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When I was early in my career, one thing that I found hard to grapple with was frequent unexpected late nights. Late nights on their own didn’t quite bother me – I knew this was part of the package of what I had signed up for, in particular in the first few years of my career. But planning to leave at 7.30pm, because my workload was light, yet actually leaving at 10 (and spending from 7.30 until 10 thinking “I’m going to leave in 30 mins I’m sure…”), is what truly got to me. It often meant I didn’t even get to plan my dinners properly or had to cancel evening plans (which I rarely made)… and that was tough.
I’ve always been a creature of “structure”. I don’t plan out every hour of my day, but I know generally what I want to get done. One of the key pillars of each day is the gym, a 45min to 1h slot dedicated to that and I can’t truly rest easy until I’ve gotten that done. Other tasks build around it. I wake up early and work until the evening, usually by the time I get back home I am starving which means I tick off the first piece of the puzzle: dinner. I satisfy those cravings, relax for a bit, and shortly after I head to the gym. I’m usually back up to my apartment within 1 hour, and probably recoup a bit. After that I tend to organise things – if my boyfriend cooked dinner, then I clean up (if I did, then it’s vice versa), if not, maybe I’ll hang up some clothes that have been collecting on chairs over the course of the week, clean up some crap in our room, or give the bathroom a quick spritz. Puzzle 2 – slotted.
Next I tend to take some time to work on Soulful Kitchen. I’m either working on content for Instagram for the next day, or I’m getting around to other to-dos. For example, currently we are revamping the website so there have been a few to-dos around that. If it’s not Soulful Kitchen, then it’ll be sorting out general “life”. Activating a new bank card; paying council tax; reading mail; sorting out tax; putting money into funds… something or the other. And, if I’m absolutely exhausted (Fridays if I’m not out), I tend to just fall asleep asap.
Fridays, Saturdays and sometimes Sundays, the social life kicks in. Dinner with friends, a boozy brunch, going to see my family, a night out. Or sometimes, the weekends are full of just relaxing, and those are sometimes my favourites. If I know I’ll be out, the rest of the to-dos are done around this – e.g. the time I go to the gym, if I’m filming for Soulful Kitchen, my failed attempts at writing blog posts…
I am even able to plan all the way down to post-work drinks sometimes when I know that certain people will be in town. I also plan my gym sessions around what I consider may be potential hangovers (frontloading during the week for example). It’s excessive structure just so I am able to do everything that I want to done.
Recently, I realised that maybe the structure is a little… too structured. For example, if someone randomly decides during the week that they want go for drinks, the initial reaction is for my head to recalculate literally everything – “ok, this means no gym today, therefore I must gym on days X, X, X instead. This would mean I can’t create content for SK tonight, is there something simpler I can switch tomorrow out for? OMG, what does this mean for dinner? How many calories have I eaten today?!?”
There are great things that come along with being structured, especially if you’re busy. People often think that I get a lot done on a day to day basis, and live a life of absolute sheer productivity. But this really isn’t the case. I spend a lot of time wasting minutes on Instagram and TikTok. I watched 3 seasons of Emily in Paris this Christmas break in 3-4 days. I am always catching up with my favourite YouTubers and seeing what they are up to on their channels. And I watch Love Island every day (albeit, these days, I watch Love Island in the gym). However, I just set aside time to do the things I planned to do (if I did), and I get as much of that done during the day if I can. So perhaps it more having structure and being organised, than being super productive.
However, there are the downsides of being structured. I will never let structure get in the way of me enjoying myself – we only live once. But that doesn’t negate the feeling of guilt eating you up alive if you don’t make it to the gym 4-5 times a week. Feeling bad if you planned to produce some form of content (including blogging, cough cough…) and fail to deliver. Feeling restricted in going outside of the daily bounds set up for yourself. Feeling overwhelmed just because a new plan has popped up which throws off all of your other plans.
Yes, most of the time, I like to do what I need to do, to get what I need to get done, done. But, sometimes there is some beauty in breaking structure – in a guilt free way – and living by the phrase you only live once. I never want being structured and organised to mean that I don’t enjoy myself, and am too uptight during the years of my life that I really don’t want to be.
2023 is about getting more of a balance. I’m not going to say I’m going to chuck the organised side of my personality out of the window – its how I function and always have. But, there definitely is scope for a bit more wriggle room. Particularly in not beating myself up if something doesn’t quite go to “plan”. Less of the robotics of everything planned down to a T, and more of the “letting life take me” wherever it wants to.