Executive Function Strategies Blog

Planning & Prioritzing: Packing 101

My oldest and best friend was turning a milestone age (use your imagination), and we headed to NYC for a quick overnight visit to celebrate her birthday. She knew I was terrified of driving in the city, so she happily took over for me somewhere in Connecticut. A crazy stroke of luck found us free parking yards away from our hotel. She expertly manuevered my car into the shoebox-sized spot. I flung my tiny overnight bag over my shoulder, ready to check in and head to the theater district.

Lily, however, was struggling under the weight of her two tote bags and rolling luggage, crammed full of everything from t-shirts to tiaras. When she saw the smirk on my face she retorted, “I would LOVE to be able to pack like you, but I CAN’T!” Now, in her professional life, Lily is a compassionate and dedicated head nurse, administrator, and trainer. She is brilliant and an accomplished photographer, and the mother of four wonderful young men. She has weathered her share of personal hardships with grace and humor. It’s tough to imagine her being incapable of anything. Yet, she felt overwhelmed by the planning and prioritizing task that is critical to effective packing (as well as academic success, and success at most jobs - including being a mom). She laughed at my mock outrage as I inspected her luggage: “Hiking boots! Really?”

“I wanted to make sure I had everything I might need,” Lily replied.

BagI described that through a bit of trial and error (OK, a lot of error, mostly), I had come up with a pretty efficient packing plan: check the destination’s weather report, assemble a few non-wrinkling items that are in the same color family, add a scarf or two for color, a few trial-size multi-purpose toiletries, and (most important of all) a tolerance for knowing that I might not have the perfect ensemble for a given opportunity, but knowing that I can cope with that uncertainty and adapt on the fly. While Lily was prepared for high tea at the summit of Mount Kilamanjaro (apparently a great relief to her), I was OK with being ready to walk the High Line in comfortable attire (a marginally more likely scenario).

Twenty-four hours later, it was time to leave the city. I decided it was time to face my own brand of discomfort: NYC driving. Lily coached me as I navigated, heart pounding, past double-parked taxis and weaving pedicabs. Her voice was calm and reassuring, emphasizing that I had the skills to carry us safely beyond the city limits, past all of the detours and roadblocks. I realized that, like Lily, I was carrying excess baggage. I knew that I had to leave behind my suitcase full of anxieties about Manhattan driving, in order to get where I needed to go.

I offered to return the favor and coach Lily when she packs for her next trip –- to reassure her when she feels anxious about leaving behind her gardening gloves or her miner’s hat that she already carries everything she needs.

Jackie Stachel, Director of Public Relations

Share This Article ›