Nebulous Long Range Projects are HARD!

April 17, 2024

I don’t mean this in a self-flagellating way, so aiming for a neutral tone here. But I would like to share that I am not making any progress in four areas, and honestly they have a lot in common.

Longtime readers could probably guess all 4. But I will lay them out anyway.

#1: Organizing Our Home. I am so annoyed at the state of our house. As I’ve noted previously, it doesn’t LOOK that bad. But it is. Every drawer is a mess. The kids’ rooms have such an amalgam of randomness. Even areas like my bathroom drawers (which I previously organized really nicely) are now a mix of my cosmetics and Glow Recipe/Bubble/Sol de Janeiro/Tower 28/other latest tween faves here. We also now have a lot of fixtures (shower hooks, cabinet doors, etc) that need fixing because certain things were just not up to the wrath our kids have inflicted upon it.

I love the idea of not caring or wasting mental energy on this. After all – I’m not really DOING anything about it, so can’t I just be at peace? But for better or for worse, I DO CARE about the disarray that lies beneath in our house (and sometimes spills onto flat surfaces, too). I almost never feel moved to spend time working on this, though. It takes physical energy I rarely have at the end of that day, plus there is no deadline for this to light any sort of fire. Furthermore, I feel daunted by the whole thing because doing one tiny area feels so . . . insignificant. I LOVE Lisa Woodruff’s work on this in theory (her programs break things down AND sort of provide artificial deadlines) and everything she says makes total sense to me, but I have not been able to personally get my home organized. To her credit, I’ve done more organizing using her programs than anything else. It just isn’t enough for me to actually get through the house. Progress so far in 2024: 0.

#2: Estate Planning. This in theory should not be that hard — it’s just completing some documents and having the lawyer finish it off, right?! — but contains an added challenge that I cannot do this on my own. Josh and I have such limited free time together in this phase of life, so when the opportunity arises to hang out sans kids, you can imagine just how low down on our list of things to do estate planning is.

It’s also a bit nebulous. I do have a document (VERY OLD) that I think I’m supposed to edit with updated info but it’s a pdf so not all that easy to deal with. It’s also boring, emotionally fraught, and has no natural deadline. Blah. Progress so far in 2024: 0.

#3: Book Proposal Writing. I’ve had a number of new challenges over the past ~1.5 years of my professional podcasting life. I created multiple courses from scratch and successfully organized a live event, including all of the content creation for said event! These were complex projects with multiple steps. I am proud of what I accomplished in a relatively short period of time.

In contrast, I’ve given myself some extra space (in theory) by NOT running so many courses right now, for the main purpose of writing a book proposal. Because there is no real deadline (sensing a theme?) AND because the process remains somewhat nebulous to me (ie: next action not always so clear . . .), this is always the last thing on my list and I have made no tangible progress. Progress so far in 2024: a tiny bit in terms of THINKING about the angle I’d like to take, but tangible progress: 0.

#4: (%*&#$ REDDIT. I think that overall I have made a ton of progress with my screen time. And I was Reddit-FREE from something like January to March. But lately it has crept back in and I am starting to detest it the way I detested Instagram when I finally quit for good (so maybe that is a good thing!). Unlike the other 3, this is not a ‘project’ per se, but I feel like a successful end point is when I have zero desire to scroll and perhaps even feel a mild aversion, the way I do with insta or FB. Progress in 2024: Initially positive but then a backslide.

Meanwhile, while I have *not* been doing the above things, I have been handling the rest of life (I think) quite well! Really, anything with any sort of deadline has happened with reasonable time to spare. Assigned runs for my marathon training plan are always happening. Planning By Season is going well. Podcast episodes are coming out every week. Ads are delivered on time (okay the one mascara ad was 2 days late, but that was an oversight). My patients notes are getting done. I am reading a decent amount. I am blogging and newslettering and responding to listener emails. I am meal planning and managing the family schedule. I am dealing with the 7343 random school requests for various things. Kid 1:1 time is even happening! Minor kid crises have been solved including a time consuming school switch for next year (though mystery hives continue, because of course). Travel planning has happened. ETC ETC ETC.

In writing this, it’s so clear that the problems with items #1 – #3 are the lack of any real deadline and a nebulous quality to the steps needed to reach the desired outcome. I think I can clarify the steps, but it is harder to create deadlines that feel real. I mean perhaps the other answer (that I don’t like) is that with the above list of things that ARE happening there just isn’t room in life right now for these big things, #1 and #3 especially.

I don’t want that to be true.

I think there’s some element of truth there, but I don’t entirely buy it. Because I managed to do so many other things last year that I’m NOT doing right now (mostly all that went into designing and planning and teaching BLPA / Digital Detox / Planning 2024 and planning the initial live event). I even had 1:1 sessions for the first one or two rounds of BLPA which was incredibly time consuming. Where is that time now? PLUS, with respect to #3, other people manage to write books, even people who work in other fields at the same time. Obviously writing a book (or successful book proposal) is difficult, but like anything else I have to imagine it is doable, one piece at a time.

Anyway, this is one of those moments of vulnerability where I worry that sharing my own struggles puts everything I do or say about planning and productivity into question, but I hope that’s not the case.

This week’s challenges have included dance pictures. At least they will be cute!!! 6 photo sessions (2 individual, G’s ballet, A’s ballet, G’s tap, A’s jazz) this week. There is always something . . .


  • Reply ccrinma April 17, 2024 at 4:02 pm

    Oh my goodness, “boring, emotionally fraught, and has no natural deadline” is so hard, of course it is! I have no helpful answers, I’m afraid, and also have my own list of “why haven’t I gotten to these yet” things, but I sure have sympathy.

  • Reply Sophie April 17, 2024 at 4:31 pm

    It’s so frustrating to have those goals that aren’t making progress, I can relate! I wonder for the proposal, it might be a mental state thing. As an academic when I’m starting on a new big creative project like research grant, I need a day-long “work retreat”, in a different location, to get me started. Could you identify a day over the next few weeks that you could completely free up (no podcast recording, course delivery etc), and travel to a nice spot (cafe, park, etc), to do a big brainstorming session? Perhaps your book writing friends (LV!) would have a template you could start from? Then once you have made some progress I bet you’ll get momentum and create some deadlines for yourself! Cmon you can do this- I for one will buy your book in a heartbeat! 😁

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 17, 2024 at 4:36 pm

      A retreat is a really fun idea. I COULD do that. I like it!!!

      • Reply KGC April 17, 2024 at 5:45 pm

        Expanding on this: could you get other people to do it for accountability? Laura does self-imposed writing retreats. Could you join her one time and both camp out in a nice hotel room for a day and write/work on estate planning/book proposal/some task that takes a lot of time of deep work?
        Or, here’s how we tackled this at work: we did a day-long writing retreat for the group of allied health professionals at my institution (I think we had about 10 of us). It was one whole day – reserved a room at work, one of us picked up Dunkin Donuts + coffee for breakfast, we got Panera for lunch, and scheduled from about 8:30-4pm. We did an intro, everyone shared what they’d be working on in small groups, and then we had a writing block from, say, 9:30-noon. Took a lunch break to chat and eat, then regrouped and went again from 1-3:30pm. At 3:30, everyone finished up, checked in again for accountability, and then we finished. (and then some of us broke out bottles of wine and had a happy hour!). The feedback was GREAT and we have so far done another one and scheduled a third. Most people prefer 2-4 a year (so quarterly or bi-annually I guess?). I was able to knock out a complete draft of a paper that was later submitted (and now has favorable reviews back – need to make the revisions and resubmit!). Other people worked on grants or project proposals. What made it work is that everyone legit blocked their schedules for the day – no clinic, minimized answering emails, etc. AND you were in a quiet room when everyone was working.
        (sorry that was so long-winded, but it was such a productive exercise that I feel like is easily translatable to other groups or institutions!)

        • Reply Ashley April 18, 2024 at 10:02 am

          I love this. I have a big creative project that needs to be started ASAP, and I am dragging my feet because I’m just not in the mental space to tackle it. You’ve inspired me to find a place that’s free of distractions (coworkers, emails) and full of treats.

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:13 pm

          That is awesome! It sort of reminds me of what we do in BLP live – use the energy of the group to help stay focused!! But in that case we are planning, not really executing.

    • Reply Coree April 18, 2024 at 4:10 am

      Fellow academic and yes, it’s just time and a sense of momentum/excitement. I’d book myself into a fun co-working space or find a cafe where I could hang out for ages. Internet off, just a notebook.

      I’ve been trying to write a book for 6 years – I’ve published loads of articles but not THE book – and have finally gotten started this year and made pretty good progress. Now that I’ve ripped the bandaid off and started data collection, I actually want to work on it.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:14 pm

        exciting Coree!!! It sounds like you are now truly ready. I think I am now truly ready too (wasn’t before teaching BLPA) so hopefully I can find similar energy!

    • Reply Joy April 18, 2024 at 5:46 am

      I’m not an academic but feel your pain with the book writing. It’s just hard to write in the corners of life, I’ve found. Like you, I make progress on many goals but a big creative project like this hard.

      To get over the hump, I’ve set up a writer’s retreat next month to hopefully finish my draft and/or book proposal that I’ve been working on for years. My dad has timeshare points he needs to get used and he gifted them to me for a three-day retreat.

      I’m already jazzed up and managing to do a bit of research every day as I look forward to it. If you can even set up a day, it might help with your motivation. There are all kinds of articles on DIY writers retreats. When I’m home, I can ALWAYS find things that need to be done but away, I will have no excuses.

  • Reply Jane April 17, 2024 at 4:51 pm

    Another academic here – without sabbaticals and expectations for promotion, it would have taken me significantly longer to write and publish my two books. It’s never easy, but even harder with all you’re juggling, I’m sure.

    That said, you might just have a mental block around the book proposal. I’d give you the same advice as I would give to any of my more junior colleagues – block off a few hours of week and force yourself to start it, no matter how rough. Draft it, send to friends for comments, revise, and repeat until it’s good to go. If you can’t find that time, then this project might have to wait a bit longer?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:15 pm

      Yes – I think there is an element of “oh but what if it’s hard to do it well” sort of blocking me. I need to just . . . get SOMETHING to start from rather than waiting for some wave of perfect inspiration or expertise on writing a book proposal bc let me tell you – it’s not going to just show up!

  • Reply Anne Sjobeck April 17, 2024 at 4:53 pm

    Thanks for being real Sarah! I use to-doist to track tasks so they don’t occupy space in my mind. However, there are many items on there that have been on there for awhile. It makes me not want to look to see the items I have yet to start. Even though we have goals, we also have to manage the here and now and be in the moment. I hope you can celebrate all the other wins you listed! Progress in many areas even though they might not have been planned goal, progress none the less!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:16 pm

      thank you anne! Thankfully I have a very good handle as to WHAT is on my plate . . it’s just the moving forward on the non-urgent that is so tough. So many great ideas though and you’re right slow progress is still progress!

  • Reply coco April 17, 2024 at 6:02 pm

    I can feel your frustrations, you want to get them done but not wanting to spend energy/time through the process. My take for those long projects, like marathon training, is that I need to find joy doing it while doing it. Why I don’t find joy doing the year book is beyond my comprehension but I always procrastinate doing it every year although I love the final product. For some things we can let it go when we don’t REALLY care about the outcome, other things (like year book) we can’t let it go so find ways to make the process more pleasurable may help.
    not offering solution, just adding another angle to understand the deep cause of not doing them. For my year book project, I’ve asked Sofia to select the pics, so I only have to review and upload. That saved a lot of time but still I haven’t don 2023 year book. You are not alone Sarah 😉

  • Reply Shion Moti Gosrani April 17, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    It’s so helpful and reassuring to know that the better we get at planning, the harder the challenge we can take on. These are hard goals. Much more qualified people have talked to the book proposal (thank you everyone, made some notes for myself) but I wanted to add a suggestion for the house organisation challenge/ block.

    I absolutely get it – we’ve been in our house 4 years and have nearly finished renovating it – so now the end is in sight to actually organise the house with the whole house available (if that makes sense), instead of the two rooms when we moved in. Learning from you, I decided to “Marie Kondo” an area a month this year. In case you’re not aware, Marie Kondo is an organising expert who basically says lay everything of a type out so you can see it all, then only keep what brings you joy/ has sentimental value. I’m tackling it by area within the house because I’m making the assumption that if an item isn’t already with its type – it’s for a reason (either I use it in a specific situation so it lives on a specific shelf or I’ve forgotten about it). I’ve found an area a month (January was Christmas decorations (as they were picked up), Tupperware and under stairs cupboard; February was toiletries, DIY clothes, bed linen and towels; March was bedside table drawers) really achievable and the success of doing one led to doing more. But there’s no big pressure and they can be big or small depending on time available. This month I had hoped to do the cupboards in the sitting room but I’m too busy so I’ve switched to shuffling some kitchen cupboard contents around. Having the area in mind, when I’m out and about I look for options that might be useful like taking photos of different storage box options for example. This helps make it feel exciting for me as it builds anticipation and joy in finding just the right thing. I also get this sense from re-purposing something we already have.

    The other thing I wanted to mention was that professional organisers to exist. You can hire someone to help you do this. So maybe that’s a better option to get through a lot quickly.

    Very long answers but I hope something useful in there!

    Thanks for the podcast, it’s my number one listen on a Monday lunch time walk 🙌🏾

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:18 pm

      I love Marie Kondo so much that at one point I considered getting her certification 🙂 So awesome that you’ve been able to progress that way!! Very inspiring. I agree that I need to set my stakes lower. One tiny area or type of item at a time. (Admittedly even that is tough for me, but it’s more realistic than the idea of say, doing someone’s room in one go!)

  • Reply LM April 17, 2024 at 6:26 pm

    Advice from an empty nester:
    Don’t worry too much about the house because it will always need work until the kids are gone.
    Finish the estate planning! You really need to have things in place, uncomfortable as it may be to think about. Especially with your large net worth (making assumptions there).
    Maybe plan a retreat day for you and Josh to knock it out together.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:19 pm

      I have a meeting with our lawyer booked!!!! Hooray. And totally makes sense about the house though I am hoping for a happy medium between Pinterest perfection and pretty much a jumble 🙂

  • Reply Gillian April 17, 2024 at 6:31 pm

    I was definitely having this problem a couple of years ago. I wanted to write, wanted to grow and audience but there were always other things to do. When I read that someone else was looking for someone to write exactly what I was hoping to write but with support I could make time. I put together my application materials in a day on a weekend with other obligations and now write regularly. PS house still very messy and unorganized…

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:20 pm

      I have no doubt if this was a gig of sorts I’d get it done. Ha! And I sort of can’t imagine you having a messy house!!!!

  • Reply Janelle April 17, 2024 at 7:16 pm

    If you haven’t read/listened to Decluttering at the Speed of Life I think you should! Honestly it’ll make you feel great about your house (the author was dealing with much worse clutter!) and likely motivate you to make tiny steps of progress. It takes very little brain space as well.
    I feel you with the house needed some fixing up- I feel like I cannot keep up with the stuff my 3 break!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:21 pm

      Just put on hold at our library!!

  • Reply Jami April 17, 2024 at 7:49 pm

    My favorite line about procrastination is that it’s not a personality trait but rather an emotional response to the task at hand. And that response keeps us from attempting the task. It sounds like you’re responding to your expectations of how the tasks (#1 and 2) will either be boring or maybe unproductive. So maybe try dialing in to those feelings? Also, my favorite tip for getting started is to just pretend you’re going to do it. So if you were going to start estate planning what would you do? And then maybe you do that one thing.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:21 pm

      love this Jami. I booked our next zoom with our attorney. I know that having that on the calendar will be hugely helpful!!

  • Reply Lisa’s Yarns April 17, 2024 at 8:40 pm

    I totally get this but I am going to push you to do the estate planning stuff because it does not need to be so hard. Convert the pdf into a word doc or ask your attorney to send it to you in word. It’s not a fun task but I feel like it’s so important so treat it like something that you absolutely need to do by x date. Or do it in phases. Start with a will and health care directive (if you don’t already have that) and then you can establish a trust at a later date if need be. In our case we opted not to establish a trust yet because our attorney recommended we wait until our assets hit a certain threshold. We are on the cusp of that threshold so we will need to establish a trust soon. But the will process itself was honestly so easy. We were at the attorney’s office for 30 minutes. We had some email exchanges before we went in to sign the paperwork so it was really a very easy and streamlined process. I of course don’t know what your personal financial situation is but maybe you are building this task up to be more complex than it is. All that said, I am a hardcore T in the myers Briggs framework and extremely pragmatic and my husband is, too, so the decisions we had to made were not hard… but they might not be terribly hard for you either. Just rip the bandaid off and put this behind you!

    Sorry this is probably super bossy but I feel like it’s an important task to put behind you!

    But the book? That is something I absolutely could not do and would be overwhelmed by!

    • Reply Coree April 18, 2024 at 4:13 am

      100% agree with Lisa on the tough love. No date nights until its done, force yourself to imagine the worst case scenario. Who is the person you’d LEAST like as a guardian? Who would go on vacation with your kid’s college funds? Throw money at it, I’m sure there are estate lawyers who will make a Sunday house call. I suspect it’ll take you two hours and you’ll feel such an enormous sense of relief once its done.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:23 pm

      fun fact: I used to get “ESTJ” in my early 20s but something flipped late 20s or early 30s and I’ve been ESFJ every since (and yes – too many feelings is not helping here! ha!).

  • Reply Marie April 17, 2024 at 8:43 pm

    One thought – I would totally struggle to have THREE nebulous projects hanging over me at any point! Can you designate one for Q2 (maybe estate planning?), one for Q3 (organizing, during your hot summer months), and one for Q4 (book proposal – nice “back to school” writing vibes)? That might help make it more concrete and lower the mental load of “which of these should I be working on now”?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:23 pm

      Ooh I dont love the idea of waiting until fall for book proposal but I do love the idea of having one major “long term” focus at a time!!

  • Reply Linda W. April 17, 2024 at 8:53 pm

    Hi Sarah! I might approach this in a different way . I am a licensed marriage and family therapist here in California. In my 14 years of practicing I have noticed that people always have a reason for doing things and also for NOT doing things. It may help for you to take some time to think about how it would feel to work on these tasks and note how it makes you feel- this may give you information about why you haven’t completed them. That being said it may just not be the time or season for those projects- give yourself some grace . It’s amazing that you do all of the things you listed !!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:24 pm

      thank you Linda – you’re right, sometimes it’s deeper than “i’m busy”. I think definitely that is true with some of these things!

  • Reply Amy April 17, 2024 at 9:03 pm

    Oh gosh, I feel this so hard. Some things that have worked for me in the past:

    1. Create external pressure: schedule an appointment with your lawyer, hire a professional organizer to come in for the most challenging rooms, set up a coaching call with a writing coach or schedule a retreat to knock out a rough draft of book proposal.

    2. Realize that the problem may be energy more than time. Marathon training is exhausting (as is everything else) and even if you technically have time, you probably don’t have energy or emotional bandwidth. So getting help and focusing on very low effort baby steps could work, as could simply punting everything out to after your race. Or just choose one at a time to work on.

    Looking forward to seeing, over time, how you conquer this. 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:25 pm

      thank you Amy! The decluttering in particular seems to take a physical energy I don’t have on long run days, so Saturdays are really OUT for that task.

      And YES to external pressure. I think I need it more than I thought for certain things.

  • Reply Leslie Stompor April 18, 2024 at 1:01 am

    I think you’re being WAY too hard on yourself! It’s OK to not make progress on all fronts. It’s not like you’ve been blowing off spare time!
    Can someone else do the organizing and decluttering? Or you and hubby can do it together, 15 minutes at a time? If something was organized, it shouldn’t take very long to get back to that state..

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:25 pm

      In theroy that is probably true. I think we are EXTREMELY gifted at making messes in this house . . .

  • Reply Nadine April 18, 2024 at 2:20 am

    It sounds like the method you are using for the estate planning is kind of a hard one, and maybe an easier route would help. We hired an estate planning service/lawyer, had a one hour meeting where they asked a bunch of questions, then they sent through draft documents for us to check and revise. Then a final one hour meeting to review the final version and sign. It was a maybe 3 hour process total and pretty low effort.

    • Reply Coree April 18, 2024 at 4:16 am

      Yeah, our finances are very uncomplicated which helped, but we did it all through email? We filled out a form, they sent back any questions, they sent the drafts, we popped into sign them.

      Our guardianship situation is not the obvious choice (a distant cousin) so we wanted to make sure everything was on paper early on.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:26 pm

      Zoom meeting scheduled so let’s hope we can make it this easy!

  • Reply Elaine April 18, 2024 at 4:04 am

    Just wanted to say I think sharing the stuff you’re struggling with is a strength from a productivity/planning expert front rather than the converse. Makes it very relatable 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:26 pm

      thank you <3

  • Reply Amy April 18, 2024 at 8:45 am

    For estate planning, could you just make an appointment with an estate planning lawyer? I helped my grandfather with his. We went for one session where they went through everything, got his wishes, etc. then we went back after they were drafted to sign it all. Might be easier to do that than sort it out on your own. I’d say the whole experience was under three hours total.

  • Reply jennystancampiano April 18, 2024 at 8:52 am

    Well I appreciate the fact that you shared this. It shows us that you’re not a robot! I’m sure writing out all the things you HAVE been doing gave you a sense of satisfaction- it’s not like you’re slacking off. I agree- nebulous goals like this are HARD. Talking about #1 for a minute- it’s a tough one, because you can’t just hire someone to do it. BUT- I’m wondering if you could set aside one whole day, or even a weekend at some point, and enlist the aid of either a professional or a friend. I’ve done this twice (in both cases it was a friend who volunteered.). Once shortly before my daughter was born, a friend came over for the entire day and seriously organized my entire house. We cleaned our closets, put up shelves, threw a ton of stuff away, and she even took things away that I wanted to donate. Another time a friend came over and totally reorganized my entire kitchen. So- this has to be a person who actually LIKES doing things like this. It can’t just be any old friend, because then you’ll end up just chatting and not getting much done. So just something to think about- do you have a friend who would enjoy a project like this? Some people really actually love organizing other people’s homes!

  • Reply Elisabeth April 18, 2024 at 9:01 am

    So many great suggestions in the comments! I agree with Lisa that of all the things you’ve mentioned, the estate planning is critical. Clutter and breaking up with Reddit can wait. Estate planning cannot. Things might be streamlined differently in Canada, but it took a single meeting with our lawyer to sort this out. Who do you want to be legal guardians? Backups (yes you should have backups, too)? Power of Attorney? Executor of your will. Talk to those people first – before seeing your lawyer – and then make an appointment. Once you have the okay from the people you’d want in charge were something to happen, the process should be quick and painless. I also think the advice to imagine who you would want in charge the LEAST is brilliant. Knowing the reason behind why you’re prioritizing this is critical. Also, your preparation doesn’t have to be perfect. That is what estate lawyers are for – they should be trained to ask all the right questions in case you’re missing something.

    Love the idea of meeting up with Laura for a writer’s weekend. Though I would be so bold to ask: Do you really want to write a book? If so, why? I know you love to be busy and stretched both creatively and professionally, but do you want to write a book? Market a book? Do interviews for a book? What would you have to sacrifice (time with kids, training for marathons, other creative ventures) to make space for this new area? If you really want to do it – THAT’S AMAZING! I will pre-order your book in a heartbeat and beg on bended knee to be a beta reader. But, like a comment above, I’d suggest there is usually a reason we put off doing tasks or dread them. And I wonder if the book proposal delay might be an internal sensor saying “adding this to your current roster would be an overload”. Again, I am NOT trying to discourage you from writing a book, I just suspect something else will need to be let go to really enjoy all the great things you have in your life now?

    Re organizing. It never ends. Can you throw money at the problem? Hire an professional cleaner or organizer to come to your house one Saturday. (I feel like Laura did something like this?) Get childcare so the kids are out of the house. Work together to do a few rooms. If something isn’t sentimental or can be replaced for under $10 and you’re hesitating – donate, sell, or trash it. Schedule this sort of pro help bi-annually.

    • Reply Grateful Kae April 18, 2024 at 12:33 pm

      Elisabeth can you be my second mom??? How are you so SMART?! 🧡 I’m feeling similarly overwhelmed like Sarah is but with slightly different “areas”… I need to sit down and approach it like you just did here. It’s always easier to break down or analyze someone else’s issues, I feel. I’m not as good at looking objectively at my own!

      • Reply Elisabeth April 19, 2024 at 8:52 am

        This comment MELTED MY HEART, Kae.

        I’m younger than you so that would make for an odd step-mom dynamic. Sisters?

    • Reply Angela April 18, 2024 at 1:15 pm

      I have been reading your blog for a while now (maybe two years?) but don’t think I’ve commented before. I was going to say pretty much exactly what Elisabeth just said with all three of her main points, so I’m now just going to tag on to her excellent comment!

      These four things are not equal. The estate planning is a must, has-to-happen. Everything else can be seen as optional. I know thinking about what could happen is awful, but what would be far worse would be if the worst happened and you hadn’t prepared for it. I don’t know your situation well enough to know where the stumbling blocks are but, like Elisabeth, I found the process to be very straightforward. My husband and I had one heavy conversation, we checked with our preferred people that they were ok with the roles we were choosing for them, and then we made an appointment with a lawyer. If you need external pressure to get this done, can you make an appointment with the lawyer now to force yourself to complete the other parts? Create an external deadline for yourself? (I know you classify yourself as an Upholder but maybe behaving like you’re an Obliger for this issue would be helpful?) I also would advocate for booking in childcare for a weekend day when neither of you is on call just so you can get this done, if having the heavy conversation with Josh is what is holding things up.

      I’m an (yet another) academic and I also want to echo the questions being asked by other commenters – why do you want to write a book? Do you feel like you *should* be writing a book? Do you feel like a book is *supposed* to be the next natural step in your career progression? Do you feel like everyone else is writing a book so you should too? If you are struggling to make yourself write the book proposal, why do you think the process of writing the book itself would be different?Books are so much work and require so much time and space to produce. If you are not 100% certain what your book is about and 100% excited to produce it, I would be inclined to say shelve this idea and return to it later if/when you’re truly fired up about it or when you are willing to devote more time to it/move it up your priority list. You could try the writing/planning retreat to see if that gives you enough momentum to get going, but the book itself will need more time than the proposal would and your life always sound very full to me.

      If the house decluttering is really bugging you, I am a big proponent of throwing money at the problem. Get in the professionals and let them do it (or at least get you started). Totally understand the feeling of being completely swamped, especially with kid stuff.

      Good luck with all of it!

  • Reply Elizabeth April 18, 2024 at 9:19 am

    Hi Sarah! Just one more thought to add to the chorus:

    You’ve identified with #1-3 that there’s no deadline so you’re not moving forward. But I want to suggest that may not be the reason at all. With everything else that you DO accomplish, you enjoy the process. Like marathon training: yes, there’s a deadline (race day), but you enjoy your training. You love to run! Same with reading. Maybe you have a goal for the year, but you also enjoy the act of reading.

    You hate organizing and decluttering, you don’t know how to tackle a book proposal (perhaps you don’t have a fully formed idea of what your book IS?), and frankly estate planning stinks because you HAVE to pause and consider that you and Josh could die while your children are young (God forbid, but it’s possible, and you have to plan as if it will happen). So that’s objectively terrible.

    Others have offered ideas for tackling the book proposal and organizing, and I happen to agree with the tough love above idea: no more date nights or couples weekends until you and Josh have submitted to the lawyer what they need. Maybe no more vacation planning either? In theory this would mean you need this done before your marathon. I know it’s emotionally draining but as others have said, once you get going it’s not time consuming. You’ll feel an enormous weight lifted so maybe it would be a boost for that marathon time, too!

    Good luck! You can do it.

    Also, lastly — I don’t know why you think that just because you’re a planning expert it would mean you’re not human. Of course you have things you’re putting off/not tackling. High achievers always do. You’re normal and we love you!!

  • Reply Amy April 18, 2024 at 9:35 am

    Another academic chiming in: hard agree with the comments to block off a larger chunk of time to brainstorm/jot down notes first. Can you make progress in small time chunks on writing projects? Yes, but it’s way easier if you have an idea and direction first.

    Also: you’re in a different phase of your life this year! Different challenges, different demands on your time. Of *course* your work and progress will look different and that’s not just ok but normal! And marathon training is a HUGE project that requires a HUGE investment of time and energy! And older kids are a challenging project in and of themselves 😁

  • Reply Heather April 18, 2024 at 11:14 am

    I don’t have a lot of advice, however, for the first one, it seems that maybe you could just pay someone to do it for you? For example, my boyfriend and I could care less about painting on our own or even doing yardwork. For those types of things, we just pay someone else to do it. We always pay for things that we want to happen, but have no interest in doing ourselves.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:30 pm

      I think I had in my mind this was an enormous expense but maybe it’s less than I thought and I shoudl probably get some estimates . . .

  • Reply Frania April 18, 2024 at 12:02 pm

    I would say that an important consideration is your current season of life and the age of your kids. I thought as my kids got older the work would decrease, but it hasn’t -it’s just changed, if not increased. We are also more actively involved with them, their needs, their problems , etc., and that tends to be on their time which leaves less time for us. Also, yes, with a teenager daughter it will be necessary to rethink bathroom space/organization.
    One piece of advice I read somewhere is to make sure your own bedroom is tidy as this is both a place of retreat for you and sets the tone for the rest of the house as it sort of serves as a model for the rest of the family how things should be.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:31 pm

      Yes, and I WANT to spend the time with them even more! I don’t think I anticipated that!!

  • Reply Megan April 18, 2024 at 1:48 pm

    So helpful to read this and all the comments. I find the better I get at planning and goal setting, the more I want to do. I love the list of everything you are doing because that really adds up and I can completely relate. You are very productive but there is only so much time and energy so extra pockets aren’t easy to find. Good luck and thanks for sharing with us all!

  • Reply Debra April 18, 2024 at 3:09 pm

    So many great comments here! I also want to tag onto Elisabeth/Lisa/Angela’s comments re: estate planning. I want to add that it might not have seemed as important in the past, but you mentioned purchasing a house. It’s not just the guardianship/power of attorney that needs to be thought about, but also a trust, now that you own property. No way would you want that to go into probate. You also will need to set aside several hours to go to banks etc to put everything into the trust. Then your guardians/power of attorneys should get a copy of your will/trust so they know everything in advance. As I’ve been in the sandwich generation for a while, taking care of aging/dying parents, you realize how important it is to have everything settled asap. And it does take a lot of conversations–the executor of the will/trust might be different from your guardian, and who has power of attny over finances and health care needs to be thought about as well. And it’s not always a one time thing. It needs to be a continuous conversation as your children age–who might have been the best person to be a guardian when your children were babies, might not be now that they are tweens/teens. People move away or have life obligations that change too, so it’s a document that can change/grow as your life changes. I wouldn’t classify it as nebulous—it was a very straight-forward process, but one that takes time. It’s the most important plan you’ll put in place. Planning vacations of daily activities is fun–estate planning is essential.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:29 pm

      thank you Debra! Many important reminders here. I am glad everyone here lit a fire on the estate planning!!!

  • Reply Kristina April 18, 2024 at 3:50 pm

    I feel this SO deeply (as someone who is struggling to write a dissertation). After many many years of procrastinating, we did finalize our estate planning last year, and what helped most was the mental reframe of “this is very important but also for an extremely unlikely event” (thinking about how unlikely this was to be needed helped to take the pressure off of making all the decisions) and also “we can always make adjustments.” And also (maybe a little morose) we reminded ourselves that we didn’t need to worry about whether someone was offended after we die! Just in case any of this is helpful…

  • Reply Arden April 18, 2024 at 5:46 pm

    Am I the only one that thinks these comments are GOLD??!!??

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 18, 2024 at 5:54 pm

      They are GOlD!!!!

  • Reply Alyce April 18, 2024 at 7:09 pm

    Oh, I feel you Sarah, I really do. I’ve been proactively planning this year again, after a five year hiatus due the major lifequake that came with becoming a parent, dealing with Simone’s medical issues and disabilities, managing and tending to my own grief, enduring a pandemic, and becoming a supervisor at work. I did very little beyond what I absolutely had to do during these past five years. And now that I’m happily back in the swing of planning things again, I’m confronted with the reality that good planning/being good at planning does not mean you can actually do everything you want and need to do.

    Actually, it was your podcast episode a few weeks back about setting up Q2 goals that made me confront and accept this. I realized that the reason why I was feeling unbelievably stressed out trying to accomplish anything/everything was because many of my ambitious annual goals – multiple big home renovation projects, decluttering out house in anticipation of moving out for said renovations, planning a trip for our 10 year anniversary, finding more babysitters now that our favorite has graduated, getting an au pair for next school year – have important Q2 deliverables if they’re going to stay on track. Yet, I failed to recognize that there were so many other things that I have to do in Q2 that have hard deadlines and also require a ton of meetings (Simone’s birthday, her annual pediatrician and neurologist appointments that invariably turn into appointments with 3-4 other specialists, meetings with her school and the education advocate we hired regarding her IEP and her Kindergarten placement, finding out relatively last minute that we need a neuropsych evaluation which is really like 4-5 multi-hour appointments and reams of paperwork, and trying to find summer camps that can accommodate Simone’s intellectual and physical disabilities – then giving up and trying to find an au pair instead). And that’s all in addition to regular work responsibilities and the fact that this also coincides with have to absorb 10 mid-year reviews for my staff, and coming off of a not very relaxing two week spring break largely stuck at home because Simone doesn’t travel well.

    Your podcast episode made me realize there was a very good reason I felt like I was having a mental breakdown trying to make it all fit. Even though the episode was all about taking the time to see what was coming down the pike to make sure you’re planning for what’s coming, my takeaway was that planning, goal setting, and calendar management is not going to solve the fact that we simply have too much going on. And, unfortunately, we don’t have flexibility to drop on most of the things on our plate right now. But I did reevaluate everything and made some changes like changing our plan to prioritize an au pair instead of babysitters and camp, significantly scaling back our planned renovations to only include outside projects and the minimum necessary to comfortably host an au pair which means we don’t have to move out or declutter, my husband decided he needs to step down as a supervisor in his job, and I’m using some annual leave to have more dedicated time to handle these household administrative tasks. I still have a tremendous amount of things on my plate right now and probably still don’t have enough time to do it all, but reevaluating does mean I’m not spending time and energy on the less important tasks.

    When I look at the list of things you said you are doing these days – I can’t help but gently ask whether you’ve really considered whether the things you are doing are actually more important than the organizing, estate planning, and book writing, because maybe, just maybe, some of them are not. (Sorry – I totally think Reddit is a lot cause. Even if you kick the habit, that impulse to consume effortless and mindless media will manifest someplace else. It just moves from facebook to Instagram to reddit to netflix to yada yada yada. I have no social media for precisely the same reasons you do and I find myself scrolling friggin LinkedIn! LinkedIn! It’s undeniably boring and yet still, I am there. sigh)

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:28 pm

      thank you Alyce, so thoughtful as you always are. I’m glad the episode was helpful even just to point out how much was already going on – Q2 can be so hard in that way and I should probably take more of my own advice!!! I wish you the best in this very full season for you, it sounds like the choices you made had some sacrifice elements but also sound so smart and intentional.

  • Reply Good Things Friday – The Brighton Jotter April 19, 2024 at 12:58 am

    […] also could relate to SHU’s post Nebulous Long Range Projects are Hard. I think my photobooks fall into this category. We are currently working on our estate planning and […]

  • Reply San April 19, 2024 at 1:52 am

    It sounds like you have a lot on your plate, Sarah… and, if I can be honest, it sounds like you “want to do it all” (I get it, I am that person, but I am only half as ambitious as you are LOL)… it just sounds like you have a very busy life (with a job and kids) and then on top of that your soul work (planning and organizing) and running marathons (with BQ ambitions)… that’s a lot for one person and I am thinking that maybe that’s why some things (with no concrete deadlines) slip right now.

    I would encourage you, like others, to finish the estate planning. It’s the most crucial thing on your list and probably the easiest to check off. Maybe the rest will follow 😉

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 21, 2024 at 2:31 pm

      Thank you San!!!

  • Reply MS Holmes May 3, 2024 at 2:46 pm

    I almost never make progress on house organizing without hiring outside help from an organizer. Usually after the organizer comes, I get really motivated and keep going. I’ve found coupons for organizers on Groupon and Living Social. Have used various people and have never been disappointed. Good luck! My kids’ rooms, their bathroom, and our garage are a thorn in my side right now.

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