We had the good fortune of connecting with Sandra Sorenson-Kindt and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sandra, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Multi-tasking is a great way to manage projects, to-do lists, assignments, and responsibilities. It’s my strategy of choice. “Doing it all, all at once” has taunted my competitive spirit for decades.
My approach to multi-tasking was simple. Like a vending machine—I figured if I put something in (planning & effort), I’d get something out (desired results). Simplistic, but it made sense to me. . . until it didn’t.
Balancing priorities in my 20’s and 30’s felt like searching for a unicorn. I’d heard tales about how doing it all, all at once, was completely achievable. I just had to be willing to work hard(er). Today I see that unicorns and the notion of “doing it all, all at once” have a lot in common; they’re rare and elusive.
I worked as an adjunct Professor at a Mid-western University when my first child was born. The position seemed perfect because I only had to show up three mornings per week and could prepare at home.
Years later, as a corporate trainer with three more children on board, our life was a merry-go-round. Because I was an independent contractor, I could choose my teaching assignments. Like my previous teaching situation, I imagined I’d float seamlessly between my two worlds. But reality was different. Because I wasn’t fully present at home or at work, how could I give my “all?”
Juggling priorities felt like a game of Jenga; no matter how well I played the game, my worlds could collide at any moment. It was also like the popular kids’ game– Would you Rather?
Without a plan, I began choosing not to choose. What I had left was the unicorn myth and exhaustion.
Stretching to accommodate every request, opportunity, or need—on both a personal and a professional stage, eventually brought me to my knees. Although I fought hard, I lived as if I were a rubber band that’d been stretched beyond its limits and could snap any minute.
In 1996 the movie “Multiplicity” with Michael Keaton tapped into the humorous side of multi-tasking. This sci-fi fairy tale sounded like my dream come true!
Keaton portrayed a man who never had enough time for things he wanted to do. When he’s offered an opportunity to clone himself, he reacts as if he’d won the lottery. It was amusing that Keaton thought he only needed one clone. It didn’t take him long to realize that even two of “him” wouldn’t get the job done. He named each of his clones, so I named mine.
“Mom Me” could cover dance lessons, skateboard lessons, soccer games, swim team, science fairs, playdates, school-teacher activities, appointments, and anything else the children needed.
Around the time Keaton’s movie debuted, I was in a photographic darkroom for the first time. The magic of watching an image appear from a tray of chemicals took my breath away, and I zoned out. I was an hour late when I remembered I was supposed to pick up my third grader from a party. Surely, if “Mom Me” had been on the job, my child would have been picked up on time.
“Professional Me” could accept more assignments, study undisturbed, and always be prepared.
“Married Me” could’ve focused more intently on our relationship.
“Creative Me” could indulge in photography, quilting (textile art), writing stories, researching my next book, puttering in my garden, visiting art exhibitions, and traveling–all things I love but rarely took time to do.
“Exercise Me” would do whatever it took to keep me physically fit—or perhaps she would figure out a way to drop my body off at the gym (kind of like dry cleaning) and pick it up when it was ready…
“Learning Me” would participate in courses, workshops, symposiums, projects, etc. This version of me could attend in person and still find time to read at least one book per week.
Recently I watched an interview featuring Tom Brady. The interviewer asked: how will your return to the game affect your time with your family?
In a few well-chosen words about his amazing wife and her ability to keep their family connected and focused, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “well, all I can do is my best.”
How can I improve my “best?”
While working on a Master’s Degree in Organizational Communication, I studied with Stephen Covey—author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” During that time, the lights came on, and I understood an important key to managing/balancing multiple priorities–I learned to identify and prioritize the things that matter most.
It took time for this idea to take root and turn into a habit. After many life lessons, a few triumphs, lots of mistakes, and some major paradigm shifts, putting first things first became how I wanted to manage my life.
Today my goal is to give things that matter most “top Billing”. Understanding and adopting this perspective has increased my effectiveness, freed up more time, and significantly reduced my stress level.
Even so, balance is still a wrestle. I must consciously decide which priorities will receive my attention and in what order each day.
At the age of 65, I’ve earned certain rights. One of those rights is to look at my life today as my own Renaissance, my chance to experience light and learning in various different and unexpected ways.
Here’s what that looks like:
* Prioritizing and choosing what matters most is a daily habit
* “I don’t say No because I’m so busy. I say no because I don’t want to be so busy.”
*“The art of doing nothing” may sound very unAmerican, but many cultures have embraced being “still” as a way to bring fresh insight and renewed energy to an otherwise worn-out human.
* I take regular time-outs. I stay in “time-out” long enough to renew–and return. I play word games, read a chapter or two, load the dishwasher, pet the cat, change the wash, prune the roses or sit on the patio. It’s amazing what a few minutes of purposeful distraction can offer.
* I still make lists. Checking things off still feels great! The difference is that now I permit myself to roll a task over to the next day/week.
* News flash—Happiness doesn’t come from a checklist.
* Multi-tasking is exhausting.
New Question: How do you choose to keep going or give up?
I wrote “Chubbs A Blind Cat Learns to Trust” as a love letter to my grandchildren. It’s an inspirational, faith-based story intended to invite readers to “Live Courageously.” It’s about my cat who used up every one of her nine lives and was courageous to her bitter end. The writing part of the story was so enjoyable. The business side of publishing–not so much.
Since I don’t like the slog of publishing, do I quit writing?
When I published Chubbs, I jumped into the deep end of a pool I knew nothing about.
I did my best to stay afloat, but the learning curve was steep. I’m grateful to friends–both personal and hired for their help and figurative hand-holding. As an author, I often feel vulnerable and unprepared. Many days are full of second guesses. Is it time to quit?
My advice to myself during these times is to slow down and keep walking.
Sometimes walking means a quick jaunt around the block. Sometimes it means to keep moving mentally and spiritually. Venturing into unknown places or situations takes physical, mental, and spiritual strength and a HUGE dose of courage.
I don’t usually shy away from hard things.
A line from a popular Shawn Mendes song helps me remember my superpower–
“Sometimes I feel like giving up, but I just can’t. It isn’t in my blood. . .”
So when is quitting a good choice?
Last year, I agreed to teach a group of Somali refugees how to sew.
I was ten years old when I began sewing, and this project seemed like a good fit. The class met once a week, and I readily accepted the opportunity without digesting the details my choice would have on my existing commitments.
After a couple of weeks, I came face to face with the reality that my choice was good but ill-timed. The 45-minute drive to and from the facility, the fatigue, the language barrier, not having time for existing obligations, and the loss of an entire day every week had taken their toll. I’d spread myself too thin…again. Should I “muscle through? Lean in and get it done?”
With sadness, I informed the person in charge that I would not be able to continue. I bullied myself in a way I’d never talk to another person. Words like QUITTER and UNDEPENDABLE flashed across my mind. I couldn’t get past the thought that these people needed my help, and I let them down; I dropped the ball. It took several days to silence my inner bully and admit that I’d done the right thing for me at that time.
A few years ago, I enrolled in an intense program that focused on helping participants look at their behavior, communication style, and their level of self-awareness. At the end of a long day, I walked home feeling
devastated—picked apart—bleeding from an overdose of feedback.
I walked dejectedly into my apartment and decided that I wouldn’t return to the program. Why should I go back to such emotional torture? Who could blame me? I hopped into bed, hoping to fall asleep, but tossed and wallowed for 45 minutes. I was so uncomfortable and BORED! I realized I needed to “put my big girl panties on and deal with this.” The next day I returned to the program, a bit battered but resolved to try again, to do my best to keep an open mind, no matter how painful. After all: If I quit every time it gets tough, how will I learn anything?
I trust my intuition when choosing whether to keep going or let go. Making hard choices takes more than determination; it takes faith.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As a “Creative Professional,” I’m someone who has a lust for learning new things. As a child I wanted to be a criminal attorney (like Perry Mason), or an Olympic figure skater (like Peggy Fleming).
However, there wasn’t much chance that a girl from a steamy state like Arizona, with only one ice rink within 100 miles (late 1960’s), would become an Olympic figure skater. No access to an ice rink and wobbly ankles killed that dream. But I still stop every time a skating competition pops up when I’m channel surfing.
When I was 12 I offered to iron my dad’s shirts so I could stay up late to watch Perry Mason–the motivation for my interest in criminal law…
I’d just started my graduate work when the Dean of the Law school at my University invited me to apply.
I declined–telling him, that a switch from communication to law “didn’t have enough purpose for the pain.”
From there I found my way into the corporate world as a Training and Development Specialist.
Now I write faith based stories. I cull some of my best ideas from actual experiences and daily life.
“Chubbs: A Blind Cat Learns to Trust” was published in March 2020—a pandemic baby. Although Chubbs has been enjoyed by readers of all ages, it’s a picture book created for children ages 4-8.
This fall, another children’s book is due. It’ll be a chapter book for early readers ages 5-10. The common thread between these stories is: they are both inspirational and faith-based…intended to invite children to Live Courageously.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
When I visited friends in Sweden in 2019, they took me to an out of the way Mexican food diner in Denmark. Cheese is a staple of Denmark, but a Mexican cheese crisp on a sidewalk in Scandinavia was very unexpected. So I will return the favor the next time they’re on Arizona soil.
I’m thinking of a tiny little Mexican joint in downtown Mesa called Mangos. It’s been in business for nearly three decades. My children grew up on tacos, beans and chips. Everything is prepared on site, and they have a full menu, but their basic fare is seen on just about every table as an appetizer or a meal. Friday nights are a great time to visit–there’s always something going on, and the excitement is contagious!
Canyon Lake is an Arizona gem. Visitors can swim, kayak, water ski, camp, picnic or just soak up the sun.
A ride on the “Dolly Steamboat” shows off the surrounding area– home to wildlife native to Arizona. Canyon lake is a place to enjoy no matter what season it is,
As the cruise winds its way into the nooks and crannies of the lake, the captain shares the lore of the Superstition Mountains.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
As a junior in high school, I cared more about my social life than my classes. I signed up for Mr. Summers history class because my friends did. When I flunked the first test, my teacher asked me to stay after class, and I thought, “oh great, here comes the sermon”… After the other students had filed out, he picked up my test that bled red ink and said, “what is the meaning of this?” For two seconds, I thought about making a snarky comment, but intense remorse washed over me before I could. Remorse turned into shame, and I was keenly aware that my flippant attitude was disrespectful and inappropriate— to my teacher and myself. I was embarrassed that Mr. Summers could see that I pretended to care more about fitting in than doing my best work, being my best self.
He looked at me and said,” there’s no reason for this. I’ve looked at your records, and I know you are capable of better work.” All my sassy snark evaporated with the realization that he was right. I can’t remember how I responded, but I do remember that my love for history was born that day, and it was the last time I pretended to be OK with something that was not my best.
It’s been fifty years since Mr. Summers took more interest in my potential than I did. I’d made getting into the college of my choice much more difficult. My pre-intervention behavior had consequences…
I had to meet with the admissions director at the university. After listening to my explanation of why my transcripts and entrance exam scores weren’t up to par, he figuratively patted me on the head and said: “You should go home; you’ll never make it at the university level.” I was furious, but I channeled my anger into the kind of confidence Mr. Summers had helped me find. I left his office without punching him in the face but determined to prove him wrong ( yes, ladies women in the 1970s struggled with callous, short-sighted, rude remarks, as well as other women do now)
I graduated with my BA in three years instead of four. When I graduated with a master’s degree, I thought about marching into his office so he could apologize. But instead, with gratitude and appreciation for Mr. Summers, I held those parchments close while taking a moment of silence (Mr. Summers died shortly after our “chat”) for the teacher who cared enough to help me find a better version of myself.