Let’s ditch the social media highlight reel and learn how you can reinvent your career
I had lunch with a new friend today and we talked about our respective careers — she’s in her early 30s and I’m, you know, on the verge of AARP. We spoke about inching our way to the women we want to be, and while we were talking I felt as if I was trapped in a house and all the lights had begun to flicker and flare out. I walked home in the brightest sun but felt only the cold dark.
Maybe it was the wine, I thought. No, that wasn’t it. It was the realization that I’m still not doing the thing I’m meant to do.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the work I’ve been doing — it’s the best of my career and I’m grateful for the brilliant, passionate women with whom I’ve had the privilege to work. After years of consulting for rich, white men who made me feel sonnet small, I made a conscious decision to turn the beat around. I wanted to use my experience and privilege to help other women and marginalized communities, and if I had to stop charging the White Guy Asshole Tax then so be it. I’d learn to live with less, but at the same time so much more.
The work is subsuming — so much so that after a seven-hour stretch of research, data analysis, and conceiving of how to build this brand or craft this marketing plan, all I want to do is lie on the floor and binge Netflix. I used to upbraid people for wasting their time on TV shows, but now I understand that sometimes you need the calm quiet. You need to recede, recharge, and start anew. Otherwise, I might as well pack my bags and book a one-way ticket to My Inevitable Nervous Breakdown.
I’ve no time to write, much less build, market, and sell a curriculum of classes. And then I was reminded of a mentor who responded to all of my complaints with one simple question:
Does this serve you?
A few weeks ago, I invited you to embark on a challenge of sorts. It was for those who have been sleeping through their waking life. Those who sit at their desk and say, I cannot continue to do this. For those people, I proposed a solution: a series of tutorials, resources, and worksheets so you can find your way out of that place. Consider these notes my arm pulling you out of the quicksand.
And then I realized I’m right there with you.
Have you noticed how social media has become the place where people play their highlight reels? Their struggle is a footnote in their success story. It’s as if their before story ceased to exist. And we find ourselves scrolling through a feed of people living their best lives in all their airbrushed and filtered glory. Well, fuck that. I don’t want your after photo. I want your during. I want to hitch a ride and follow your journey — even if it is through failure, even if you find yourself lost and trapped in that uninhabited dark house. Take me with you.
This is what I want to do with you.
I completed the worksheet I shared with you in January. Today, I revisited it and wrote over the words I’d written all those months ago. I did what I’m inviting you to do — look at each one of your time sucks and ask yourself: does this serve me? Does spending 2 hours on Instagram serve me or does it make feel more disconnected than ever? I’m asking that you get surgical with your time, and that surgery will create disappointment. People will be pissed off that they can’t stake a claim on your time. Reclaim it.
Time is the only thing that can be spent but not regained.
Some people use fancy bullet journals or software programs like Asana to map out their week. I use a whiteboard and Google calendar. On my whiteboard, I write the three big things I need to achieve in a given week. Yes, you probably have a million and one things you need to do and a tsunami of an inbox to manage, but I’m asking you to get surgical. Prioritize.
Stephen Covey demonstrates this with his ingenious “big rocks” method. He writes:
“As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, ‘Okay, time for a quiz.’ Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.
When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, ’Is this jar full?’ Everyone in the class said, ‘Yes.’ Then he said, ‘Really?’ He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.
Then he smiled and asked the group once more, ‘Is the jar full?’ By this time, the class was onto him. ‘Probably not,’ one of them answered. ‘Good!’ he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, ‘Is this jar full?’
‘No!’ the class shouted. Once again he said, ‘Good!’ Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, ‘What is the point of this illustration?’ One eager beaver raised his hand and said, ‘The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!’
‘No,’ the speaker replied, ‘that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.’ What are the big rocks in your life? A project that you want to accomplish? Time with your loved ones? Your faith, your education, your finances? A cause? Teaching or mentoring others? [Put them] in first or you’ll never get them in at all.”
Some people think the metaphor is nonsense because they’re trying to sell their own metaphor. The point here is to home in on the critical tasks that will move you forward and then you can focus on all the peripherals. Every Sunday, I schedule 3-hour blocks in my calendar that centers on my big tasks and then I create 1–2 hour buckets for all the little things. Once you get focused on how you’re spending your time, the quality of what you create reflects your devotion to it.
Once you have a grip on time, I invite you to consider the 3Ds of inbox management. I started using email (Lotus Notes, actually) in 1998 and I’ve never had a full inbox. Why? I delete, deal with, or delegate my emails. I don’t subscribe or freely give away my email to marketers because my inbox is precious. Why? Because the more clutter, the more time that it takes away from the things I want to do. I’ve had zero inboxes for the past decade.
Then, I encourage you to think about your values and intentions — I’ve got an excellent worksheet to get you started. Trust me, I thought this was so woo (and I’m allergic to woo), but doing this actually created clarity for the more pragmatic decisions I have to make. I use it like it’s a bouncer at a kiddie bar. Does this project align with my values? Does spending time with this person reflect my values?
What we’re doing here is creating space for what’s next.
What’s next? Start thinking above the sky. Map out what your ideal 24 hours would like and what your ideal job would look like. If you’re into mind mapping, I’ve used this excellent free resource guide.
Once you’ve got all those sheets sorted, set them aside for a week and start your immersion. You want to surround yourself with people who are happy to get out of bed in the morning. They don’t need to be boldface success stories; they just have to have the vibe of velocity. They don’t need to be in your industry or dream industry — it’s preferable if they’re not — they just need to be doing the thing that puts their heart on pause. These can be in the form of podcasts, online classes, friends, colleagues, or people in your social group. Have their vibe swathe you like a motherfucking pig in a blanket.
Why? Their energy is infectious, and when you come back to your worksheets, you’ll see them in new, rarefied light.
Then, we hit the hard stuff. Goals, objectives, and your plan. Stay tuned for next week’s update.