I can remember being in 8th grade and my teacher saying, “The older you get, the faster time goes, and the less time you have to get things done.” When you are that young though, everything takes too long…waiting for your birthday…waiting for Christmas…waiting for the school day to be done so you don’t have to listen to your 8th grade teacher.
Fast-forward 20 years and I can’t seem to find time for anything. Don’t get me wrong, the days are long, but by the end of the day I feel like I haven’t truly accomplished anything. I know I’m not the only one though, I hear people all day long frustrated that they can’t find the time to get things done.
I was recently talking (complaining) with a therapist about how I always feel inadequate. At home I might get two of my kids to school with everything they need, but one of them is missing a paper I was supposed to sign. At work, I’ve seen a lot of appointments and did some phone work, but I didn’t complete all my billing. With my cleaning, I got 3 loads of laundry done, but didn’t get around to vacuuming.
I always feel like I am multi-tasking on overdrive. He explained to me that I have a lot going on, and a lot of things that I’m responsible for. I’m throwing a bunch of balls in the air, I and am trying to catch them all at the same time. Then when they fall, I wonder what happened.
He gave the example that he loves his children, but when he is at work, his work is more of a priority. There is no use in him being at work and worrying about what the kids are doing or what he is missing. When he is at work, work is more important. And when he goes home, home is more important.
I think this means that we must decide what is a priority in each moment. We can only truly throw one ball in the air at a time. And to do this we must be mindful of distractions, whether they are internal or external. I have been trying to practice this and be mindful of it in my own life.
At work, the external distraction might be a co-worker coming in my office while I am getting my paperwork done and telling me a story. Being an extravert, I would normally allow this to distract me and let it become a 20-minute conversation. Now I am learning to listen and engage but keep it short so I continue where I left off.
My internal distractions can be just as bad, and I should really pay attention to when they come up. This might look something like me going through my son’s folder for his permission slip and then seeing his library book and wanting to read to him and then remembering he has a spelling test the next day and needs to study. By the end of the night, I feel like I haven’t finished any of those tasks. I always seem to get a little done, but I never complete anything. I’m not saying that everything always must be completed immediately, because that’s not practical, however, I do need to make things a priority in the moment. If I get my sons folder out to sign his slip, then I need to sign his slip and put it back in the folder. Then I can decide whether I am going to read or review spelling words.
I think the key word is decide. I can’t just let things happen. I should be mindful about what I am doing and decide to make a conscious effort to follow through with a task.
I also do this when I clean the house. Have you ever started cleaning the dining room table and realize your daughter left her nail polish on it, so you take it to her room and see that she left all her dirty clothes on the floor, so you pick them up and take them down to the laundry room? I’m sure you have, because we all do it. But the time that is wasted going around the house is inefficient. Now I create a list and a timeline of what I should do, and I only allow myself to do that one thing in that timeline. So, if for the first 30 minutes I am doing the dining room, then I grab all the things that don’t belong in it and put it at the next room. Only when the time is up, and I move on to the living room can I take those things and put them on the step for the next time block when I go upstairs. This way I am focused and getting more done with the time that I have.
This same time blocking principal can be applied to any task such as working out, meal-prepping or paying bills. But you must make the decision to make it a priority and don’t allow unnecessary distractions to take over. Between work, kids and life, it is normal to feel overwhelmed, but with these strategies we can feel a little more in control of what we accomplish.