life Parenting

End of School, I Need 186 Hours, ETC

June 6, 2023

Last DAY!!!

I brought Target gift cards (and thank you notes!) around to the teachers yesterday morning. There was nothing Pinterest-y about it, but if I were a teacher I would prefer a pile of versatile gift cards to really anything else, so that was what we went with. We did also get one of A’s favorite teachers a pack of Mildliners because she is into planners and it just felt right.

ONE MORE DAY. I know they are excited. Even though I’m on call, this week feels a bit special and I want it to feel that way! We will probably go out for celebratory ice cream tonight. C has basketball at 7 pm but . . . I guess it’s not a school night.

they actually did not have this version but they are cute!

Knee Update

My knee didn’t hurt on Monday’s run! Whew. I’m still replacing my ASICS. And getting rid of the Hokas. And going to PT. Hopefully not too many times (because $$$) but when I think about the value I place on being able to run . . . well, it’s high.

Feeling Behind . . .

I feel behind lately. It almost feels embarrassing to admit because my ‘brand’ is . . . ninja-level planning. So everything should be doable, right?


My techniques still DO help — I think I would be even more overwhelmed without my planning routines. But at the same time, I have this antsy feeling because I know there are loose ends lurking in my inboxes (email, especially) and a few in my head. Summer travel is amazing but means I need to actually get ahead on things like podcast recordings. I scheduled Mommy Days for 3 consecutive Thursdays in late June + July, but that means I’ll only have Tuesday to do my other work. I can definitely do some work on weekends but quite frankly I DON’T REALLY WANT TO. My weekdays are hectic; they are long and packed. I want my weekends to feel more relaxed and family-focused, with some of Sunday devoted to home-related prep stuff, but not higher level writing / creating or even admin.

Maybe I need a 186 hour week. JK. Literally not possible, so I probably have to pick and choose what I am focusing on. Right now, in my blog/pod job I have:

  • theshubox (ie, what you’re reading right now)
  • Best Laid Plans – prepping the content, the show notes, the recording, the ads
  • BOBW – same
  • managing emails / messages related to all the above
  • figuring out ways to grow by appearing on other podcasts
  • newsletter
  • BOBW Patreon
  • courses (DD, BLPA, BLP Live)
  • book proposal (is it any wonder, with the above list, why I haven’t moved forward with this?)

Seeing it laid out like that — well, THAT IS A LOT even if I worked 5 days/week. I need to admit that to myself. I do not want to do any less clinical (and honestly this does not make financial sense). So, I need to reflect on where it makes sense to focus and how I will allocate my time in the coming months.

Thoughts and ideas welcome.


  • Reply Gwinne June 6, 2023 at 7:41 am

    Perhaps an analogy from the declittering world…. it seems you are great with, and enjoy, the organizing aspects that go into planning but are struggling right now with the step before that…. schedule is too full and needs to be pared down or “decluttered”

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 6, 2023 at 9:11 am

      I totally see that. And yes, I think reality is such that . . . it does.

  • Reply Alissa June 6, 2023 at 8:03 am

    I would say summer is a season and what do you need in this season? Many podcasts I listen to either go on a break or do replays in the summer. Some change the frequency to twice a month. Is that something you’d consider?

  • Reply Elisabeth June 6, 2023 at 8:33 am

    Summer is…a lot. I find the frequent changes to routine disconcerting. As much as I love the flexibility and fun of summer, I am always (always!) relieved to get to September and a return to school and regular schedules.

    I agree with Alissa; taking a few breaks over the summer from the podcast/blog or whatever seems to be taking a disproportionate amount of time seems standard for people working in this sort of digital creative space?

  • Reply Noemi June 6, 2023 at 9:17 am

    I just want to chime in and say that it sounds like a really good plan to cut back on brand new podcast episodes during the summer months. You can refill your creative cup by exploring other creative pursuits as well as making more time for relaxing and family time this summer. Once back to school hits (last week of August? first week of September?) everyone else will be ready to jump back into planning and scheduling, you can have back-to-school planning podcast guest spots lined up for yourself, and you can hopefully be refreshed!

  • Reply Ashley June 6, 2023 at 10:14 am

    I say this with love, but that list could easily fill a full-time job and then some. No matter how well you plan, it’s not feasible to do all the things and still have a life/not get burned out. Would you rather do a little bit in each category, or go all-in for just a few? I also think it’s almost expected for content creators to slow down a bit during certain times of the year, and this is one of them.

  • Reply Kat June 6, 2023 at 10:27 am

    Agreed that you could well take a summer break by playing repeat episodes. You could also give yourself a small break from being a guest and the newsletter. Just for a few weeks even!

    And/Or, rotate through weeks of just working on one category – a week on just courses, then a week of just a few newsletters, maybe building off the material for courses.

    This sounds like a ton of work on top of clinical work. That adds up to a lot of context switching!

    • Reply Coree June 6, 2023 at 2:08 pm

      I find that weekly approach – loosely inspired by the 12 week year – really helpful particularly when I have a bunch of things that are 80% done. I find being able to put a great big x through a task makes me feel more motivated.

      Over the summer, I’ll dedicate a week to populating the syllabuses for my classes for the upcoming terms. It’s not particularly taxing work, just time consuming and then it’s done and isn’t dragged out.

  • Reply Jenn N June 6, 2023 at 10:28 am

    Yup, I’ll echo everyone else. As someone who consumes podcasts at an intense rate, I love when podcasters take a break for the summer! I listen to music or audiobooks and it’s one less thing that I (as an upholder haha) feel like I have to “keep up with.” I’d say if you want to, take a break from Best Laid Plans/appearing on other podcasts/even your newsletter.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 6, 2023 at 1:12 pm

      that’s so funny – I absolutely just delete when I get behind (i subscribe to WAY more than I actually have time to listen to so I do an extensive weekly pruning of my downloaded episodes 🙂 )

      • Reply Jenn N June 6, 2023 at 2:26 pm

        Yes I have to get better at that! I seriously am such a completionist that it took me tracking my time AND mood to realize how much time I devote to listening to them (while doing something else) while not really enjoying either thing. Trying to go on more walks sans earbuds and just be more in the moment, you know?

  • Reply Jessica June 6, 2023 at 12:31 pm

    I wonder if a bit of a ‘hack’ for that list would be to do a podcast swap? Play an episode of a related podcast and they play an episode of yours. Could be a good way to grow, support other creators, and get an ep done at the same time. If you already have relationships with any other creators, maybe it wouldn’t be that much work to set up. And as a listener I enjoy hearing samples of other podcasts that my faves think I would like.

    Speaking of other podcasts, I think you would be a great guest for the podcast Offline. I’ve commented this before, but what you’ve written about both with the kids and with your screen time is really interesting. And Offline is a good fit for discussing some of the Digital Detox content you’re creating! I know they have a big following, but your stuff seems right up Jon’s alley because he seems very interested in both doing screentime reduction experiments and in the intersection of kids & screens / parenting & screens.

    • Reply Carrie June 6, 2023 at 2:03 pm

      I love this idea! Like cross-referencing and cross-promoting other like-minded (or even not like-minded) podcasts.

      • Reply Jenn N June 6, 2023 at 2:27 pm

        Agree! Read this and thought what a brilliant idea it was!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 7, 2023 at 12:14 pm

      It sounds fun but quite honestly arranging / coordinating a swap like that would probably take as much (or more) time as creating episodes!

      I will definitely check out Offline!

  • Reply Jessica June 6, 2023 at 12:35 pm

    Also, if I were you I would just decide I’m not focusing on the book proposal right now. Summer life + other work including running a new course for the first time = don’t start another big project. Something to reconsider in the fall.

  • Reply Elizabeth June 6, 2023 at 12:45 pm

    I support the theme of everyone’s comments, and just want to add that I disagree with your (implied?) statement that if you were actually a ninja-level planner, you would be able to do everything.

    THIS IS FALSE! As your post title reveals, we are all humans working within the confines of human life. That includes 24 hours to each day, the need to eat, sleep, exercise, relax, work, socialize, etc. Life cannot be all productivity! It can be PLANNED. It can be anticipated. It cannot be more on any given day than fits within 24 hours.

    I actually think one of the reasons you tend to be such a successful planner is your ability to be realistic about how much can fit into a particular day/week/month, and I suggest that what has you feeling behind & overwhelmed here is that you haven’t sat down and decided what you’ll fit into the summer months.

    For example, you HAVE decided to prioritize those mommy days, which is great! But it seems like you didn’t take the next step in therefore removing one work day’s worth of to-do’s from your list of things you plan to accomplish for those 3 weeks. That’s the planning piece you either willfully ignored or maybe just didn’t consider when scheduling the Mommy days.

    Other than those 3 lost work days, are there more complications in summer adding to your stress? Maybe your upcoming travel? But again, that’s a huge life priority for you!!

    Maybe if you can sit down and reframe this all within the constraints of what your priorities are for the next 3 months, you will feel less behind and more at peace knowing that you’ve chosen what you’ll focus on and you’ll be able to get it done, because you’ve been realistic with what you can accomplish in the time that’s available to you.

    Good luck! I know you can do it.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 7, 2023 at 12:16 pm

      I think I was trying to imply that even with my ninja level planning skills, I recognize that it doesn’t fit!! Which it sounds like you agree on. I think it’s a combo of travel (2 short trips + 1 long) and because i am realistic about not wanting to work a zillion hours/week, I’m seeing a rough road ahead with the commitments I’ve put on my plate and the time available.
      I am definitely going to triage/prioritize. You are absolutely right it is necessary!

  • Reply Kathleen June 6, 2023 at 1:31 pm

    I always look forward to your posts and your readers thoughtful comments. I have similar suggestions to many others but would add
    -since you regularly post, your newsletter could be quarterly (or to stay on brand each quintile)
    -how about mommy half days? Still plenty of time to have one on one time.
    Hope you and your readers have a good summer.

  • Reply Carrie June 6, 2023 at 2:10 pm

    Do you have a priority, word, or set of goals for the summer? Maybe scanning your current (long) list of hanging chads (ongoing projects) against your intention for the summer could help you determine a few things to pop into the “someday maybe” category or even just to the next quintile (I’m looking at you “findings ways to grow…” and “book proposal”). Here’s a simple example: my priority for May was “family.” Specifically, I wanted to prioritize spending quality time participating in the lives of my kids during this exciting time of year RATHER than fighting all the additional activities and resenting the increase family demand on my time. I tabled a bunch of impending QI projects and future non-work related plans & objectives. There are 1-2 I will focus on during the summer (June-August for us) and the rest I will revisit in September to see if they are durably appealing.

  • Reply Grateful Kae June 6, 2023 at 2:22 pm

    I agree with Elizabeth’s comment above about the consecutive mommy days being a nice idea, but when I read that I also thought that kind of sounded like another “thing to fit in”, if, as she says, you are not intentionally removing something else. Would another option be to use PTO for those days and schedule them on regular work days instead? I often fall into the trap of wanting to have my cake and eat it too, and the reality is probably that you can’t fit at least two days of work into like, one day for 3 weeks in a row. I selfishly vote that you cut back on something else and keep the podcast eps coming, but that’s only because I always want MORE podcast content in the summertime, since I spend more time outside walking, etc.!! 😉 Also, FWIW, I have never done dedicated “mommy days” for my kids, so another option is to…. just not do that. LOL. I mean, we always seem to end up with 1:1 time in other ways be it a soccer or swim weekend away or just other times that seem to present themselves naturally, so I do not really feel we’re missing out. But it does sound like a cute little tradition, too, so, either way works. 🙂

    Something for me personally that I’ve been thinking about lately, that definitely adds a layer of stress for me (but yet I don’t want to cut out…) is prepping for travel. There’s just so many extra things that have to happen, from timing a haircut appt to line up with the trip, or picking up toiletries, or getting my nails done, or getting tickets/planning items, or making sure people have clothing items they need… I think this may be part of why I generally prefer to do fewer trips per year, but often longer ones, so I have fewer times that I need to do “all the travel prep”. I do not particularly enjoy the packing/prepping/dealing with loose ends and then unpacking/re-entering normal life part of travel very much, so by doing say 2-3 trips a year that each last ~2 weeks, I don’t have to do all of that as often as if I were going places like, 6 times+ a year for a few days or a week or less. I think I like to have longer stretches of “normal life” in between, whatever that means, bc our normal life always feels pretty hectic, anyway. LOL. I feel like no matter how I slice it, prepping for big events/ travel always feels somewhat overwhelming to me! The longer trip thing may get harder to adhere to though as my kids are getting older with schedule constraints, so I may be stuck doing it differently in near future…

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 7, 2023 at 12:11 pm

      Travel prep = that could be a whole post. I fantasize of more duplicate stuff to make packing easier . I HATE PACKING! Separate chargers, toiletry bag, etc that live in my suitcase would be really helpful but . . . I haven’t pulled that trigger yet.

  • Reply Brooke June 6, 2023 at 3:32 pm

    I’m going to dole out some tough love. You’ve gone to part time on clinical to have T/Th as creative pursuit days – and yet, during that time you’ve scheduled Dr appts, done stuff in the kids classrooms, long runs, and are taking time to do 3 1:1 days with the kids (based on todays and previous posts). If you want to use those days for creative pursuits, the only one who will protect those days for that is YOU. If you want to specify 1 of those days a month (or 2, etc) for kid/personal stuff, then do it, own it, and either figure out what you going to cut out of the creative bucket, or what your weekend backup slot is to borrow from Laura V.

    If you follow Dana K White, she talks about the container concept for physical stuff. It applies for time too. Your day is a container. Your week is a container. There is only so much that can fit, no matter how “productive” we are. Decide what needs to fit, and let go of the rest or move it to the someday maybe list 🙂 Outsider looking in – this is a season you’ve decided to train for a marathon. You could choose to quit this to work on a book proposal, or you could table the book proposal for after the marathon (assuming you are going back to your normal re-training running schedule. Or do a summer hiatus on podcasting as suggested above to fit in training and a proposal.

    Ultimately your priorities are your own. Us loyal readers and listeners will be here no matter what you decide!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 6, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You are totally correct (only thing off of that most of my weekday runs are at 5:30am due to heat and I do my longest runs Saturday).
      And yep – I know, the math truly doesn’t work. It took me a while but I 100% see it. Just need to figure out what to focus on and what to let go.

  • Reply Sophie June 6, 2023 at 3:50 pm

    Wow such great suggestions in the comments! I love this community you’ve created Sarah. My only other suggestion is to put an auto-reply on your email saying you will be working reduced hours and may take longer to reply over the summer period – this is common in academia when travelling for conferences etc. OR be like Oliver Burkeman and Cal Newport etc and say you can’t reply to every email, much as you’d like to. Might become necessary eventually as your profile grows.

    Also, I LOVE your new head shot! Nice one.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 7, 2023 at 12:10 pm

      aww thank you! I actually often take a while to respond to listener emails and even without an auto responder people have always seemed appreciative (sometimes my response is like a month after they wrote in!). Grateful to have a lovely audience like that.

  • Reply Jen June 6, 2023 at 6:20 pm

    On behalf of teachers everywhere, YES! Gift cards are the very best! We much prefer a no frills and versatile gift card to piles of (well meaning) gifts that will often go straight to Goodwill.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 7, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      yay!! I feel validated 🙂

  • Reply Marie June 6, 2023 at 9:27 pm

    I agree with many of the others – feel free to take a few weeks off your content creation this summer! We’ll still be here when you’re back. I’d think of it like a corporate job… if you take two weeks off for vacation, some weekly recurring stuff just doesn’t happen for two weeks (meetings, 1:1s, etc.) and that’s fine and expected.

    One tactical idea – could your Mommy Days be part of your upcoming vacations? It might be open up new options and be more memorable — and be easier to fit in then?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 7, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Probably unlikely we’d want to split up like that during vacations. BUT next time I’ll plan to use vacation TIME (ie, from my clinical job), assuming I have enough days! I could take off Weds-Friday, use 2 PL days, and only lose one “work for myself” day.

  • Reply Seppie June 7, 2023 at 7:14 am

    Some really good comments here! I have tried to break the habit of telling myself that I’m behind. It makes it seem like there is some fixed place that I’m supposed to be with my work at any given time, which is all just made up anyway. It’s also possible that having an assistant (even like 5 hours/week) would pay for itself, if it allowed you to spend the same 5 hours on promo/marketing, instead of spending it on email triage.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 7, 2023 at 12:07 pm

      Assistant idea is intriguing. I can’t entirely figure out what I’d want an assistant to do, on the work front, but it’s an interesting idea.

      • Reply Jessica June 9, 2023 at 8:18 pm

        I have a personal virtual assistant and I have a regular job! (Small side hustle she helps with but mostly my personal tasks). Shocked that you haven’t done this with how many side hustles you have! Definitely worth it

  • Reply Irena June 7, 2023 at 4:32 pm

    If I were you, I would only keep the absolute necessary things this summer, where commitment was made long time ago; and drop everything else to the SOMEDAY list (book proposal, increasing efficiency on all other projects, etc). I am a research professor, and do a lot of grant writing as a part of my job. It took me several years, but i surprisingly learned that i function better in “stages” such as a “high productivity stage” when everything secondary goes on hold, and a “relaxing/catching up/big ideas thinking stage” when i do have time for prospective planning, reviewing the work of others, mentoring, hiring, admin work, etc. If something secondary absolutely needs to be done during my productive time, i plan around my cognitive energy, and either do it during the break (for the fun of it), or at the end of the day.

  • Reply Jenny June 8, 2023 at 11:27 am

    You got some great advice here (except for the suggestion to stop training for your marathon- don’t do that!) I agree it’s very hard- the days you don’t “work” and have set aside for creative pursuits, get swallowed up by kids, appointments, life. It can really seem impossible to fit it all in. And, you really have a lot going on. I’ll be interested to hear how you manage/prioritize everything.
    My husband is a teacher and he would much rather get gift cards than anything else!

  • Reply Marcia Francois June 9, 2023 at 1:00 pm

    Love the comments – great suggestions!

    I promise you I LOVE when podcasts take breaks. I can’t keep up anyway (I am only 100% loyal to Gretchen) but it makes me feel less behind when there are weeks of no podcasts and I can catch up on things I want to listen to.

  • Reply Amy June 9, 2023 at 8:34 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever commented before! De-lurking to say that I see you maybe falling into a trap that happened to me: dropping down to part time can end up being harder, because it’s easy to continue treating some or all of your part-time commitments like a full-time one. Right now, you have at least 3 part-time jobs (caregiver being one) and as a high achiever, I think it’s just a default to want to give 100% to all of them!

    Getting in the habit of calendaring *everything* helps me see when my goals don’t connect to the realities of time.

  • Reply Kimberly Wiggin June 9, 2023 at 8:57 pm

    I don’t feel that comfortable giving advice here, but I’m going to overlook that and say – don’t give up the 1:1 mommy-kid days. I’m sure you are already aware that three days out of the whole summer, although it might be tricky, will not truly make that much difference to your personal productivity but, speaking as the mother of now adult children, hearing your kids say “remember that time we …” when they are older is priceless!

    • Reply Daria June 10, 2023 at 7:58 am

      I love this advice in particular. My oldest preschool runs till June 22 and my youngest daycare is till June 16th. That means I will have 5 full days to do whatever he wants! 🙂

  • Reply Katie June 10, 2023 at 10:32 pm

    Curious why you have such aggressive growth goals around your creative work, if you (1) are already feeling stressed/struggling to keep up and (2) don’t have any intention of trying to move your allocation of work beyond the 60/40 split you currently have. I think sometimes we feel we should have all these lofty goals but you’ve had a lot of transitions and have a lot on your plate and it’s summer. Maybe give yourself permission to be in maintenance mode or coast on your creative stuff for the season? Lots of great ideas above!

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