By Amy Hackworth. Image by Violet May.

My eyes have always been bigger than my stomach, and not just when it comes to food. I’ve always had an appetite for more projects than I can finish and more interests than I can handle. I can’t help myself—our world really is full of a lot of wonderful things.

Though the data seemed to prove otherwise, for a long time I believed there was room in my life for everything that interested me. I could sew beautiful quilts and also write beautiful stories. I was sure there was room for both, and more, and I held out hope: there had to be a way to do it all.

I realize now that I imagined a few mystical hours in the day that I just hadn’t found yet. Maybe if I kept searching, maybe if I got up earlier or learned to work faster, I’d be able to squeeze in all the quilting, reading, teaching, writing, volunteering, gardening and redecorating I imagined, plus do art projects with our boys and learn graphic design while I DIYed a remodel of our sweet 60s bathroom.

I was trying to figure out how to manage my many interests when I asked a friend, a prolific published author, how she made time for other projects. She just looked at me. “Like what?” she asked. “Like sewing,” I offered. “Like sewing…curtains?” she ventured. “Sure, sewing curtains.” “Oh,” she said. “I don’t do that.”

But I continued to insist that I could, and I continued to buy fabric I loved for projects I never completed. And I heard first lines of essays and snatches of short stories that I never wrote. I began to understand that with my head so full of potential projects, my hands, for whatever reason, never really got to work. I pared down my appetite, and found new homes for most of my fabric. Though parting wasn’t easy, I discovered an interesting sense of relief on the other side. Those unfinished projects had been haunting me, I realized, and they weren’t anymore. I was finally free to work, not on everything I loved, but on the things that I cared about most.

If you’ve figured out the secret to doing it all, I’m still dying to know, but I’d also love to hear how you balance your interests and projects in busy lives. Have you found that focusing has allowed you to be more productive? Or do you manage lots of interests with ease?

P.S. — More work-life-balance posts here. Including Gabrielle’s favorite tips and tricks!