The Value of Guarded Time

Dijon Rosemary Marinated Chicken Breasts

Years ago back in my event planning days, a group of us put on an annual fundraiser benefiting various organizations here in town. Our biggest challenge was not wrangling the many details that went into planning this event. No, our biggest challenge was finding a time to meet to do the planning.

We would toss out dates and times and inevitably one of my friends would say, “No, that won’t work for me, I’m running then.” So we’d toss out another day and time and she’d say, “No, I can’t do that time either. I’m going for a run then as well.” This annoyed me. In my head, I was impatiently thinking, “Oh for crying out loud, do you have to do your exercising then? Your running? Can’t you do that another time?” Meanwhile, I would cancel anything, or completely rearrange my calendar to make our meeting work. “Oh Carrie, good for you for being so flexible,” you might be thinking. But, no. Not good. My friend was much wiser than I.

I didn’t set boundaries for my time like my friend. For years, I did not maintain control of how my time was spent. I would fritter it away not only for trivial reasons but also well-intentioned reasons: planning meetings, lunches out, networking meetings, evening gatherings, volunteer projects, perfecting projects that would have been sufficiently finished at 80%, making long-involved recipes on weekdays, never saying no to my children’s request to drive them here, there, and everywhere. I didn’t value my time.

The irony of scheduling those event-planning meetings is that even with my friend’s dedicated exercise times, after a few rounds of tossing out dates and times, we always found a time that worked for all of us.

If you came over to my house today, unannounced, you would find my kitchen sink, as well as the counter next to it, full of dishes. Upstairs you’d find unmade beds. On the cabinet in my office, you’d find a graveyard of electronics that continues to grow year after year since no one has carved out the time to take care of that little problem.

Back in my event planning days, that same group of friends used to poke fun at me about my relentless organizing and tidying. One friend used to joke, “Carrie, your house is always party-ready.” No longer and not because I don’t like a party-ready house — there’s actually something quite calming about a tidy and organized house — but what I realized is that I could spend every second of every day organizing and tidying up stuff and never spend the time doing what actually matters most to me. The soul fulfilling stuff. The stuff that gives meaning to my short life.

Yesterday morning, after walking my fourth-grader to school, I made a pot of coffee, left the dishes for later, and sat down at my desk to write. I sat there working away until my stomach rumbled for lunch. Thanks to our warm winter weather, I ate my lunch outside on my deck and from time-to-time I turned my face toward the warm sun, closed my eyes, and let out a huge sigh. During those morning hours, I had finished editing the final essays for my book and sent them off to be professionally edited by my thank-god-I-hired-her-best-decision-ever copy editor. I felt rather proud of myself.

All of the editing of essays and recipes has been an incredible amount of work and yet, I’m so pleased that I guarded my time and have spent these last months doing that hard work that really matters to me. I still have quite a bit more to do, but the bulk of the editing—the hardest part in my opinion—is finished and I feel such a sense of personal accomplishment. And ironically, even though I didn’t spend my days doing dishes, or tidying up the house, somehow those necessary tasks always seemed to get done.

Thank goodness for my friend’s wise example all those years ago. Now, if I could only adopt her dedication to exercise, I’d be in really great shape. (Pun intended.)

Much love,

Dijon Rosemary Marinated Chicken Breasts
Course: dinner
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Preparing a homemade dinner for my family brings me an incredible amount of joy; however, finding the time to make that dinner is challenging. Years ago when my kiddos were babies, I would sometimes fritter-away an entire day prepping for dinner. Ridiculous. Nowadays, I still love to make those homemade dinners but they have to be done quickly. I don’t have a full day to dedicate to making dinner. My family, especially my hubby, loves these tender grilled chicken breasts. I’ve been known to marinate them for as little as 30 minutes, or overnight and through a whole day. While I usually recommend using bone-in, skin-on breasts, for this recipe I make the exception since the sauce is so luscious and the breasts turn out so tender. I usually serve them with a pot of rice or quinoa, and either a quick green salad or lately, roasted Brussels sprouts. Enjoy!
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup champagne vinegar (or other white vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, about 4 inches long, leaves removed, stems discarded
  1. Generously salt and pepper both sides of your chicken breasts.
  2. In a small bowl (or 4-cup glass measuring container like I use), whisk together your olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and rosemary. Place your chicken in an airtight marinating container or in a Ziploc bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken, seal container, and shake to make sure chicken is evenly coated with the marinade. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours.
  3. When ready to grill, take chicken out of refrigerator and let sit while you preheat your grill to medium. (I use my gas grill all year long, but if you currently have 6 feet of snow out your window, you may want to cook these on a grill pan on your stove top.) Grill for about 5-6 minutes on each side, or until juices run clear. Pull from grill, tent with foil and let stand for 5-10 minutes.



  1. Tammy Wilhoite says:

    Oh yes! One of the best habits I ever developed was to put my “me” time on my calendar–whether it’s working out or something else. When asked for access to that time I would say “I’m sorry, but I have a commitment at that time” and I did–to myself. So glad I developed this habit, and glad to hear that you’ve figured out what works for you too. <3

    • Tammy, I’ve started to say something similar but I sure wish I’d learned to say it a lot earlier. Hats off to you for figuring it out long ago. Thanks for sharing, my friend!!

  2. Wonderful words of wisdom! Thank you, Carrie, and a huge congratulations!! I’m newly motivated for that coffee date! 😉

  3. Pablo Montmeny says:

    “The stuff that gives meaning to my short life…” Hmmm. It’s a tough but inspiring thought.

    I’ll have some spare time to process this line over the weekend. Time to take inventory.

    Thanks for posting your thougts. Good stuff.

    • Pablo, It isn’t stated very eloquently but I believe it gets to the heart of it and when you get to our stage in life you realize just how short life is. Good luck pondering this weekend!

  4. So … um … wow that’s hard.

    But I can actually make this recipe!! And my kids ‘might’ eat it! So thanks so much!!! (I’ll scarf their left overs!)

  5. Thank you so much for giving the modification for those of us that cannot locate our grills due to the mound of snow outside. As always I love your writings. Thank you.