Steph’s Dream Week

Jared got really sick of me whining about how I didn’t have enough time to work on

“So why don’t you just do something about it?” he said one day. “Take a week off. Get it done.”

Jared had just come off his own “solo project week,” completing an open-source project I’ve seen him chug along at since November. But the project didn’t get fully realized until he took 5 days off work to just crank it out. I could see that it completely revitalized him – he was more energized, and he was proud of what he had accomplished.

I’m really proud of, an online publication that I created in 2008. But nothing was stressing me out more than the fact that the site was languishing because life and work had just gotten so damn busy in the years since.

Jared’s suggestion made me nervous. It seemed so self-indulgent. What if I wasted the time? What if I realized that I didn’t want to work on Denizen at all? What if all I did was binge watch episodes of “The Blue Planet“? What if I realized that deep down inside, I was just super lazy?

“Well,” he said. “You’ll never know until you try it.”

So after a lot of hemming and hawing and internal debate, I decided to dive in and do it. I took last week off to do nothing but work on Denizen. In my Google Calendar, it was labeled “STEPH’S DREAM WEEK.”

Over the course of the week, here’s what I checked off the to-do list:

  • Denizen summer intern Courtney Runn and I worked together to publish “TCK for Teens: Your First Move,” and we finalized her second piece, which will be published this week.
  • Denizen contributor Yeesum Lo and I worked together to publish “Aliens in Hollywood.”
  • Denizen contributor Raymond Diaz and I worked together to publish “From TCK to Expat: What Japan Taught Me.”
  • Worked with Denizen contributors Adele Barlow, Katherine Alexander, and Neeha Mujeeb, to edit their individual pieces which will be published in the coming weeks.
  • Wrote and published a careers Q&A, “We’re TCKs and We Work On A Travel Startup.”
  • Worked with the team to create a survey about TCK Significant Others, collected responses and compiled it into an article that will be published next week.
  • Cleaned up the copy on every Denizen static page (“About,” “Join Us,” “Team,” etc.)
  • Updated our versions of WordPress and Jetpack, and did some spring cleaning on our plugins.
  • Manually migrated every photo gallery on Denizen from NextGEN Galleries to Jetpack galleries.
  • Added skyboxes to all of Denizen’s story pages, which are curated using Advanced Custom Fields.
  • Made Denizen’s story, category and author pages “responsive,” which means the page’s CSS conforms the page to size of your browser.
  • Watched a bunch of episodes of “The Blue Planet” and “Frozen Planet.”
  • Conquered Harvard Stadium’s 37 flights of stairs with friends.
  • Went to the Brimfield Antique Show.
  • Got dinner with friends.
  • Slept in some mornings.
  • Went to the doctor.
  • Got a massage.

So, what was it like, to take a week off work to do nothing but your own projects? Awesome. Here’s what I learned.

If It’s Important, You Need To Make Time. I thought by taking the entire week off, I could crank through my Denizen to-do list and get everything done. By the end of the week, I got through less than half of that list. As it turned out, Steph’s Dream Week could not be the magic bullet where everything got done all at once. It got the ball rolling, but it taught me that going forward, if I’m really dedicated to this, I’m going to need to prioritize time to work on it. There’s no magic bullet.

Good Work Takes A While. I’m so used to rushing to finish stuff, but when you work on a personal project, you can devote whatever time you need to make it just right. The only reason I work on Denizen is because I want to create an online publication that I’m proud of. If something is sloppy or sub-par, it’s on me and no one else. Every article I edit on Denizen takes on average 5 hours, between drafts, revisions, and communications with the author. There’s absolutely no way I can rush this, or cut it short, because then the work would be unacceptable.

Collaborating With People Rocks. One of the most fulfilling aspects of the week for me was working with Denizen contributors, bringing their ideas to life by helping guide their work and giving them feedback. When each article went live, I felt truly proud of them and the work that we had accomplished together. I guess this shouldn’t come as as surprise given how much I loved creating the ATK Social Media Internship, but it’s reminded me that this is where I find fulfillment, and that I should seek this out more in my life and work.

I Really Love Working on Denizen. I thought that maybe at 5 years, I would be tired of this project and maybe it was time to shut it down. But working on it this week has taught me that I really do love editing, writing, and creating. Denizen has given me the platform to explore this on my own time, in my own way.

Steph’s Dream Week was a great learning experience. I finished the week with more clarity about what I’m capable of, what I naturally gravitate towards, and what I want to accomplish.

Have I convinced you yet? What would you spend your Dream Week working on?