In Pursuit of Awesome: The Myth of the “Right” Time

I got an amazing response to my In Pursuit of Awesome post, here and on Geek Feminism. It’s inspired me to write a series of posts where I explore some of the tips I wrote about and related topics in more depth.

Perfect timing, right?

Credit: flickr / Jayjay402

Let me offer you a scenario. You move to a new place and someone tells you about something awesome they’re starting; it fits with your interests and you think “I could get involved with that”.

Then, your inner monologue kicks in. What does it say?

Great project, if only the timing was better. I have this huge new job and that’s going to be a challenge, and I have to meet people here and, I mean, I haven’t even unpacked yet! I don’t know enough people here to be really useful, and I think it’s just too much for me to do right now. In three months, I’ll look at it, maybe the timing will be right.

Or:

This is the kind of thing I really want to get involved with here. I don’t know many people yet, but this will put me in the way of meeting them and I’ll be able to bring a new perspective because of the things I’ve done where I lived before. Work is going to be challenging so it’s good if I have something else that I’m passionate about that I can work on to get me out of the office sometimes.

The myth of the “right” time was on the initial list of things that I had, but didn’t make it to the final one; I forgot about it. But re-reading Sheryl Sandberg’s great advice – in “Don’t Leave Before You Leave” caused me to revisit it. In the article, she talks about how women planning on getting pregnant start turning down challenges in preparation for needing to cut back as their life changes, and why they shouldn’t. It’s great advice, and not just for women planning a family.

There is always a reason why now is not as good a time as some other, future time. In the future, we’re always going to be (at least) 10 pounds lighter, more on top of work, better organized at home, more at peace in our personal life. We’ll be getting up earlier and not sleeping in at the weekends.

I tell you what, future-Cate is a zen-like, organized creature that present-Cate never manages to live up to.

It’s important to recognize that the stories we tell ourselves are just that, stories. People change, and yes, no doubt you can become more organized, or thinner, or whatever it is you want, but I think it’s crucial to recognize that even when that happens – we’ll still have some other inadequacies we perceive in ourselves that will make it “not the right time”, if we allow it.

Someone asked me recently, how do I find time for everything. I hate that question. My priorities are different, and as a result I make time. I have some (fairly small) optimizations (something I explored more in Finding Your Cognitive Surplus in Grad School), but really what it comes down to is that we all have 24 hours in each day and we each get to choose how we spend it.

WISE was surprising in that is came at a “right” time – I was looking for a new challenge and had just freed up some space in my life. But then – I got offered a job in Shanghai and spent most of the summer abroad, not working on a proposal getting funding. So even having found that elusive “right” time things didn’t go smoothly, because other stuff happens.

I started Awesome Ottawa as a grad student (so without a huge amount of extra money), knowing that there was a good chance I would move for work on graduation. It was in many ways, the “wrong” time for me. And yet – it’s been great and I would have hated to miss out on it.

Stop waiting for the “right” time, and try to find a way to make time instead. Yes, sometimes it is genuinely the “wrong” time. But not as often as we think.

11 Thoughts

  1. Julie Laurin says:

    Great article, Cate. 🙂 I learned about the idea that there is never a “right” time when I became very ill earlier this year and couldn’t do much.. I could barely walk. Doctors didn’t know what was wrong so I was ill for months. Was I going to get worse? The question going through my mind was “Is this it?”. I’d played it safe all along, worked jobs I really hated but made a good living, voted, loved. But I’d not taken any time to take risks – risks that I wanted to take but kept putting off because in the end, it’s scary.

    And then everything changes. You go from putting off everything to learning that time is ticking away and you should do what you love and what you want NOW. “Yes, but now'” as the last unicorn would say. So as soon as I recovered, I got a new full-time job, I started a fun business on the side, I started working on my Her Voice project and now I’m even thinking about blogging about insects for fun. 😛

    I’m glad to have met you.

  2. Julie Laurin says:

    Great article, Cate. 🙂 I learned about the idea that there is never a “right” time when I became very ill earlier this year and couldn’t do much.. I could barely walk. Doctors didn’t know what was wrong so I was ill for months. Was I going to get worse? The question going through my mind was “Is this it?”. I’d played it safe all along, worked jobs I really hated but made a good living, voted, loved. But I’d not taken any time to take risks – risks that I wanted to take but kept putting off because in the end, it’s scary.

    And then everything changes. You go from putting off everything to learning that time is ticking away and you should do what you love and what you want NOW. “Yes, but now'” as the last unicorn would say. So as soon as I recovered, I got a new full-time job, I started a fun business on the side, I started working on my Her Voice project and now I’m even thinking about blogging about insects for fun. 😛

    I’m glad to have met you.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks Julie! I wish we’d got to hang out more our lunch was great fun and motivating for me and I’m really excited about what you’re doing with the Her Voice project! 🙂

      Definitely after I dislocated my kneecap and could barely walk for a while, that changed how I thought and what I spent my time on a lot. Now, is absolutely, the time!

  3. Chloe says:

    Hi Cate,

    You’re absolutely right, there never is a right time…I’ve ended up taking on alot this year like trying to get chartered (my interview was last week), being a founder member of a taskforce within the European Construction Institute to address ‘people issues’ (like encouraging young people into the industry), being an engineering ambassador and doing a media project (called Ingenious Women) all about promoting young female engineers to inspire more young people to choose engineering…oh, and planning my wedding (2.5 weeks to go!).
    Every time I’ve taken on an extra project I’ve thought to myself “hmm…maybe I’m taking on a bit much & I should wait till after the wedding/till my other half has finished his Masters/till I’m chartered etc” but in hindsight it’s turned out to be the most amazing year…tiring yes, but amazing and I have no regrets.

    I always find it’s the things I *didn’t* do that I end up regretting, not the extra things I took on.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks Chloe! Sounds like you’re doing some awesome stuff (and congrats on getting married)! I love the Ingenious Women thing – that sounds so great and so needed!

      Definitely, it’s the stuff you didn’t do. I have another post on this theme that I’m thinking about and you’ve definitely inspired me! Thanks 🙂

  4. pinemud says:

    Nice post Cate. I like this one.

  5. Cate,

    Great post. I love meeting other people from the fit-as-much-in-even-if-stuff-seeps-off-the-side-and-i-hardly-ever-sleep club.

    Meggin

  6. Samera Mattan says:

    Interesting post as usual. I spent the first 3 years of my undergrad constantly telling myself I didn’t have time to take part in extra-curricular activities, volunteer work or anything fun. I quickly realized that I would have to make time for the things that were important to me or they would never happen. So I joined the exec team of WISE in my 4th year, started volunteering in 2 places and socializing more and the result was the best and most productive year of my university experience!

Leave a Reply



All content © Copyright 2016 by Accidentally in Code.
Subscribe to RSS Feed – Posts or just Comments

Workaholic WordPress Theme by Graph Paper Press