I am lucky to have a prosperous and happy life, so I feel like I have little to complain about. However, during the crush of mid-career responsibilities it is also easy to forget to take time to do the things you really value but which are not cherished, biography-long projects like teaching and parenting. For that reason I’ve developed a list of things that I try to do every day on top of my other commitments. At the end of the day I look back and say: Did I manage to do all of these things? If not, how many of them have I done? I’ve found just a bit of reflection goes a long way to making sure you feel grounded and not swept up (or away) by life.
Reading: Have I been reading? I have a reading goal of a book a week. Have I been finding time to put distractions aside and really focus on reading? I mean, reading a book reading.
Writing: I guess this counts as ‘research’. Keeping up with long-term, large-scale projects is hard when there are so many fires to put out in The Now. Have I carved out time each day to do some writing on something I care about?
Connecting: I realised recently that while I am surrounded by people I love and care for (as well as… other kinds of people) I don’t really have too many ‘friends’ in the sense of people who I enjoy spending time with Just Because. So now I try to make sure that I spend at least a little time a day with someone who I enjoy spending time with who isn’t in my immediate circle. This could be as simple as sending an email or having a chat on Discord. But social media doesn’t really count as connection.
Affairs: I took this from the French word ‘affaires’, which I remember from my high school French as meaning: ‘business’ or ‘things to do’ or ‘things I’m connected with’. By this I mean: All of the practical, non-scholarly things I can do to move the household along. This means going above and beyond just keeping things ticking over. There’s always a lot to do on this front, whether its financial, legal, or just replacing bits of the home that are tired before they actually break.
I originally tried a much more granular list of things to do but it became both unwieldy and depressing. I like this level of specificity as it separates the routine round of work from the stuff that it’s worth stepping back on spending time on. Unfortunately, when I dried to compress it down to an acronym, all I could come up with was ‘CRAW’, which is not very inviting. WRAC? ACRW? RACW? Regardless of which acronym I choose, I find I’ve had good results using this method to make sure that I feel like I’m making progress while also keeping up with things. Maybe this or something like it will help you organise your life as well?