Get Real.

A friend recently asked how I was doing. “Pretty good” is my typical response. “Some days are better than others. Some days are overwhelming and some days are manageable.”

And I stop to reflect. What makes my days overwhelming?

I know the overwhelm hits me at different times for different reasons… but I think the majority happens in the space between a long to-do list and an unstructured day. I hesitate to dive too deep into a project or to-do item, because I know I’ll be needed at some point in the hour and “the zone” I’ve entered will be interrupted. I can’t run errands except during specific periods of time in which I can predict with relative certainty no one will need me for the hour or two. Even then, leisurely strolls are unlikely and there’s always this underlying stress of needing to rush to get back home. I sometimes feel like if I move too fast or start something new, I’ll awaken one of the giants in the house and will be called to help with this, that or the other thing. They sense when I’m ready to not be on call, so they all call at once.

Some days I have a blank canvas of open time and I feel like I can take on the world. But then slowly the kids or my husband or my own lack of focus eats away at a few minutes here, a few minutes there, and hours later I’ve accomplished very little. And for some reason, that feels stressful to me. I need to feel productive yet I must remain flexible and those can come into direct conflict at times. It overwhelms me to be pulled out of a task that I’m focused on to help someone with one of their priorities. The world doesn’t run on my schedule and that is highly unfortunate!

So I’m doing myself a favor here and putting together a better strategy so I can get real about my time and my days, and actually feel productive without the overwhelm.

  • What are the big projects or goals for the next month / six months/ year that you won’t necessarily work on daily but need to keep in mind and work towards? What needs to go on this weeks short term list to make it happen?
  • Set goals for the week. Consider various aspects of life. For me, this means including goals for what I need to accomplish as a mom and manager of the household (planning meals, groceries, etc), as a caregiver, and for my own self care. This also means scheduling outside help to coordinate with the help I will need. Scheduling around appointments or other formal commitments. Seeing the weekly picture helps establish a reasonable expectation of what to add to the list.
  • What are my must-dos vs want-to-dos? PRIORITIZE.
  • Write down the block of time I want to accomplish each item in. BE REALISTIC about the time commitment plus potential interruptions. Side note: I find being somewhat flexible is helpful, but can also be detrimental if I don’t stay on top of that block of time. For example, if my goal is to plan the week’s meals on Sunday afternoon, it’s not unlike me to wait until 4:30 and then scramble to do it. I’m better off forcing myself into a tighter timeline (1-2pm) from a productivity standpoint.
  • How frequently do the tasks need to be done to hit bigger goals? Think fitness… it’s not a once a week thing. Getting exercise into my daily routine is a non-negotiable. Negotiables include when I’ll do it and how long of a work-out it will be. I allow myself two rest days a week; scheduling those in advance helps me stay on track the other days.
  • Be specific. The devil is in the details. “Relax” is not specific. “Clean” is not specific. “Organize” is not specific. Lack of specificity leads to aimless attempts and no real achievement.
  • And be realistic. Know my own limits and to allow for other demands to come up.

Overall I find writing out the week in advance, the more likely I am to manage tasks and stay on track. What I still struggle with is finding the right balance between being productive and goal-oriented, and being fluid to handle what comes my way and letting go of what I don’t get to. I suppose that’s where the grace comes in, to allow myself room to float between the two without feeling guilty.

What are your tips for staying focused and managing everything on your plate?

4 Comments

  1. I too struggle with this and find myself stressed when I am constantly pulled away from tasks I’m trying to accomplish. I think it took me over an hour one night to clean up the kitchen because of all the interruptions. I like the idea of a non-negotiable. For me that would be meditation. If I do this daily I’m much more able to handle the ups and downs. I have also learned to be kind to myself in the midst of this and recognize that it is not perfect but it is good. The mantra, I am enough, is so helpful to me. As women I think we often expect perfection in ourselves. I’ve found being kind to myself allows me to be okay with a day when I don’t accomplish what I hoped to and then move on quicker to the next day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve done three things that have helped me get things that I want to get done actually done. First, I’ve ditched digital To Dos and gone analog. I use a regular composition book to track my ToDo. AnyToDos for my loved one (my father) goes into another composition book. No worries about batteries, forgetting the charger at home or looking for an outlet at the doctor’s office. I can scribble away anywhere I please.

    Second thing is I’ve adopted Bullet Journaling. It’s simple and to the point. Each task only has 3 possible results – Done, Scheduled (for another day) or Cancelled. I feel a tiny thrill of achievement when I see tasks X-ed out as Completed. I feel less bad for seeing tasks moved to another day or week. At least I know I did take some action on those tasks.

    I’ve given up hope of having 30 minutes of uninterrupted bliss. I’ve settled for 20-25 minutes. This timing works with the third thing I’ve adopted – the Pomodoro technique of time management. It’s small chunks of concentration then a short break. By chaining together chunks of time and effort, the task gets done.

    Like

    1. These are all awesome tips. I also LOVE crossing off/ checking off an item… and it’s just not the same when the to-do list is in digital format. Good ol’ pen and paper is magic. And I agree we have to adjust expectations …. if 20-25 mins is available rather than 30, we have to make it work. Flexibility is life-saving! Thank you for your comment!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s