It was one of those nights when my husband rolled over to my side of the bed. Usually this is the first step toward the grand maintenance of our fairly normal marriage. But this night was different. On this night I said, “I can't. It'll ruin my career.”

“Huh?” He was baffled and not quite stopped in his tracks.

“What about me hosting that TV show?” I said. “I can't be pregnant.”

And herein lies the reason that every girl should bring her career to bed with her: Pregnancy is not good for a career. A large belly is limiting; a kid even more so. But society's own perception of a mom vs. a career girl are the most limiting constraints of all.

I know because I planned my first pregnancy around my high-powered career. Everyone told me, “Don't rush. You have plenty of time.” So I didn't rush. I waited until I had made my way through two of my own companies, working long very parent-unfriendly hours. I waited until I could relocate my career across country to be in the same city as my husband. And then, just as my perfect plan reached its apex, the World Trade Center fell two blocks from my company, putting me out of a job. And all the work I did to build an impressive resume was undone when I showed up pregnant for job interviews.

I would like to tell you that employers don't care about pregnancy, but I would be lying. And I can’t fault them for having a negative viewpoint of pregnant job applicants: If two people are equally qualified for the same opening — a common occurrence in this market —the best hire is the one who isn’t five months pregnant- at least in the short term. It’s easy to be philosophical about the long term — how corporate America will only benefit from the systematic accommodation of pregnant women. But the long term is a hard sell to a hiring manager whose bonus isn’t tied to revolutionizing the workplace.

So back to the TV show. Officials with a production company had called to say they like my column and ask me whether I wanted to host a TV show about finance. Of course I was thrilled.

My husband, who’s always skeptical when skepticism isn’t warranted, said, “How can you host a TV show on finance when a company you started went bankrupt?”

“People learn from their mistakes,” I said. Then I said, “Shut up.”

The TV people wanted to interview me so I flew to LA. My husband, Mr. Pessimism, is also Mr. Hollywood (graduated from film school, dated an MTV producer, blah blah). He said, “You need someone to do hair and makeup,”

“They just want to talk to me,” I said.

He said, “They want to see how good you would look on TV.”

So I had someone do my hair and makeup, and I looked great that day. The executives told me they loved my column. They thought my wit and sensibility would come across well on TV. They talked about how the TV show would be structured and the training I would receive in on-air technique. Then they said, “Okay, we'll get back to you.”

My husband said, “That means you'll never hear from them. It's over.”

But if I listened to all my husband's pessimism, I'd have killed myself by now. So I’m still hoping.

Which brings me back to the bed. There we were, talking. We had planned another pregnancy for around this time. But I don't think I’d be hired as a TV host if I were pregnant. By the time we began taping, I'd be very pregnant. It's one thing for Catherine Zeta-Jones to show up really pregnant at the Oscars because the whole world knows she’s hot and she still looks a little hot, belly and all. But my TV audience wouldn’t know if the non-pregnant me was hot. There’s no way I could be pregnant for my TV debut (come to think of it, has anyone been pregnant for their debut as a TV show host?)

And I knew something else: You can't control everything, and there’s no perfect time to have a baby. But one time is better for women than others, and that’s sooner. When I learned the risks of waiting to have a baby, I was shocked. When a woman gets pregnant at 35, her baby has a 1 in 224 chance of being born with Down’s syndrome. There’s a 1 in 200 chance the test for Down’s syndrome will kill the baby. And the odds increase with every passing day. I didn’t hear this when I started a company at 32. Instead I heard, “You have time.”

So now I know I don't have time. And I know that if I put my next pregnancy on hold until I hear from the production company, something else is likely to come up to foil my plan of harmoniously integrating my pregnancy and my career.

We had sex that night. And we hoped for a baby. Because as a seasoned career girl, I know that even if postponing pregnancy would eventually have boosted my career, in the short term, the delay made it too high risk for my liking.

Let’s abolish the word busy. When you ask someone, “How have you been?” and they say, “Busy,” it doesn’t mean anything. I’m sick of it. We all have the same 24 hours to fill. Everyone’s are filled with something.

The difference is that the “busy” people feel frenetic during those hours. Those of you who walk around telling everyone how busy you are, get a grip. Make some tough choices and calm down. There’s a big difference between a busy day and a full day. The former is so frantic that you aren’t effective.

Don’t tell me you can’t help it. You can. Here are the steps to take:

1. Recognize that a frenetic life is a life half lived. You should aim for “Flow,” a concept from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow is a unique state of mind where productivity and creativity are at their highest. Csikszentmihalyi shows, in his wide-ranging study, that Flow generates the grand ideas, phenomenal work, and intense, rewarding experiences that people identify with happiness.

Flow occurs when you are fully present and engaged in what you are doing; the concept of time melts away in a commitment to the goal-oriented activity. This feeling requires being occupied and engaged for uninterrupted chunks of your day without ever once thinking that you’re rushed for time. People who are busy do not get this feeling.

2. Recognize that you are addicted to busy. You like what busy does for you.
Busy gives you an excuse for poor performance. Busy gives you a way to ignore parts of your life that are falling apart and need attention. And when what you do makes you feel inadequate — for example, if you’re a volunteer, taking care of a parent, meditating or doing other things that are not valued by society — busy gives you something to say that society does value.

Many people mistakenly feel that busy means important. But busy really means out of control. A full day means planned and prioritized. A busy day means frenetic and unorganized. Full is fine. It is expected. But important people have full days, not busy days, because important people can’t afford to be out of control.

3. Prioritize. This does not mean making a to-do list. Nor does it mean making a list of career goals. You need to list what you want in life. It should be a short list, because life is short. Don’t make a list of dreams; you need to give up your dreams. Not all, but most.

This is because being an adult means making choices. It means admitting that we cannot do everything and choosing to devote the time we have to what’s most important. By not making choices, you aren’t facing the realities of adulthood. By scheduling your days with more things than you can accomplish, you are not taking control of your life. You’re letting chance take control. Chance will dictate what gets done because you refuse to prioritize.

4. Say no. Whenever someone asks you to do something, be ready to say no. Your priorities at work, home, and during your personal and networking time should be clear.

Do not worry that you’ll hurt someone’s feelings by saying no. To do something well, you must be focused. That takes self-discipline. But when you say yes to please someone, it shows you lack the self discipline to be truly focused. Saying no is a gift to the people and projects that are the priorities in your life.

You do not automatically have to say yes to everything you’re asked to do at work either. Your boss establishes your priorities. If she then gives you work that would compromise those priorities, you can refuse (with an explanation). Sticking to the plan will makes you look smart and committed.

5. Change how you talk. Don’t ever say again that you’re busy. If this is your current response, realize you can’t bear to give up your dreams and being busy veils your fear of underperformance. You need to say something more honest than busy.

When you have done the first four steps, you will no longer be busy. You will have room to be focused and enthralled. Then, when someone says, “How have you been?” you will have something more interesting and engaging to say than “Busy.”

Couples therapy: My husband is slumped at the edge of the sofa, sulking. I sit in the center cushion, upright and animated, ranting about why he needs to get rid of his bike.

The therapist tells me to be quiet, but in a couples-therapist way: “Let’s give him a chance to talk about the bike.” He says he needs to keep the bike in the kitchen, where it will stay until he formulates a daily riding schedule.

I listen. But not really. Mostly I plan my arguments about why what he is saying is irrelevant and why I am right: The plan is too detailed, he’ll never finish the plan, and because we live in a New York City shoebox, the bike is a waste of space.

We go through this routine for every topic: He cannot figure out every single detail, so he cannot plan; I have no patience for details, and I always have a plan. When we decided to have a child, he wanted to overcome every hurdle first — from finding an apartment with a playroom to setting up a college fund. I told him we had to move forward, hurdles and all. At every session he ends up very quiet in the corner of the sofa, and we accomplish nothing.

Our therapist tried a lot of tactics to get us to communicate. I took notice when she observed that the problems I have in talking to my husband are probably the same types of problems I have in talking to people at work. This made sense to me immediately because I always say that I love my husband but would never want to work with someone like him.

He’s a slow, methodical thinker, and I generally do not have patience for them at work. But the therapist points out that I chose such a person for a husband. “You must have had a reason,” she says. And it’s true. In my heart of hearts, I know that a slow, methodical thinker is the perfect counterpoint for me. At home, my husband is the one who takes the time to find out that our first-choice apartment has rats, and our second-choice apartment — which we live in now — has a secret cubbyhole for keeping cookies warm. In my work, the detailed thinker is the perfectionist who compensates for my disinterest in details.

But knowing something doesn’t mean I’m willing to change. Just like when I claim to be listening to my husband, I seem as though I’m listening to people during work but in reality, I’m more interested in my own ideas than those of the person talking. I talk over and past them. I am dismissive and unresponsive. “How do you keep people from strangling you?” my husband asks, when he’s particularly annoyed and probably considering strangling me himself.

So back to the bike. I tell myself that if I’m patient, he’ll come up with a great plan that will make keeping the bike in the apartment a good idea. That if I can just learn to control myself in the context of the bike, the therapist, and the annoyed husband, then I will do much better in my career. It is clear to me that I deal with my husband in the same way as I deal with people at work. And my career will be stronger if I can become a stronger marriage partner, because the communication skills are the same.

So every time I get frustrated in couples therapy, or I think that it’s a waste of money, I remind myself that communication skills know no boundaries. I can tell myself that I’m a good communicator at work, but the best feedback I can get is at home. If you want to know what your weak points are at work, ask your significant other — that person knows.

Here are some areas of your work that you should think about when deciding if it’s time to find another job. (Give yourself three points for an a, two points for a b, one point for a c.)

1. Your boss:
How often do you have lunch alone with your boss?
a. Every week at your favorite restaurant.
b. A few times a year at your boss’s favorite restaurant.
c. Once a year when your boss is apologizing for missing your performance review.

2. Future prospects at the company:
You get a big, very important assignment due in two weeks. You
a. Get unsolicited coaching from your boss because she wants to make sure you succeed at the project and get a promotion.
b. Put off the work until the last minute because you find it difficult to please your boss and you worry that you will fail.
c. Work very, very hard, but generally have no idea what you’re doing. In the end, the project is a colossal failure and your boss makes a point of taking no blame.

3. Sense of belonging:
The theme of your company party is dress as your favorite movie star. You
a. Tell your boss you resent stupidity at company parties. But you make the best of it and dress like James Dean so you can get a thrill from wearing jeans and a T-shirt to work.
b. Lobbied for a come-as-you-are party and lost. So you show up to the party but don’t dress up. You stick out like a sore thumb, or at least a sore loser, but your co-worker joins you, so good food can make things acceptable.
c. Avoid the party in full because last year the CEO drank too much and started making passes at people in your demographic.

4. The public’s perception:
Your phone rings fifteen times in one hour. Who’s on the phone?
a. Headhunters, because you are so high profile in your job that people are starting to talk about your future in the field.
b. Your friends because they know you make your evening plans in the afternoon, when work gets slow.
c. Your mom because you told her if you don’t get a new job soon you’re going to kill yourself.

5. Personnel policies:
You wake up with a throbbing boulder attached to your gum. You
a. Leave a message for your boss that you’ll be at the dentist. Receive an email from your boss the next day expressing genuine concern.
b. Call human resources to find out if you have a comp day left. When you find that you have none, declare that you’re working from home and then go to the dentist.
c. Go to work with blood dripping from your mouth. Wax nostalgic about the good old days when you had sick days at work and health insurance to pay for them.

6. Company stability:
Your company is in the newspaper today. The company just
a. Beat Wall St.’s revenue expectations.
b. Canned the CEO and hired a top turnaround specialist
c. Laid off 50% of the staff and sent a list of the jilted to the press

7. Office stress:
Your co-worker just got dumped by the guy she thought she would marry. Now she
a. Asks you if you have any friends who are available.
b. Cries all day, stopped doing her work and now you have to pick up the slack.
c. Informs you that she stole a bunch of electronics from her ex and is storing the stash in her cube. She adds, “If he comes by with a gun, don’t worry. He’d never use it.”

8. Office environment:
Your office space is:
a. Bright and sunny with nice carpet; you wish you could entertain your dates here instead of at your apartment.
b. A claustrophobic cube but at least it’s ergonomically correct.
c. Rotating. There’s one computer for two people and you use it when your co-worker goes to the bathroom.

9. Location, location, location
Your company is located
a. Three blocks from your dream house and you walk to work.
b. In a state you promised yourself you would not live in for more than five years.
c. A five-hour plane ride from the home where your three kids live.

10. The Starbucks factor:
How many Starbucks cafes are within walking distance from your office?
a. Five, because employees at your company are raking in the dough and everyone knows that where there are high salaries there are $4 cups of coffee.
b. One, but the cafe has big, cushy seats for falling asleep in the middle of the day.
c. None. To get through morning meetings you must resort to the No Doze pills of your college days.

11. Company perks.
At the end of your midday workout you:
a. Toss your sweaty clothes into the company’s health club laundry and your clothes are laundered and in your locker by tomorrow’s workout.
b. Go to the company cafeteria and load up on subsidized carbohydrates.
c. Hit the bars; work is so slow that there’s no reason to go back.

12. Salary
During your performance review, your boss
a. Gives you a map for the next five years that will rocket launch your career.
b. Informs you there is a salary freeze for everyone not related to the CEO.
c. Tells you that his own boss gave him a horrid performance review and asks if you would put in a good word for him.

13. During a business trip with the CEO
a. He uses the time to mentor you about the ways of deal making and then sits back and watches you close the deal of your life.
b. You book a flight on an obscure airline with two plane transfers to save money and find out the CEO is flying American, for twice the price, to get frequent flier miles.
c. The CEO invites you back to his hotel room at midnight, and when you decline, he says he’s insulted that you would think it was for anything but business.

14. You hold a team meeting in your office and
a. They surprise you with a birthday cake even though you didn’t tell them it’s your birthday.
b. Everyone shows up late except for the person you have been trying to fire for a year; she showed up a day early.
c. Your office is so small that the meeting has to be moved to a conference room, but there are none available because everyone’s office is too small so you cancel the meeting.

Scoring yourself:

10- 14 points
You are probably so upset about your job right now that you can’t even pull it together to launch a hunt for a new one. So instead, invest in a therapist. Try to figure out why you have stayed in this job as long as you have. Figure out why you put up with so much crap in your life. On some level, you probably enjoy it, which is why you got yourself into this mess in the first place.

You are probably bad at setting goals for yourself, because if you had any goals, you’d realize you’re not meeting them by staying in your current job. Make an honest assessment of what the two or three most important things in your life are. Figure out what you need to get them, and focus on that. Surely, part of your plan will entail getting rid of this current job.

It’s a bad economy, but for someone like you, that can’t matter. You still need to find a new job. Think about taking a step down in salary and responsibility in order to get into a better working environment. Many of the people who score very low in this test will say that they keep this job in order send their kids to camp, buy a flat screen television, etc. But your kids need a role model who is happy in their job more than they need camp. Besides, you can find a discount camp once you settle for a discount salary. And for those of you who justify your awful job in the name of wonderful electronics, remember that you spend more time at your job each day than you do in front of your television. So you get more mileage out of a job that makes you happy than a job that makes you able to buy a TV.

15-24 points
You are probably not the happiest worker in the world, but your job can be salvaged. You need goals and you need boundaries and once these are in place you will be able to put together a good job among mediocre opportunities.

Get a clear image of what you would need at this company in order to be very happy. For most people, feeling challenged and appreciated are the most important aspects of their job. So take a look at those areas first. Then examine your long-term goals and make sure that what you are doing at work now is setting you up to achieve your goals in the future. It’s a lot easier to put up with workplace BS if you know that your job meets your big- goals.

As long as you deliver a little beyond what your boss asks of you, you will be free to request additional projects that interest you and perks that enable you to continue high-level output. Let your boss know what parts of your job you like, and what parts are difficult for you — either because you hate them or because you need more coaching. Also, be sure to tell your boss how she can help you to succeed at work. She’ll appreciate this request since the better you perform the better she looks.

Reassess your situation in three or four months. If you score higher on this test next time you take it, then you are headed in the right direction. If your point spread stagnates, you need to start asking yourself some questions: Are you unable to create change because you are timid and unsure or because you are in a job that will never improve? If you think the truth lies in the latter then make a plan to jump ship. But remember that things are not so bad where you are, so look before you leap. There’s no point in jumping when there’s no other ship in sight.

24-30 points
You have a great job. The only problem you have is that you took the time to take this test. Did you not realize that you would score in the ranks of the happiest contingent? Do you not realize that you are in the worst economy in decades yet you have a great job at a great company?

Before you get yourself into trouble, learn to evaluate situations with a sharper eye. To continue your career path in the direction of success, you will have to trust your instinct. Right now, your instinct is not great — perhaps clouded by chronic self-doubt. For you, it’s important to be able to look optimistically at a situation that deserves optimism.

You are probably too unsure about your current position to have expressed proper gratitude to your boss and co-workers. When you have a good situation at work you should let people know you appreciate them. And, you should let happiness about your job shine though during the day. Your office is a nice place to be, in part, because the people are happy. You should contribute to this atmosphere by letting people know that you are happy, too.

Also, take time to learn from your boss, who seems to be very good at managing you. Few people get the chance to work for someone who cares about their career as much as your boss cares about yours. Watch what she does so that you can give people you manage the same level of support and respect.

Finally, make sure you have a clear vision of where you want to go next. You’re in a good position to get what you want out of your career, but first you have to know what you want. One of the keys to ensuring a successful career is to have a mentor. So talk to your human resources department (or your boss, if it’s a small company) about hooking you up with a mentor. It sounds like you work at the sort of company that would be happy to provide this service.