Is Organizing Your Many Passions Getting In the Way of Enjoying Them?

Ok, I can hear your hysterical laugh…

I know; this might as well be a rhetorical question as I’ve yet to speak to a renaissance person who doesn’t find organization challenging. Or most people, come to think of it.

When you have so many different interests pulling at you, it’s almost impossible not to have a hard time managing them all.

Yet many renaissance personalities I work with or have interviewed are pretty organized types.

I’m not one of them.

To say that organization and planning are acquired skills for me is the understatement of the year. Ok, let’s not lie: it’s a skill I’m acquiring – present tense.

To Organize…Or Not

I’ve come to the conclusion that I have a love/hate relationship with organization. On one hand, I crave structure and organization, and on the other hand I just want to ride my crazy, go-with-the-flow-or-the-energy-of-the-moment wave.

Enter Michelle Ward of, another renaissance personality. Michelle sat down to talk with me (by phone) about her renaissance challenges and lifestyle.

From Acting to Coaching

Starting her career as a musical theatre actress in New York City, she decided after several years that working multiple day jobs to support herself while spending entire days on a single audition for a 2-minute part in a show she didn’t care about wasn’t her idea of a fulfilling career. So she decided to switch fields.

After her fair share of soul searching, Michelle found life coaching and realized she loved it. She started training to get certified and…worked her plan.

Here’s a great example of how to make your dream come true: solid planning.

What does this mean?

Have Patience…

In Michelle’s case: she wanted to set herself up for success, so when she started taking coaching classes, she also started a day job to secure a regular income with bennies. She had a multi-year plan. She did not want to crash and burn, having to go back to work for an employer after trying to launch her business full-time from the get go.

She’s been building her coaching business in her evenings, weekends, and lunch hours. Michelle works with creatives – often renaissance personalities – and is leaving her day job behind as we speak – 2.5 years later. She has successfully built her practice, has some money saved, and can now kiss her executive assistant gig goodbye.

Pick Your Day Job Wisely

What’s great about Michelle’s story is that it exemplifies a great strategy: holding a day job that fits your purpose. In Michelle’s case, she just wanted a stable income, not a career. So she opted for a position (executive assistance) that didn’t require late hours and being “on call” outside of work. She needed that time to herself to work on her coaching practice.

The other thing I love about Michelle’s strategy is that it’s such a nice example of how chipping away at something pays off. I know so many people who can’t get themselves to move forward at all, or who jump right in and realize it’s not for them or “fail” because it’s not taking off fast enough to sustain themselves.

Michelle took out the roller coaster factor by going slow, yet steady.

Not everything happens overnight. In a society and a time where instant gratification is the norm, creating a plan such as Michelle’s seems almost old-fashioned. I say it’s hot!

Of course, it’s also your typical renaissance life style story: working a day job, coaching in your off time..Oh, and she’s also making sure her hubby casts her in his plays on the rare occasion she can spare some extra time. (Her husband is a writer, comedian, and film maker).

Michelle’s Tips For Living the Renaissance Life

–    Trust that you’re ok, even though you’re different than most people.
–    Write down all the things you’re interested in and might want to pursue.
–    Narrow the list down to those things you want to make money at.
–    Figure out how pursuing these passions will fit in with your schedule and other obligations.
–    Make time for what’s important to you.

Then there’s the day-to-day organizing. This is a topic in and of itself as you need to find your own way with it. There is no “one size fits all.”

Michelle makes sure she schedules 45 minutes of “me time” each day (90 minutes a week when she still had her day job as well).

Micro Prioritizing

I have found that writing down what needs to be done on any given day is helpful, and estimating the amount of time it will take. Some people advise to then shorten the amount of time you’ll schedule for it.

I have not found this helpful. I understand the concept of increasing pressure to become more productive (give a task to the busiest person to get it done fastest), but the truth is, I underestimate the amount of time I need for any given task to begin with. To retain a sense of reality and not get discouraged by ending each day with a list full of to-do things not completed, I now figure in the unexpected.

What’s been working well for me is making sure I got the most important things covered. Do them first. Or whenever you know you’ll be most effective. Then you can go with the flow later on, indulging in whatever activity fits your energy at the moment.

What has worked for you? Please share your story so we can all learn from each other! Just leave a comment below…


  1. Recovering from an open heart surgery, I have a long list of things to do in addition to getting back on my feet in terms of going back to work, exercising and other personal issues.

    Splitting the day into 2 parts helps, as I have been using the mornings to get the important things done and the afternoons to do less important things or things like exercising that make me feel better.

    Doing one thing everyday that makes you happy I have learnt recently is boosting my morale and encouraging me to go on with my plan.

    Also, having a counselor or someone who monitors but not too closely helps in setting deadlines and achieving results.

    Baby steps is what I use and I thus set mini goals. Say I want to read 6 books in 2 months. I divide the goal into 8 weeks and set mini goals for every week.

    Comment by Rayan Zreik — March 13, 2010 @ 7:45 am

  2. […] I had a super awesome time being interviewed by Ilona Vandorwoude of Career Branches. Ilona is a “career & life coach for the modern-day Renaissance personality”, so it’s probably pretty obvious why we hit it off right away. Read all about  how I had to organize & prioritize my goals & interests (while staying true to my Renaissance Soul!)  in order to quit my day job and get my 5 Tips for Living the Renaissance Life by clicking here! […]

    Pingback by When I Grow Up – The Blog » Blog Archive » When I Grow Up Round-Up! — March 15, 2010 @ 5:15 am

  3. I love the advice to ‘Trust that you’re ok, even thought you’re different than most people’

    The two things that help me the most are setting three priorities for the week and then out of those three picking one that will make me feel the most accomplished and making sure I work on this every day.

    The other thing is to set a timer for the amount of time I’ve allotted for something. Not only does it help me stay on track, it also helps me to learn how much time actually takes, b/c I’m paying attention. I might turn of the timer and decide to keep going or I might decide to drop everything and move on to the next thing.

    Thanks for the article! Some good advice and good to hear what other people are doing.

    Comment by Dutch.British.Love — March 15, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

  4. Hi Rayan,

    First of all: I hope you’re recovering wonderfully!

    That’s a wonderful idea:doing one thing every day that makes you happy. Deceivingly simple.

    And yes, mini goals are a great way to make progress while making it feel manageable.

    Thanks for posting and sharing these great tips!

    Comment by careerbranches — March 26, 2010 @ 8:39 am

  5. Ditto, Michelle! So glad we “met” in cyberspace! : )

    Comment by careerbranches — March 26, 2010 @ 8:40 am

  6. Hey Jadyn (I visited your blog) : ) Another Dutchie living abroad..nice meeting you here! (En inderdaad: aparte naam! Maar wel mooi.)

    More great tips – thanks for sharing.

    I like the timer thing. Use that too sometimes. It really makes you aware of how long something actually takes you, doesn’t it?

    Comment by careerbranches — March 26, 2010 @ 8:44 am

  7. Hey Ilona! Thanks for visiting my blog! Inderdaad leuk je zo te ontmoeten :) I did notice before that your last name looks Dutch, but of course that could just mean Dutch ancestors in a far past.
    Ik heb je blog aan mijn google reader toegevoegd. Zie ernaar uit meer van je goede advies te lezen, wat ik tot nu toe heb gelezen spreekt me erg aan!

    And yes, the timer on my Ipod helps me through days where I feel like a renaissance woman on acid – trying to achieve way too many things in a day. I think we all have those days :)

    Comment by Dutch.British.Love — March 26, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

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