want to get something done, but I am happier when I exercise, read scriptures, eat breakfast, spend a bit of time with my kids and my husband before I get started on my to-do list.

2. “I can’t be intentional if I’m wasting my bandwidth on thinking about what people might be thinking about me” (Dillon Hoyt).

3. Setting boundaries includes taking time to care for others, time to care for yourself, time to spend with the people you love, time to focus on work, time to move your body, time to cook and eat, time to be outside, time to create–and only one thing at a time. I have a big project due soon, but I’ve had to set the hours in which I’m going to complete the project. I don’t want it to take over my whole life.

Heather plays chess with her son

Not time management

Four thousand weeks in a lifetime. 168 hours a week. Split into 15-minute increments. Planned and agonized over. We think we want to master time, to figure out how to use all of the time we have to do more and become better.

I have enough time. Time management isn’t my problem.

I can sit and figure out how to use my time. But I have a much harder time figuring out how to my energy and focus and capabilities. There are constant interruptions and I get overwhelmed.

I have time. But now matter how much I plan out my days and weeks, life is unexpected and I don’t have the energy to do everything I want to.

So I wish we would stop talking about time management. It’s fairly easy, because it’s quantifiable and straightforward. Time keeps going in the same direction.

But I want to know more about energy management. And focus management. And emotional management. I don’t really need to use my time well, but I do need to use myself well. And that is a whole lot harder.

3 steps to better use social media

Sometimes I waste a lot of time on social media. Honestly, it’s scary that these companies know so much about me and regularly use algorithms in order to steal and keep my attention. I know a few people who have deleted social media accounts, and I strongly support people doing that if they are only using social media to consume.

But social media can be a positive force in your life. Here’s how:

Create First.

Before you log on to social media, create something to share. It’s okay to just share a little bit about your life and what you are thinking. You can share a photo of your life or something you’ve seen that is beautiful. You can ask a question or do a short status update. You can also use Canva to make a social media post. I like to share quotes from books and articles I’ve read, my own blog posts, projects I’ve completed, and insight from my life.

You might think this takes a lot of time–but so does scrolling through social media! If you don’t have time to create a post, you probably don’t have time to be on social media in the first place.

And don’t worry if your posts are good or not. Just make them. Try things out and experiment. Your friends want to hear from you, not just from influencers and commercial creators.

Again, let me stress that you do this before you go on to social media. If you go onto social media first, you will be too distracted to create something.

Connect Second.

After you post something, spend time connecting with other people. This is not just looking at posts. It means interacting with posts: Share them (and say why you are sharing). Comment on them. Answer questions. You won’t want to interact with every post you see, but try to find something that resonates with you and then respond to it. If nothing is inspiring you in your feed, than change your feed–unfollow people who don’t bring you joy. And send personal messages to people you know and love.

Set limits to resist consuming.

I don’t have social media on my phone. Sometimes I will install Instagram to make a post or a story, but then I often uninstall it. And I use two apps with time limits on them: Digital Wellbeing (which is standard on Android) and YourHour. On my computer, I use FocusMe. But there are lots of other apps and programs to use. You don’t have enough willpower to not waste time on social media. Social media is designed to suck away your time, so you need backup to tell you when you need to look up and do something else.

Create and connect instead of consume. Social media can be a good force in your life–and if it isn’t, get rid of it.

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?

103. What is one way to achieve my goals?

Set more realistic goals.

I’m working on writing a book, and I had a goal to get through my current draft and then complete another draft before the end of the year. In my head, I have all this time to write.

In reality, there is a lot of my life that takes up more time than I realize: being a mother, renovating my home, and the simple fact that I am not capable of being productive for 16 hours a day. I need down time too, and I’m not a particularly high-energy person.

So I changed my goal: I’ll finish one draft by the end of the year (I have 2.5 chapters left to edit), and then I’ll start on another draft in January. And my brain is telling me, “No, Heather! You can do more! You can work on this faster!”

But right now, writing is down the priority list behind taking care of my family, renovating my home, volunteering at the school, and more. And that’s okay.

So I’m trying to make my goal a little bit more manageable, with the hope that when it is more realistic, I’ll be more motivated to work on it more often, since I won’t be constantly behind.

7. How do I stop wasting time?

According to an app that I use, I spent almost 6 hours one week on Google. I spent 3 hours 15 minutes on Netflix. I spent 3 hours on Gmail. And I spent another 3 hours on YouTube. I spent less time on Facebook, as I have been checking it once a week (which is completely sufficient).

But 6 hours searching for things on the internet? I don’t know if that is totally accurate, but I do spend too much time looking up what randomly comes into my brain. I am sure that some of my searches are productive, but many of them are not.

I often will stop one method of wasting time only to fill it up with another one. I stop checking Facebook only to look at the news more often. I stop watching Netflix only to watch more YouTube.

I don’t want to waste time, but I persist.

(Most of this discussion has been wasting time by staring at a screen–but this is not the only way I waste time. I recently spent 10 hours reading a book that I had already read before, and I don’t see how that’s much better than watching 10 hours of movies.)

I get distracted very easily sometimes. I do things that are easy and fun, instead of taking the time and effort to focus and work hard.

So how do I focus? How do I prioritize?

  • Planning what I want to do in a day and when I want to do it.
  • Get out of the house and change my location.
  • Keep trying even when I get distracted, and bring myself back to focusing again.
  • Fill up my life with enough good things to do that I don’t have time and energy to sit there and be bored.
  • Use routines so that I know what to do next instead of constantly trying to figure it out.
  • Block of certain hours for focus and certain times for leisure.
  • Review my goals, values, and commitments regularly.
  • Get enough sleep, exercise, eat, and drink water.
  • Take breaks by getting off the computer when I’ve been on it for a while.
  • Track my time so I have to be accountable for where the minutes go.
  • Have lots of good things to do that I really enjoy doing and want to do.

Any other suggestions that help you?

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.


Happier Without Technology

The internet is a wonder. When I want a movie streamed on a computer, I have 24 frames per second being sent to me over thousands of miles almost instantaneously–and not over wires, but straight through the air in waves of information. I don’t understand how that works.

I can look up about any question whenever I want it answered–like what the standard frame rate is for movies. Which started a rabbit hole about why we have that particular frame rate, and I’ve learned a bit about the history of recording video, CGI and video games, high frame rate, and augmented reality.

I could go into a rabbit hole about the origin of the phrase rabbit hole, which I’m pretty sure is related to Alice in Wonderland, but I will resist. Her rabbit hole was a dream, actually–a fall straight into absurdity.

And that’s what the internet feels like. It feels absurd. It feels like disappearing cats that pop up in unexpected places. It feels like mixed up life that doesn’t sound quite right anymore.

I am pretty sure I would be happier without the internet. And without smart phones. And without computers, even.

The thing is, I don’t have to use them. I don’t have to turn on my computer or check my smart phone. I don’t have to have a Facebook account and I don’t have to follow people on Instagram. But I do.

What stops me from cutting the cord, from waking up from this dream of absurdity and actually living my life instead of falling into the rabbit hole?

Quite a few things: connecting with people, searching answers for simple questions, creating and sharing posts and videos, watching television shows, reading news, taking classes, shopping, listening to music, etc.

There are so many good things that technology can do.

I have invested in blocking software–blocking websites in the morning and limiting distracting websites to certain time limits and numbers of launches.

But on days when I feel tired and cranky, I still find myself wasting time, going around the limits I’ve made for myself and falling down the rabbit hole.

I don’t have an answer of how I can balance this in my life. It’s hard. Having too many options is hard.

Here is what I do right now:

  • I only check social media once a day.
  • I have a fifteen minute time limit on YouTube.
  • All websites are blocked until 11:00.
  • 10 or 20 minute limit on websites I commonly get distracted on.
  • I don’t have access to a web browser or a search engine on my phone.

But I feel like I’m falling down a slippery slope, one that I can’t seem to master. Good days, when I’m feeling happy and motivated, I do fine. But the days where I just don’t want to follow my rules. And I don’t.

I’ll keep working on it. I want some sort of conclusion, but I don’t have one.