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Working on Vacation? Too Organized? How to Deal With the Burdens of Spring

Working on Vacation? Too Organized? How to Deal With the Burdens of Spring

Last week, my children and I tagged along on my husband’s business trip. Wanting to get some work done while away, I took my laptop and four work-related books I’ve been meaning to finish or start. I ended up not touching any of these. I instead finished a novel poolside. Despite failing to hide my tears in public, it felt great.

According to one study, 61% of Americans will work while on vacation. So, I suppose I was not alone with my initial impulse.

It's not surprising as we’re approaching a busy time of year spring vacations collide with spring cleaning and tax season. 

Moms are often told we need to be organized. Most moms I know are indeed already pretty organized, because we have to be. Our worlds depend on our remembering everything that goes on the calendar (play dates, birthdays, holidays, business trips, doctor’s appointments, haircuts, etc.) for every member of our household. We are usually the ones who make sure fridges and cupboards are stocked and that food gets onto the table. Whether you’ve done the cooking yourself or simply placed an order, it is usually you, the mom, who has taken action to ensure that everyone in the household has something to eat at the next meal. We are also usually the ones who know where everything is (or might be) in our homes. We know where the extra rolls of tape are. We are the ones who make sure spring clothes are taken out and winter clothes put away. Finally, we are usually the ones who know whether to take advantage of a sale on children’s clothes because we know which items will be needed next season and what sizes to get.

We get things done.

But sometimes I wonder whether this emphasis on being organized is too great. Are we placing undue pressure on ourselves? We need to feel we have control over our lives, but does this desire end up controlling us?

[Related: Time Off Helps You Thrive in Life and Career]

I am a recovering perfectionist. When things get busy in my household, or as happened recently, when family members getting sick interrupt my “schedule” and leave me feeling very much behind, I find myself thinking, “If I could just get the dining room table cleared of the piled-up mail, children’s artwork, and miscellaneous clutter, I would feel better,” or, “If I could just vacuum the crumbs from those saltines, I would feel more sane.”

How many times have you also thought, “If I could just get X done, I would feel better”?

We convince ourselves that if we can become more organized, we will be happier. Yet, happiness doesn’t come because our minds will find another requisite task.

Because there is a lot of stuff, isn’t there? I don’t mean physical stuff, but the stuff in our heads and the stuff on our calendars. It’s overwhelming to even think about what we might be able to cross off our mental to-do lists or calendars.

But, if we don’t cross things off our lists, or choose to leave things out, stuff will get left off or pushed aside anyway—often making us feel worse. We simply can’t do everything. So, it makes sense to let ourselves off the hook and leave stuff out. We can start by crossing just one to-do off your list, or taking just one obligation off your calendar.

Next vacation I take, I’m leaving my laptop at home, rather than let it become dead weight in my backpack and a bug in my mind.

What will you leave out?

Stacy S. Kim, Ph.D. is the author of The Lighthouse Method: How Busy, Overloaded Moms Can get Unstuck and Figure Out What To Do With Their Lives. She is a certified life and career coach helping high-achieving, deeply caring women and parents balance their ambitions, passions, and energy for the people they love. You can find her at and follow her on twitter: @stacyskim

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