Thursday, September 13, 2012

Because then I start to panic

I'm really glad I captured this moment the other day. There is this magic moment, a particularly stunning convergence of events, where both of my children find a quiet spot to read. It's been happening a lot more lately, even again this morning, where I find the two of them quietly sitting next to an enormous pile of books. It's competitive reading and I strongly encourage it. Alyce is still just learning to read, recognizing words but not quite happy to try sounding things out on her own. No matter, because who needs reading when you can stare at pictures and make up your own stories? Oh my heart. And oh my I get fifteen minutes of quiet time.

The optimism I feel on Mondays tends to have run low by Thursday, and having one fewer child in the house now that school has started doesn't seem to make a difference. It's kind of my own private hell cycle. Everyone struggles with their own schedules and obligations and this one is mine. I love the potential time offers me and I envision crossed-off to-do lists, completed projects, and organized piles, but I often feel overwhelmed in the follow-through. Once I start feeling overwhelmed time feels less like potential and more like panic. Whenever I've spoken to anyone about how to improve my time management or organization I'm usually reminded that I should make lists and then cross those things off the list. Simple math, really. But I'm terrible at math! I need something else, another way of understanding time management. I need your help. I really, really do.

I expect that it would be a good idea to identify the things that stand in my way when it comes to the follow through of my well-intentioned to-do lists. Here are a few offenders: I'm terrible at estimating just how long it takes to accomplish a given task, my reaction to stress is withdrawal instead of action, and my attention span chokes under the chaos of my day, or if we are being honest (and we are, right?) it really just takes me a long time to get started. Give me two hours to work and I'll work exceedingly hard for the second hour. The first hour? Not my best side. I've never been very good at throwing myself into a task without warning. My brain prefers subtlety, a few first soft steps in the direction of work. I've accomplished many things in my life using this approach, but it I'm frustrated by the inefficiency of it all.

When I catch Alyce and Shira reading so effortlessly on their own I see potential. I see time. An opportunity. Now I just want to find a way to make use of that time, even if only for ten minutes. I'm in this strange place in life, where I have so much freedom in determining how I spend my time but so many competing obligations and goals (children, school, two jobs, cooking, home, writing, and our family). This is where I need your help: how do you carve out time in your day? If you write a list each morning, what practical things do you do to accomplish your tasks? Do you have a favourite approach/book/blog you can share with me? I'll be waiting right here, with a sharp pencil and paper.

Seriously, I'm actually waiting.

(Thank you from the bottom of my overwhelmed heart.)


  1. I once had a housework schedule; for six days of the week, I had a room to stay on top, Saturday might say Bathroom: sink, tub, toilets. Sweep/scrub floor. Clean window and mirror. Tidy counter. This took less than an hour a week and I knew it had been done fairly recently. I did this for each room. It worked well for awhile! I may go back to that once I start my mat leave. I've kind of given up on "extra" housework (e.g. stripping the kitchen table, putting up curtains, painting an old bookshelf). I just don't have the time or energy and have learned to remember that I'll do it someday. We've really worked to simplify. Sunday is grocery shopping and cooking for the week day: soup, muffins, a roast or a chicken, and making sure that making school lunches will be easy all week. If you're looking to declutter, there's a cool 12-month decluttering calendar (just google it) gives one little task per day to declutter your whole house. I stuck with it for the first 6 weeks of 2012...blah!! You and I are so much alike (according to your writing, anyway)...

    1. Yes, I think we are a lot alike. Big plans! Great ideas! Some follow through :)

      I haven't yet found a schedule I like for anything. I think I might be genetically programed NOT to work on a schedule. It's something I often try to change because I think it causes me too much frustration. To schedule or not to schedule? Sometimes I just need to get over myself.

  2. I stopped writing lists a long time ago as they made me think that I had not achieved anything in a day when of course I had, I too would feel the panic and frustration at how long something would take. Now when I get up if it is nothing planned day I just see where it takes me, if I have time I do housework if not as long as we are happy, warm and well fed it gets left for another day. Maybe my house is a bit less tidy and a bit less clean but I no longer worry about it. The only list I write now is one for shopping which I do do every week on the same day, that is about the limit of my list making!

    1. I think there are some very real benefits avoiding lists, and I love the idea of following my day as it develops. Some of my best days happen this way. But I have so many different responsibilities that always get overlooked (writing deadlines, doula-related commitment, teaching), so I need the lists! Balance, I imagine, is the way to approach this. Thanks for your thoughts.