I've found myself thinking "If only I just had two weeks of zero responsibility, then I could get caught up on everything" a few times recently as I've struggled to balance my various responsibilties (to my husband, my son, my clients, and also myself).
It's a nice idea, of course, having two weeks to just bust through a to do list. But it wouldn't solve any of my problems (and I use the word problem loosely).
My husband and I have discussed time management, expectations and efficiancy a couple of times lately. Partially because we recently had a baby and our lives were turned upside down, and partially because he's had a lot on his plate at work (with the hours to prove it), while also balancing his personal projects. There have been many, many days where I have solo-parented.
The other night, while I lamented yet again that I didn't think I'd ever feel on top of things ever again, he said something that stuck with me. "There's always going to be something else to do." This is true, particularly when you are creative and/or work online. There will always be some new project, interest, or idea that I want to devote my time to. In the process of knocking one thing off my to do list, I will probably think of 5 others things I'd like to accomplish.
It reminded me of something I'd realized awhile ago, but had forgotten. Life has a way of filling up the available time. Have you ever met anyone who complained they didn't have enough to do? I haven't. A good example of this is when I worked 40 hours a week outside of the house and was rarely caught up on housework. I resigned from my job, and guess what? I still didn't get caught up on housework. The house was a little bit tidier, and I was generally less stressed about the situation because I had more control of my schedule, but the point is that the time that I formerly spent working outside of the house was quickly swallowed up by other things, and it wasn't housework.
I was mulling all of this over yesterday afternoon as I took a nice long walk to Starbucks with the baby. Like everyone else, I just want a sense of satisfaction with my life, whatever that looks like. Then it hit me: I needed to give up on catching up. Because it will really and truly never happen.
I huffed and puffed up a hill (jogging strollers are heavy, y'all!) and decided to change my perspective:
- Instead of resenting whatever I am working on now (like deep cleaning the house after Hurricane Newborn) because I'd rather be doing something else of my never-ending list (scrapbooking, which is fun, yes, but also important), I can think about how I'm choosing to focus on getting the house in shape now so that in a few months I can let the housework go a bit and focus on getting photos from this year in a Project Life album.
- Lists are nice, and good, but I should get in the habit of reevaluating them frequently and not being afraid to take off things that are no longer relevant or don't interest me.
- I need to remember that sometimes it's about the process, not the end result. There was an article in Martha Stewart Living not too long ago (within the last year or so) about how the benefits of crafting were derived not so much from finishing the project but from the act of making something with your hands. Basically, starting 17 knitting projects is just as good for you as actually finishing 17 knitting projects (although, I think you should still finish at least some of those projects, since that could get expensive!).
I can make this easier on myself by:
- Continuing to get rid of clutter. I've been on a big get-rid-of-it kick. I really want to own less stuff. Because, let's face it, the less stuff you own, the less time you have to spend taking care of that stuff (cleaning, organizing, putting away). Which frees up time for better things.
- Continuing to work on finding systems that work for our family. The book Project Organize Your Entire Life is pretty brilliant in how it addresses exactly this. Freezer meals are one thing that I've found work well for us. I'd like to work out a good system for handling mail and paperwork.
- Set reasonable goals. I tend to overestimate what I can get done in a day (don't we all?). I also have a bad habit of attempting to plan multiple days at once, so that if one day goes downhill for whatever reason (fussy baby, car trouble, etc), I start the next day behind. It's not a good place to be.
So, that's it. I'm officially divorced from the idea of trying to conquer my to do list, though I hope I can continue getting stuff done! Sometimes a shift in perspective is all you need to feel completely in control again.