By Caroline Hall

Last night I didn’t sleep well, Do List items flashing through my brain, including an as-yet unfinished Tuesday keynote. It’s now 5:45 Sunday morning, the day we’re all supposed to sleep in. On vacation, I sleep 9-10 hours a night (or so reports the Fitbit). In “real” life, more like 6-7.

The payoff for last night’s unrest and this morning’s Do It Now push is an upcoming girlfriend trip (my first ever!) to pet gray whales and their babies in a Baja ecocamp, preceded by a few play days in San Diego. The whale-watching adventure has been on my Bucket list for 47 years (ever since my parents took my youngest sister Annie on the trip after the rest of us had flown the nest. No fair!). We’ll return late on a Wednesday night and I fly to Barcelona for a week long leadership retreat Thursday morning at 6:15. I’ve scheduled one day to recover and replenish the fridge on the other end before the next work commitment.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good. Really good. I’m managing to squeeze more fun and adventure into my life, I love my job and rarely work 40 hours a week, and self-employment lets me organize my days any way I want. However, I do find myself enjoying coming down with a fever because I can go horizontal, forget the List, and watch episode after episode of The West Wing (an antidote to what’s happening on today’s political scene.)

In other words, I have to be sick to allow for some slacking off. What’s wrong with this picture? There’s a lack of Bubble Wrap—the padding and spacing between each life event–to take a breath, consolidate and reflect, take a walk, and maybe try a nap.

nap on bench

That’s why I’m considering rescheduling a week at a spa in May (another first). There are already too many commitments in May. And not enough time at home.

I’m nowhere near ready to quit my job. I am ready to have more leisure-time adventures, connect more often with family and friends, and learn something new. What I’m learning viscerally—and should already know because I’m always pushing my clients to create more Bubble Wrap in their own busy careers—is that no one can have it all at the same time. I’ve got to get better at saying no in order to create the space in between. The iPhone calendar is no help in this regard. It’s important to have a paper calendar that shows the whole month and the whole year in order to make sure that there are an unreasonable (to my present way of behaving) number of open hours and uncommitted days.

As we Baby Boomers move toward our next chapter of life and an impending loss of organizational structure, myriad possibilities will fly at us and it’s tempting to commit to everything just to replicate the busy-ness that characterized our careers. Red flag! This is the time to design our lives deliberately to allow room for everything that matters and fulfills us—just not all on adjacent days.

Remember two things here:bubble wrap
1) A healthy, fulfilling, sustainable life requires some pause in the push.

2) All those contingencies that characterized your career, child-rearing, empire-building? Gone. At this stage of life, you get to write your own ticket.

So pay attention to the space in-between. You’ll sleep much better!



Caroline MacNeill Hall is Co-Founder of Life Reinspired, a reset lab for successful Baby Boomers contemplating a meaningful next chapter of life. She is President of MAC Advisors, an executive coaching and leadership development company. She’s also senior faculty for the Coaches Training Institute.