You’re welcome, fellow slackers.
It occurred to me when my domestic called me a ‘very busy woman’ that I might have finally perfected the art of looking busy. That same skill that evaded me through most of my trigonometry classes (please tweet @ me to let me know if you have ever actually used trigonometry for anything, ever) seems to finally be mine.
Without digging too far below the surface of things, I can understand how, to an outsider, it might look like I’ve almost got my shit together. I have a steady stream of freelance work and enough friends to IM while I’m doing it. I sometimes leave the house for up to hours at a time doing all kinds of super social stuff and Adam and I don’t live in a refrigerator box in Benoni (although we do still summer there, just to get out of the city).
But here’s the truth: I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. Most days I get out of bed and put on ‘people clothes’ and then just tap-dance my way through 90% of the interactions with people who assume I am a semi-professional, fully functioning adult. Joke’s on you guys. As Maggie Atwood apparently said, “I believe that everyone else my age is an adult whereas I am merely in disguise.”
So here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how to construct such a disguise:
1. Have a few ‘people’ outfits already planned for meetings or interviews
I’m always nervous about meeting clients more than 3 times, because then they’re going to realise I only have a finite number of pre-set grown-up disguises. At some point, I’m just going to have to come out to them and reveal the impressive collection of leggings, 80’s-style head bands and accompanying witty T-shirts that make up my day-to-day wardrobe.
Make-up also helps to complete the disguise- but be careful! There have been times when I have tried to follow application instructions from Cosmo or YouTube, only to give up on the endeavor, and in fact, on life itself, a mere thirty minutes and one terrifying Gothic clown imitation later.
2. Keep multiple calendars
And keep different kinds of calendars. The printed cat calendar (obviously it’s got cats on it) hanging in my home office has the ‘big’ things I need to do each day- meetings, deadlines, birthdays, that kind of thing.
This calendar is kind of like the ‘boss’ calendar. Anything written here is not negotiable and needs to be planned around.
My phone’s calendar however, bless, is more like the ‘annoying assistant’ calendar. Herein are the same big events and deadlines, but also a few bullshitty things that don’t really matter, like reminders to eat, go to gym, clean the house, blah, blah, blah.
Having 2 calendars helps me decide between the things I need to do, and the things I really need to do.
Make a list of the most important things in your life as they occur to you. These are your priorities, which each action you take and each decision you make must serve.
Everything else can be forgotten, outsourced or left outside a shopping mall.
4. Brush your teeth in the shower or on the toilet.
Don’t say it’s gross. Don’t be like that. No one will question your fresh breath and you just saved yourself, like, 2 minutes in the bathroom.
5. Step away from the internet
I can already hear your shrieks of pain, my online brethren. Away from the internet? But that’s where my friends live!
I know, I know… it’s not easy. But the internet is as much a curse as it is a blessing. Shut down your browser or turn off the WiFi for a couple hours at a time. This will force your attention span into a narrow vacuum of near super-human focus and allow you to power through a project, get out and go speak to other humans in RL.
6. Don’t over-commit
Genuinely busy people get up at 05h00, go to gym, go to work, go shopping, go to a social event and then go home to work on a creative project and nurture their families before getting what I can only assume is 30 minutes of sleep before starting the whole thing again.
I got tired just typing that.
My 2 calendars and my own crippling laziness mean that I am pretty strict about what I commit to in any single day. While some people might be working out how they can make it from one meeting to the next in the 15 minutes they’ve allocated for travel time, I try to keep it to 1 big meeting a day (and then mix it up to get the maximum use out of my ‘people outfit’ for the week).
Because here’s the thing- you can structure and plan and orchestrate your life as much as you like, life doesn’t give a shit about your stupid plans.
Give yourself a little wiggle room, because life will still find a way to invade your personal space like the fat, sweaty pervert it is.
7. Accept help
My vegetable garden is one of my favourite things in the whole world. But it’s not really mine anymore. Nelson, one of the gardeners in our complex, Memory, our domestic, and myself take turns watering, turning the compost and spraying the dirty, bastard aphids that are always fucking up the broccoli plants. So now it’s our veggie garden.
There’s more than enough spinach, tomatoes, chillis and carrots for us to all get something out of it, and I don’t have to get up at 5am (which I believe I have already established as ‘never going to happen’) to tend the fields every day before hitting the keyboard.
Accepting help isn’t the same as asking for it. There’s no shame. You don’t have to wash down your pride with a warm glass of humility.
When someone offers to assist with something, the chances are there’s a benefit for them too (even if it’s not as tangible as a bushel of spinach). Whether they want to learn from the experience, or just want to feel better about themselves, if someone cheerily offers to help you with something, just let them…
That’ll teach them.