How She Does It
Writer | Editor
Alikay Wood describes herself as a twenty something who lives in New York City and works as an editor. In her free time, she likes to write books, rollerblade across Manhattan, and spend as much time with friends as possible.
Alikay is also the hilarious and clever author of many of our Liveli-hood Blog posts. She brings her quick wit, snappy snark, and wise words to enliven Liveli Planner’s creative content and we couldn’t be more grateful to have her on our team. We sat down with Alikay to learn how she manages and prioritizes her time. What we love about Alikay (besides her amazing sense of humor) is her deep commitment to her community, the clarity she has on what’s important to her, and intentional way she approaches her life to make time for the things that matter most to her.
How do you typically spend your time on an average day?
A typical day for me looks like waking up early to exercise, make a smoothie, and journal before getting ready for work. I know everyone says this is their morning routine, but I do actually put it into practice. Most of the time.
Then I head to work in downtown Manhattan. I have a lot of control over my work schedule since it’s so creative. The first thing I do every morning when I get to my desk is to time block my day. This basically means that I make a schedule for myself including any meetings, phone calls, or personal errands I need to run during lunch. I also block off time to write and edit stories, and do other tasks that can slip through the cracks if I don’t schedule them in.
Once I’m off work, I’m usually meeting up with friends to pretend we’re good at trivia, talk about books, or watch The Bachelor (don’t judge me, I have no shame).
What in your life is most important to you? What makes you feel most fulfilled?
Relationships and writing are the two most important things in my life. I feel most fulfilled when I’m living in rich community, deeply invested in close relationships, and living in partnership with other people. Personally, my writing is the most important thing in my life. That means it’s the goal I prioritize above all others and the first thing I schedule into my day. I’ve never felt as accomplished or fulfilled as I do when I finish my books.
How would you define “balance?” What does balance look like in your life?
Honestly, balance isn’t something that’s particularly important to me. To me, it feels as mythical as Atlantis. Most people define balance as being able to effectively juggle work, family, friends, and self care.
For me, balance looks like accepting my current priorities. I don’t expect myself to have a perfectly even life. If there’s a big project at work, that’s going to get more of my attention and I might see less of my friends for a week or two. When my sister got married last year, I invested a lot of time in that. I feel better going all in on one thing at a time than trying to keep my attention evenly distributed across all the things that are important to me.
How would you rate your balance?
On a scale of Caroline Calloway to Gretchen Ruben, I think I’m somewhere in the middle. Most of the time, I do a good job of prioritizing my time, and I like organizational tools, but balance isn’t a priority for me.
What would make it easier to improve your balance?
The ability to see at glance what my current number one priority is. Once I know that, I can “re-balance” my life accordingly.
What do you struggle to make time for the most?
I struggle to make time for relationships with people outside New York. The older I get, the more friends and family I have scattered across the country. There are so many people to call and FaceTime, and I never feel like I’m good enough at staying in touch.
Do you think we should be striving for something other than “balance?” If so, what should that thing be?
Personally, I don’t strive for balance. I strive for growth. Ten years from now, I don’t want to have the same problems as I do today. I want to have grown into a different set of problems.
I’m less worried about keeping my life perfectly balanced than I am about being present right now. In my experience, life never balances out the way I plan for it to anyway.
Do you keep a daily or weekly routine? If so, how did you create that routine and what are your secrets for maintaining it?
I. Love. Routines. They are boring and not sexy at all, but they give me direction and help immensely with maintaining my mental health.
I’ve tweaked my routines a lot over the years–like balance, they are a moving target. This year one thing that’s really helped me maintain my routines and meet my goals is my Life Tracking spreadsheet.
I KNOW! Having a spreadsheet to keep track of my life is even nerdier than when I tried to learn elvish in high school, but it really has been super helpful.
This year, I chose five daily goals that I wanted to prioritize year-round. I also broke up my bigger picture annual goals into quarterly chunks. On my spreadsheet, I track if I’m completing my morning routine, exercising, and all the other things that make up my life. Color coding and counting up how many days I’m implementing my routine has made a huge difference in how much I stick to it.
How would you describe your approach to time management and planning? What time management/planning techniques have you found that work really well for you?
I’m very organized and also very flexible. I keep track of all of my social commitments in my Google Calendar and manage my time by time blocking. Making a loose schedule of how I’m going to spend every hour of the day–even on the weekends, and including things like hanging out with friends and binging the latest Netflix sensation, helps me prioritize.
I always stay flexible, though. I read somewhere that there are two types of people: task oriented and people oriented. I am definitely people oriented. If I’m cleaning house and a friend calls and tells me to meet them at the park, I will leave the vacuum cleaner in the middle of the room and sprint out the door for some quality time with my pal. Because I know this about myself, I try to get essential tasks out of the way as soon as possible. That way if something social comes up later in the day or week, it’s easier for me to be spontaneous.
What helps you get in the zone and be your most productive self?
I find that all the small pieces of my routine build a pyramid that supports me as I pursue my goals. Getting enough sleep makes me energized. Avoiding media keeps me focused. Tracking my goals and daily habits motivates me keep striving after my dreams.
On a more practical note, I find having a routine before starting a task helps me slip into the right mindset. For example, before I begin writing I always get a sparkling water, turn on my mood playlist, and note the time and date in my tracking sheet (yes I have a separate tracking spreadsheet for my writing, don’t at me). Because I’ve done those three things so many times before writing sessions, my brain is now trained to start writing when they are done.
“For me, balance looks like accepting my current priorities. I don’t expect myself to have a perfectly even life…I feel better going all in on one thing at a time than trying to keep my attention evenly distributed across all the things that are important to me.“
“I’m less worried about keeping my life perfectly balanced than I am about being present right now. In my experience, life never balances out the way I plan for it to anyway.“
If you could share one secret to success with other women for managing and making the most of your time, what secret would you share?
I think we all have to take responsibility for ourselves. When I fail to meet my goals that’s no one’s fault but my own. I have to take my own dreams as seriously as I take the dreams of other people. That means that when I commit to working out, writing two hours a day, or having one night a week for introvert time, I have to follow through. If I can’t keep promises to myself, how can I keep them to others?
What do you do to take care of yourself? How do you make time for self-care?
I’m not super into the self care buzzword. However, as an introvert who is also extremely people oriented, I prioritize alone time. My goal is to spend one night by myself a week. Sometimes this is hard, but I really try and schedule that at the beginning of every week because I start feeling ragged if I am with people every night.
What can women do to be more supportive of one another?
I am not perfect at this, but one thing I’ve enacted in my own life is not to talk badly about other women. In a professional setting I try to avoid gossiping about co-workers. Same goes for family and friends. I try not to speak negatively about other women. If I have something negative to say, I think I should address it with the individual in question or not at all.
If you could ask the women in your life one question about how they manage and make the most of time, what question would you ask?
I would ask what their true dream is–not the thing they want to do for their partner or their plans for being the world’s first perfect mother or employee, but the thing they actually hope to get out of life. And then I would ask what steps or tools help them to move closer to that thing.
How She Does It is brought to you by Liveli Planner. At Liveli Planner, we value the women who do epic sh!t in their communities, homes, and workplaces. These ordinary women do the incredible every day but we don’t always hear their stories. Liveli Planner wants to change that. We believe that by sharing the stories we don’t always hear about, we’ll learn from each other’s wins and struggles and hopefully realize we are pretty extraordinary too.