My Word for 2017: Linger.


That’s my word this year. Professionally, personally, with family, with friends, over essays and book chapters and all the work I put out into the world or keep to myself, I want to linger. I I want to take time, to stay at the table, to rest in the silence or the laughter. In my work, I want to re-read, to edit, to set aside and revisit. And, of course, with the book I’m working on, I need to re-accustom myself to the long form I can spend time on an idea, I must spend time on each chapter. I love my word—but our culture doesn’t love the concept.

Most of the words we use to share the meaning of taking more time with something than it might necessarily require to just get it done are negative. Dawdle, poke, loiter, delay. Fritter, dillydally, drift. Even “spend time” carries the burden of wastefulness; the puritan soul saves her time, she does not spend it. Wherefore efficiency, productivity, life hacks and effective time management strategies? What about quality time?

Been there, done that. The productivity I want now doesn’t come in hacks and chunks. It comes from settling in away from the exclamation points and lists and convenience. It comes from getting past the first thought and the second thought and well into thoughtful double digits. I have been hoarding my time to master the art of doing everything in short bursts and posts, now I need to spend it out on the words and the people that are most important to me.

Boiling that down into one word will give me a touchstone I need to return to all year long—in February, when short blog posts beckon and my book deadline still seems comfortably distant; in May, when it’s so tempting to rush from one thing to another, over the summer, when the book draft is done and I’m approaching my work in a fresh way, and then in the fall, when the year starts to pick up speed and rush towards the finish line. A single word can be a beacon, whether I’m making big choices or just trying to recalibrate after a rough week.

Last year, my word was “connect.” I really did come back to it again and again—yes, I wanted to schedule a weekly walk with a close friend I wasn’t seeing much of. Yes, I wanted to meet people I knew only online at the Mom 2.0 conference. Yes, I wanted to travel with Jess Lahey on her book tour when I could. At home, I wanted to invite children into my office to do their own work, to stretch out on the bed and talk instead of reading, to turn cooking and chores into time to be together (which was only sometimes successful).

In 2015, my word was “decide”—as in, decide what I wanted. Decide how I wanted to spend my time. Plan my hours and days actively; respond rather than react. I still come back to “decide” when I need it, which is often. “Decide” is what allows me to refuse to let “busy” take over my days.

This year, I’ll remain my organized, productive self. I’ll still have a list of goals, accountability  points, a schedule and all of my usual tricks for sitting down and getting my work done. But part of that work will be to linger, to spend time—to dawdle along, if you will, and even to fritter. Because the book I ‘m working on invites the reader to take a journey with me, a trip into the ways happy families create that happiness, and you can’t rush something like that. It takes time to learn, to process, to write, and to share. And at home, it takes time to live—because one thing I’ve learned already is that happy people dillydally with the people they love.

So I will linger in 2017. What word will you live this year?


We talked about Words of the Year on  Episode 34 of the #AmWriting podcast; #ReadySetGoal and we’re talking about the word and the other goals we set on Episode 35  this week. Download our goal-setting worksheet here. And thanks to Gretchen Rubin for turning me on to the one-word idea years ago in her book, Happier at Home. Catch her Happier podcast—one of my faves—she talks about her word of the year on “A Little Happier,” the short version of the podcast, here


7 Responses to “My Word for 2017: Linger.”

  1. I love this… both the idea of one word as an intention and your choice of linger. It’s such great timing because my 9-year-old wildman son just surprised all of us by saying he wanted to savor his ice cream. We didn’t know he even knew the word, and we definitely didn’t know he knew about savoring…(he usually stands while eating dinner). I’m going to savor moments, bites, sips, and pages this year.

  2. Sunny says:

    This concept and your podcast inspired me on the long drive back home from holiday travels. I have a focus word that helps me decide what to say yes to in academia. I can’t come up with something that encompasses all the facets of my life, though. Monotask seems too dull, focus too bossy. The only thing that’s coming to mind is the little blue truck in the big city telling all the zooming cars “one at a time is the way to go.” So that’s my touchstone for now.

  3. Kizzy says:

    Great word, I love to linger over books and articles, time with kids but you are so right, it is a word that modern lifestyles don’t incorporate and they should. Good luck with your book and I look forward to listening to you and Jessica and seeing where 2017 takes you.

  4. KJ says:

    I “Monotask” too–but you’re right, that’s a just plain ugly word! One thing at a time works.

  5. Joy Imboden Overstreet says:

    I’ve picked a word (theme?) of the year for about ten years, sometimes lived successfully, sometimes not so much. I kept trying FOCUS, like three years in a row to no avail. The last couple of years I picked GRATEFUL PRESENCE, which worked pretty well, and it was a phrase I could repeat as a mantra in yoga class and at other times during the day as needed.

    Because I risk going stale on GRATEFUL PRESENCE, I might have to try your LINGER on for size myself. Now that I’m approaching 77, it is time to slow down and savor what time I have left, the precious people in my life, nature’s unfolding, art, music, my own body and my thoughts.

    And thank you KJ for your graceful presence online and at the Times. I really appreciate the honesty and humanity you bring to your writing. If I lived in NH, I would hope to be one of your friends. And Jess’s too.

  6. KJ says:

    Oh, thank you! I have NO DOUBT we would be friends. I missed you at the neighborhood New Year’s party tonight, in fact.

  7. Joy Imboden Overstreet says:

    I bet it was a blast! I was, however, stuck at home blowing my nose.