“We’ve got a motto here-you’re tougher than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.”
As an eager, want-to-do-everything, twenty-something woman living in New York City, there are moments when I reflect on my life for the ‘then & now’. I am someone who works hard in my career, relationships, and passion projects; I love the thrill of having it all & doing it all. Whether it’s spending time with friends, rushing out of work to catch a plane for a long weekend, training for a marathon, or arriving late to “date nights” with my boyfriend – I’m constantly on the move. Most of the time, it seems there are just not enough hours in the day to fit it all in. It can be exhausting both physically, mentally and financially. But because I’m consumed with wanderlust and exploration — and love to be surrounded by friends and family, it’s worth the constant juggling and dip in my bank account to do the things that bring me happiness. These are the loves of my life and they ignite a passion within me that I just can’t live without. Through the chaos, there is a constant need for balance, allowing me to be a good friend, daughter, sister, co-worker, gym-mate, etc. It’s finding that balance that’s the hardest part, and ironically, my 10-year-old self left me with some lessons I carried with me along the way, to help me do just that.
There was a pivotal summer in my life that molded me into the person I am today. It was the summer of ‘98 and boy bands were thriving. My fellow classmates and I were tasked with running a 1 Mile gym test within a certain time limit to pass the state physical test in the fall. Being my competitive self, I wanted to set a goal where I could not only beat the required time but also try and crush most of my classmates (in the nicest way possible, of course). It was one of the first times in my life where I set a challenging goal for myself and trained hard daily to accomplish it. Additionally, I was forced to “find time” in my daily routine for something I was trying to add in- because 10-year-old’s apparently have very ‘in-demand’ schedules. Every day, my dad would wake me up really early to go out and run before I went to school or camp; I was exhausted in those first few days but also exhilarated by experiencing a new part of the day in a new way. I loved the way running made me feel – free, at peace and connected with my inner thoughts.
That summer, I became task-oriented, checking off each day on the calendar, counting down the days until my big race. I worked hard. The hills were grueling but I always tried to push the last hill faster and faster each time, always looking to improve and test myself. Despite the physical challenge of the runs, it became a routine, and I stopped missing the extra hour of sleep and started to appreciate the extra time I had to explore and challenge myself. Those extra hours are now key in my life today.
Ultimately, I ended up running the race really well (and kicked some classmates butts) and was invited to be in the after school running club. Because I loved the thrill I got from competition, I also joined the swim team and would wake up every morning to swim before school, run cross-country after school and then head to my 2nd swim practice of the day after that! I had just enough time for homework and dinner before I passed out to do it all over again.
Staying busy and juggling the tasks kept me excited and gave me purpose. I was also lucky because my parents supported this crazy lifestyle (I’ve started to question their motives as I write this..) and I didn’t have to get a job until late in high school, which allowed for more time to focus on what I loved to do. However, that presented the challenge of having to use my weekly allowance wisely and therefore prioritizing plans with friends to the movies or mall. I had to learn how to make smart, budget-conscious decisions that tapped into my time management skills, while still trying to be a part of all of the opportunities and activities that came my way.
I haven’t always been as successful as I was 10 years ago, when I had fewer responsibilities but relative challenges to overcome. I’ve gotten older & lazier (they don’t warn you about this happening in your mid 20s) but have learned a few things to help me be the boss of my life and have it all.
- Learn to embrace & appreciate the extra hours in a day, despite the initial challenge they may bring.
- Even if you’re a morning person and you’re used to getting up early, some days will be harder than others. Anyone who tells you it’s easy to juggle all that we have going on in life is simply wrong. Or Crazy. Or both. Failure is part of your journey, just don’t make it the destination. At times it became more difficult to stick to a budget or try and see friends outside of my normal weekly errands, but those extra hours I made helped me stay on track; I’d squeeze in a gym class with a friend in the morning to kick-start my day — or subsequently, I’d run errands before work so I could see a friend after the workday was over.
- We not only need to prepare for the busy weeks, but we should EXPECT THEM. Those extra crazy weeks, where I failed to do it all, actually taught me how to get creative in both budgeting my time and money.
- Do what makes you happy and don’t be afraid to say no.
- Remember what is important in your life. Those special friends, your family, the people you can’t live without… If I didn’t get pleasure from all the things I do everyday, I would not do it. My sister once said to me “do what you want to do” and I now live by those 6 simple words; she made it sound so easy, so straightforward, but sometimes we all need a reminder to do just that.
- Most of us feel the pressure to always say yes to everything, which leaves us strapped for cash & exhausted. We’re all busy and life just keeps getting busier, but your true friends, will understand if you can’t make a dinner out and just need some “me” time. Respect that precious “Me” time. I’ve actually loved carving out a few hours of time just for myself, putting my phone out of touch out of mind, and relaxing with a book or some good ol’ reality tv. Recharge those batteries because as much as we’d like to think so, we are not superhumans (only our 10-year-old selves are).
- Make it a routine.
- Similar to the summer when I learned (reluctantly) to wake up before the sunrise, being able to do it all will start to feel like natural if you’re doing it in the right way. You have to start small, it’s all about taking baby steps. Be organized and prioritize what’s important to you every day. I think about each aspect as a “marathon, not a sprint” and set realistic goals for myself when it comes to juggling time with friends & family.
- When it comes to friends, manage their expectations well. Underpromise & overdeliver. One of my best friends who lives across the country from me, once said “let’s not let a week go by without a text or call”. Even though that’s probably different from what you’ve been used to, it sets a manageable goal and if you talk more, great!
- Incorporate your meet-ups with other activities and hobbies you enjoy doing; When low-key dinners & happy hour drinks become too expensive, we meet up at the gym to try a new class together (friends can get free day passes at some gyms, just ask!). Classpass is also a great option if you’re someone who loves to try new classes every week. Another great option is to explore the city/town you live in – take walks, visit new neighborhoods, try new restaurants, or even just make dinner at a friend’s house.
- Acknowledge your budget, don’t hide from it. Budgeting is an important part of the equation when you’re trying to do it all, whether it’s to save up for a trip or buy a thoughtful birthday gift for a friend, living within your means becomes a necessity. I’ve shared a few tips below that has helped me budget in a more natural, long-term way for me:
- Don’t live outside your means. Everyone wants to be that baller who drops their card at a bar and says “this round’s on me!”. Well, we’re not all ballers (is that even a cool term anymore?). Venmo is one the best money managing apps to come along as it allows us to share costs in real-time. Instead of saying “I got this one, you get the next” (because really, who will remember that?), be strong about speaking up & paying for only what you ordered. Use venmo or other secure money transfer apps, or bring cash out with friends. Splurging every once and awhile is a treat but don’t make it a habit. When it comes to shopping, leave the item in your shopping cart for a day before going back to it. Use the 1 in 1 out rule with your closest (donate one clothing item that you don’t wear anymore before purchasing another). And get creative with more cost-effective gifts on Etsy or do it yourself, inspired by Pinterest!
- If you work and have a steady income, set up at least 2 direct deposits – one to your day-to-day checking account that is used for bills, weekly expenses, etc and one to a separate account which you’re using to save up for something. A certain amount (even a small one) should go into your savings account, an account you shouldn’t touch unless it’s an emergency or you’ve used that to save up for a well deserved vacation.
- Start taking out cash at the beginning of the week that you’ve budgeted to pay for food, transportation and other miscellaneous items that are needed weekly. This will help you keep track of all your purchases. Instead of swiping a card and losing track of purchases, you’ll become more aware of what you purchase & what is a ‘need’ versus a ‘want.’ Start with a realistic amount – it’s better to start with a larger amount & decrease it over time rather than continue to increase your budget and go back into that credit card black hole again. Using this approach, I realized that I was spending way too much on buying water bottles consuming 2 water bottles a day, and at airports they cost around $3 each. I started bringing my Cool Gear water bottle everywhere and saved about $25/week. * By the way, completely unsolicited Cool Gear love, I swear they didn’t prompt me to say this; it truly did save me money!)
- Explore different budgeting apps like Mint.com, which helped me create a budget and made me more aware of the miscellaneous charges that added up over time; I learned that I was a seamless/grubhub addict because I didn’t have time to grocery shop or cook dinner. I’ve now made grocery shopping a routine on Sundays when I’m home , (it saved me $110 dollars a week!) and crock potting has turned me into the new Bobby Flay. Who knew cooking could be so easy & quick? Throw 4 ingredients into a pot, turn it on for 8 hours while you go about your day, and wah-la! You have a gourmet meal for the week!
The summer that I started running early in the morning shaped me into someone with a strong work ethic, with a routine I’m driven to keep. It made me feel accomplished and gave me appreciation for those “extra” early hours in the day, while most of the city is crawling into bed after a long night out. Most importantly, it gave me a sense of purpose and introduced me to my life-long passions of running, community, and seeking happiness. So if you’re someone who is just as busy (or I’m assuming busier), you can thrive in a fast-paced environment – you can do it all in your own kind of way. Find your purpose & embrace what makes you wake up in the morning with open arms. Go after that dream job. Train for that big race. Spend time with your friends & family as much as you can. Enjoy life and make the most of it. As my sister says, do what you want to do. You won’t remember the time you spent on the couch but you’ll remember the memories you spend with each other, challenging yourself and accomplishing or exploring something new. And if you’ve similarly failed at creating a time machine to make it all work, feel free to try out a few of the lessons I learned from my 10-year-old self that has helped me be semi-successful at having & doing it all.
Kristin Ryan currently lives in New York City and works as an HR Business Partner for an advertising technology company. She graduated from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College in 2010 with a degree in Human Resources & Marketing and competed as a varsity distance swimmer during her time there (along with some of her best friends!). She is currently training for her second marathon in addition to planning her next international trip, hello South America!