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Editing Your Life to Prioritize What Truly Matters

Editing Your Life to Prioritize What Truly Matters

I was just introduced to the concept of “editing your life”. On the surface, it’s an idea that really appeals to me. If my life can be edited, perhaps the chaos that defines most days is really just indicative of the fact that I’m still in rough draft mode. All I need is a big red pen and I can make things orderly and manageable.

The problem is I’m just not sure where to start. My to-do list, if I had time to make one, would likely have 53 items on it…seriously. And that’s just today’s list. As a working mom of three, one of whom has special needs and one who is medically complex, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. So I need to pick and choose what shouldn’t be on the list in the first place.

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Here’s what I’ve decided about what will and won’t make it on the list:

    1. As long as my house is clean, it doesn’t need to be tidy. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll be surrounded by clutter for the next ten years or so. Scratch nightly de-cluttering frenzy.
    2. We are all happier when we let weekends unfold naturally rather than programming 27 different extra-curiculars. Scratch weekend shuttle service.
    3. I don’t have time to feel guilty. I’m not going to do crafts with my kids or sew their Halloween costumes or be their classroom mother. My mother didn’t do those things with me; she made me feel loved and special in a million other ways and it worked just fine for both of us. Scratch self-guilt trip.
    4. I’ve realized that prioritizing is great in theory but rarely works for me in practice. So much of the day is spent triaging things that take me by surprise…emergency calls from school; early-release days that I forget about until the night before; recovering from wearing mismatched shoes to work… that I often don’t even have time to get to the number one priority. Keep priority lists, but make sure they’re written in pencil.
    5. No matter what, helping the kids with homework, eating family dinner regularly, and keeping bedtime routines stay on the list. Some things are written in stone and are un-editable.

But editing isn’t just about crossing off what shouldn’t be there; it’s also about adding things that are enriching and add color…for me and for my kids. This year my husband and I added a “night off” for each of us to our weekly routine. My husband usually “goes out” at home; the bedroom is his refuge. My guilty pleasure is going to the movies, and I often meet a friend for dinner as well. Our children’s needs mean that we’re “on” 24/7, so giving each other the gift of time has been incredibly valuable.

I’ve also added Sunday night family movie night, where we curl up in sleeping bags and make obscene amounts of popcorn. It’s great for chasing away the Sunday night blues and gently reentering the work/school week.

Regular exercise is one that gets added and taken away with a fair amount of frequency. It’s always near the top of my hypothetical to-do list and also the first to get bumped when I run out of time.

As my story continues to unfold, the editing will likely take different forms. Some things will be deleted – so long math facts and spelling tests – and new things will likely be added. I guess the idea of editing your life means you continue to revisit things with a fresh eye and make adjustments and improvements accordingly. At the end of the day maybe we need to realize that there will never be a perfect final draft, and that’s okay. After all, a great work in progress is much more interesting.

Editor’s Note: Bright Horizons recently hosted ‘Edit Your Life: Making Modern Family Work’ webinar as part of its Family Matters Webinar series. The discussion, which was led by guest speakers, Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest, co-authors of Minimalist Parenting, co-hosts of the Edit Your Life podcast, was an opportunity to engage in an honest discussion about parenting pressures and gain real advice about ways to feel less guilty and focus on what truly matters to your family. If you missed the webinar, a recap video is available here.


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