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The Sucky Rotation Schedule & The Suck Line

It’s baaaack!  I’m talking about this puppy again!

A few years ago received an email from a reader, and it went something like this:

  • I am racing my first 70.3 in a few months.
  • I do most of my workouts when my family is asleep — this translates to 4:30am mornings.
  • Even still, the long runs, bikes, swims, strength, and yoga remain doable.
  • My body can (and most of the time my head wants) to do the workouts.
  • Many times I wish I could do more with my workout, but I am doing okay.
  • The problem is I need sleep.  And time with my kids and husband.
  • Sometimes, I can’t justify another early wake-up and early bedtime.
  • How do I balance all of this?

Ah, yes.  This is the burning question.  Balance.

Balance is BS

I give a talk about how “Balance is BS” and it’s impossible. Why? Because we cannot be balanced. If we are balanced, then everything is mediocre… or, worse? Everything is falling apart.

Simple math for you:   Everything is awesome = Impossible

Deb Cheslow, my friend and peak performance coach, talks about the glee and productivity of being “off-balance, on purpose”–basically, that real benefits exist with obsession in parts of our lives especially when big goals are at stake.

I have known for a while, since this original blog post came out in 2014, that off-balance is a thing.

But we need to feel like we are balancing. Even if balance is impossible.

And that is a trick of lines and mind and sorts.

Summary:  there is a component of balance to make it all happen–but it’s not what you think.

How do we busy people do it all–work, raise kids, swim, bike, run, maintain relationships, and sleep? [Sleep? What is that, especially?]

The task, is would seem, is impossible.


 “You can have anything you want… but not everything you want.”

– Ray Dalio

In order to accomplish anything you want, a certain number of things have to move around.

I will explain.

But first, we must recognize some basic truths.

Truth #1:   We Must Distinguish Between “To DO” and “Priorities”

We are all drowning in “to do” items. To-do lists, nonsense and more… Also known as being pecked to death by chickens.

But we must learn to distinguish between priorities and the never ending to-do list.  Much like many of us are learning to distinguish between NONSENSE and things that are NOT NONSENSE.  And really, much of our to-do list can fall under nonsense.

So what’s the difference between Priorities and To-Dos then?

Priorities are things/people/actions that should not waiver much in importance. Sure, priorities can certainly change and people can change–but once you establish something as a priority, then that should remain so (until you decide to change it).

Confused yet?

Priorities are things/people/actions that you determine as paramount. You are not a tree and you get to change your mind.  But once you decide that thing/person/action is a true priority–then that’s where it should remain.

Make sense? Okay good.

I like to think of other to-do list things as “non-critical.”

Sure, we need to grocery shop and cook and clean in order for ours lives to run smoothly;  however, no one will die if you put those things off for a little bit, if you skip a day, or if you have grilled, dusty SPAM for dinner.

If something on your priority list gets completely ignored–it could be fatal–to life, sure.  If you forget your kids? Your spouse? Well, who knows… but letting your goals and life mission fade in the distance? Slowly die?  Well, that is fatal to YOU… your soul and eventually your life.

Here’s an example of my PRIORITIES and the start of my never-ending “TO DO” list.

The PRIORITIES are designated in DARK BLUE; the to-do list starts in pale blue.

In other words, the DARK BLUE things just don’t waiver much.  I don’t “purposely forget” about my kids or my athletes for periods of time. I just keep them always on my priority list. Sure, I take breaks and move things around. But I don’t treat them like laundry.

Those DARK BLUE things are priorities.

Wait, you might ask… triathlon? Writing your next book?  Those are “real” priorities?


This, my friends, is the magic of priorities.

YOU get to decide what is important to YOU.  You get to choose what makes the most sense in your life, and what matters most to you.

Take a moment and think about your priorities. Even if they aren’t someone else’s priorities. What matters to YOU?

Truth #2:  Their Priorities Are Not Necessarily YOUR Priorities

When my kids were in preschool and it was Valentine’s Day, I felt like I had mastered the “Mom Game” simply by sending in the cheap little foldy-Valentines and remembering the damn holiday at all.

When the kids returned home from school, Stella waddled in (age 3) with a perfect Valentine in her stack.

A plastic shovel.
With perfect Pinterest-worthy bag.
And a tag that said “I Dig You.”

At the time, I was slayed.  I couldn’t believe how much I sucked as a mom! The hilarious part? This was before Pinterest had even taken hold. This Mom was a Pinner before there were pins. Inconceiveable.

I couldn’t help, in that moment, but feel like a massive failure.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized… that mom’s PRIORITIES were totally DIFFERENT from mine. Maybe she was the founder of Pinterest! Maybe she owned a candy store and that was no big deal for her.  Maybe it was her life dream to just make precious things like that.

huge key in this whole game is realizing that THEIR PRIORITIES are not necessarily YOURS.

(And repeat after me:  That. Is. Okay!)

We are all allowed to have our own priorities.
Where I have triathlon or book writing, someone else might have hot-dog eating world championships and knitting.
Or making adorable Valentines.


The funny thing about that Valentine?  Afterwards, I went on a complete spree of trying to keep up with these moms… by teaching myself to make fondant cakes.  WTF.  I don’t even like baking!

Hello Kitty 2012.

Angry Birds 2012

Spider Man 2013

I can’t even with these cakes, you guys.

I look at each of those cakes and recall nothing but stress. I had no backup plan for my kids’ birthday cakes. I was the cake baker and maker! I was putting all this pressure on something that was NOT a priority for me. I added nonsense to my already-deadly-to-do list.

My kids were a priority, of course.  But me hand-crafting a freaking fondant cake?

That had nothing to do with nothing!

I created more nonsense and chaos for myself by simply not realizing that other people have other priorities.  I could have saved myself a whole helluva lotta trouble.

Take a minute to think about priorities that OTHER people have–that you feel like you SHOULD have… but deep down, you just don’t.  Do you have a Hello Kitty cake in your future?  OR is that okay, that you don’t?

Truth #3:   Make Room for Your Dreams and Wants – Those Are Priorities

Many times we forget to dream, to have dreams, aspirations.
Or if we dream, we forget to make those dreams part of our PRIORITIES.

Dreams are the things we will be glad we did at the end of life. Dreams are what keeps us going.  Dreams are the things that mean we are ALIVE.  Dreams are the things we think about and wish for.

So many of us forget to dream at all–or we are scared to dream because the dreams are big, or it will take forever to reach them.

But guess what?  The time is going to pass anyway.  Might as well dream–and make those dreams a priority.

When you look at my list, I keep the dreams on there.  Podcasting and writing are dreams of mine–sure, I have them going now, but keeping those going?  Well, those are my dreams.

Take a moment and make sure you have some DREAMS on your LIST of PRIORITIES.

The Suck Line:  You Can Let Some Things Slide: The ART is in the LINE

So we have our priorities.  We have our dreams.  We have our never-ending to-do list.

Here’s where we learn about the fabulous tool that is the Suck Line.

At this point, I do encourage you to take a moment and physically write down these priorities and dreams.
Put them first on the list.
Maybe you have five or six.
Maybe you have 20. That’s fine.

After that, write down your TO-DOs or the things you must do to keep your life running – maybe with the most-important at the top.

For example:

  1. Relationship
  2. Kids
  3. Work
  4. Triathlon Training
  5. My first IRONMAN
  6. Maintaining my friendships
  7. Getting that Dream Job
  8. Sleep
  9. Cooking
  10. Cleaning
  11. Pay the Bills
  12. Yard Work
  13. Eye Doctor
  14. Laundry
  15. Dry Cleaning
  16. Hair Cut

Now, depending on the size of your list, you get to choose where to DRAW YOUR LINE.
Pick where to do it randomly.

But make sure ALL PRIORITIES (true priorities that are yours!) are above the line.

Then make sure that some of your TO-DOs are ALSO above the line. But there should be a large share of TO-DOs that don’t make the cut.

You focus on what is above the line.

For example, this is your WEEK ONE of the Suck Line.
  1. Relationship
  2. Kids
  3. Work
  4. Triathlon Training
  5. My first IRONMAN
  6. Maintaining my friendships
  7. Getting that Dream Job
  8. Sleep
  9. Cooking
  10. Cleaning
  11. Pay the Bills
  12. Yard Work

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^The Suck Line ^^^^^^^^^^^

  13. Laundry
  14. Eye Doctor
  15. Dry Cleaning
  16. Hair Color
  17. Uniform shopping
  18. Doctor’s Appointment (ASAP!)

Remember:  what is above the line matters most–for a short period of time.

Because really, in order to be a working, dreaming and functioning busy person of the world, we really must let certain things “go,” and slide below the line of importance.  

Maybe it’s the workouts.

Maybe it’s house cleaning.

Maybe it’s sleep.  But in order to survive, you must make the list and allow things to fall off the charts for a short period of time.  The key is: short period of time.

For me, whomp whomp whomp, the laundry bin is usually the main thing to fall below the Suck Line.  That is, until the kids are like, “Mom! I have no clothes” to which I roll my eyes and say, “Whatever.”  Then I go to their rooms to find literally not a stitch of shirt, underwear or sock to be found.  Now, I jest (sort of) in my response here.  But not really.

I have to, at some point, move the laundry up.

For example, this is WEEK TWO of the Suck Line.
  1. Relationship
  2. Kids
  3. Work
  4. Triathlon Training
  5. My first IRONMAN
  6. Maintaining my friendships
  7. Getting that Dream Job
  8. Sleep
  9. Laundry
  10. Eye Doctor
  11. Dry Cleaning
  12. Hair Color

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^The Suck Line ^^^^^^^^^^^

  13. Cooking
  14. Cleaning
  15. Pay the Bills
  16. Yard Work
  17. Uniform Shopping
  18. Doctor’s Appointment (ASAP!)

Do you see what happened?

Translation:  The Week One Numbers 9-12 switched with Numbers 13-16—to make Week Two! Like magic.  See what I did there?

That means that everything below the line… is to be ignored. For a little while.  The focus, for this week, is on what is above the line.


Does this make your head spin? Okay. Just breathe. So let’s step back for moment and regroup.

Summary of the Suck Line and How It Works:

  • Make your List of Priorities – Don’t forget your Dreams and Goals
  • Add your To-Dos below
  • This Makes One Big List
  • Count down a handful of spots to where your Priorities turn into To Dos
  • Go down 3-6 To Dos, depending on what you feel you can accomplish in one week
  • Draw the line
  • This is the Suck Line, the great line in your sand of life
  • Focus on what is above the line for a period of time
  • Then rotate NEW To Dos up, and the “old” ones DOWN

Basically, for a week or so, things below the Suck Line are consciously getting neglected. Keep the high priority items high priority (always), and let the smaller, moveable things move around.

We forget about some things for a bit. That’s okay. It’s necessary.

But then we must to work to rotate the items the list. To achieve the ever-elusive magic “balance.”

Your Rotation is YOUR Rotation (And Your Money is YOUR Money)

Maybe you can’t fathom letting the cooking “go” at all.  Well guess what?
Cooking is therefore a PRIORITY for you. Move it up!

Maybe you want to budget for cleaning service and take that off your list? Do it! It’s your life. Hire out the groceries (I love Shipt!) and the cleaning.  For the cost of scrapping take-out once a week or kicking a daily latte habit, someone can clean your house once a month–freeing up incredible amounts of time.  It’s a matter of shifting priorities.  We can spend stupid money on stupid things. Find some stupid things you spend money on and shift those payments to actually help you – the neighborhood kid for groceries and lawn service is a STEAL, by the way.

If you can’t ever understand how anyone would NOT do their laundry?
Then it’s a PRIORITY for you. Move it up (or send it out to be done— or see if the neighborhood kid fluffs and folds!)

What doesn’t really matter to YOU? Let’s leave everyone else out of it.  But what doesn’t matter to you, a hill of beans? Yard work is a thing you never like to do?  That’s on the ROTATION of the TO DO list.
Mopping the floors?  Put it on the TO DO list, and rotate it.

It’s okay.  You can let some things go. 

It may not be true balance. But remember… Balance is BS!

Let your yard look like a jungle once a month. Let the laundry pile up, and don’t touch a stitch of it except to wash and dry workout clothes. Ignore the grocery shopping one week, because you cooked and froze and pre-planned the week before.

Make your list. Juggle. Move the last handful of items up and down. Rely on your list.


My advice to the email at the start of this article, would be to assess priorities and bump something else below the Suck Line.
Raise sleep to a priority, and let the workouts give a little… for just a while.
Don’t wake up at 4:30 for a week.
Take a break.  Let the swim and the laundry suck for a while.

When the Department of Health or Hoarders contacts you, then bump laundry up to a priority, and move something else down.

It’s a simple game of Life Tetris.

Sometimes we need to reassess our Priorities.
Sometimes we need to add things to our To Dos.

This is a fluid process, but one that can work for you–not against you.

Can we have anything we want?  Sure.

But we must be crazy, smart, sassy and armed with our pen, paper, priorities and list —ready to draw the big Suck Line in order to make it happen.



  • Cassidy

    January 30, 2018 at 11:34 am

    One thing I think it’s worth noting is that budget priorities can be different from time priorities/to-dos. For instance, housecleaning was a constant struggle. It kept falling below the suck line, and eventually needed to give. The best way to handle it was to re-prioritize some things in my budget (eating out for lunch, Starbucks runs, etc. gave way) and hire a cleaning service. It’s not always a perfect solution, but sometimes by having separate budget priorities, you can remove items from your time list. It might be different for everyone.


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