Being a mom is busy. It may not seem like a big deal to keep the house relatively clean, make sure everyone has clean clothes, and get some form of nourishment on the table three times a day, but try doing all of that with multiple small children in tow…and it turns into an Olympic event.
That’s not counting all the teaching that comes with mothering: teaching manners, reading, arithmetic, appropriate social behavior, personal care, and a slew of other little and big lessons that need to be addressed regularly.
That’s also not counting the need to take care of our own minds, bodies, and spirits, too: pursuing personal goals and hobbies, building relationships with friends and spouses, and contributing to the community.
Add in birthday parties, PTA meetings, church activities, family vacations, yard work, home décor…and the list could go on forever.
Have I stressed you out yet? I’m starting to get a little shaky here myself.
There is simply so much to DO in life. How can we possibly manage it all? This is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. I’m a perfectionist by nature, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of accomplishing productive and measurable tasks and doing them well. The problem is that I end up feeling stressed and overwhelmed because I simply can’t find the time to do everything. Thankfully, I had an epiphany recently, and I’ve now discovered the secret to getting everything done.
It’s so simple really!
Are you ready?
The secret of how to get everything done: Redefine what constitutes “everything” until you reduce the “everything” to an amount that is humanly possible to achieve in your limited amount of time.
I have been looking for an easier solution for years, but I’m finally realizing that the hard truth is that you can’t get “everything” done until you have whittled away all the non-essentials that don’t fit with your primary goals in life. I can’t control how many hours are in a day, but I can control where I place my priorities in life and how I spend that time.
In his book Essentialism, Greg McKeown asserts, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”
I love this! Basically, he’s saying that we have to make a value judgement about what things are really worth the time we put into them. We’re not being less productive by doing less; we’re doing the important things better and allowing ourselves to let go of the things that don’t mesh with our purpose in life.
McKeown asks, “What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?”
I’m SO guilty of this. I get a little high from crossing items off of my to-do list, no matter how small or mundane they may be. The problem is that these tangible tasks take me away from the more abstract—but essential—tasks of loving my kids and giving them my undivided attention for at least a little while. It’s hard to check off “raise healthy happy, children” because it’s never completed.
How can we change our addiction to so-called “productivity”?
I’ve recently felt a strong need to improve in this area of my life, so I’ve made a plan for myself to put these ideas into action.
Step One: Ask yourself, what are my primary goals in life right now?
For myself, I thought of three:
- To care for my family and teach my children
- To have new experiences and learn new skills (currently writing and photography are at the top of the list)
- To develop my faith and live my beliefs more fully (with an emphasis on serving others)
Step Two: Make a mental list (or an actual written one) of everything you did yesterday. How many of the things on your list did NOT contribute toward one of your main goals? My goals are pretty broad, so some things I could stretch to fit into a category. However, if I’m honest with myself, I know that I’m not always spending my time on things that correlate with my goals.
Step Three: Cross everything off your to-do list that doesn’t fit with your goals. For me, it is really liberating to visually let go of those things that have been hanging over my head by actually marking a line through them.
Step Four: Move forward with your lighter load. Now that you’ve cut out all the excess stuff, you can get to work on the things that matter most without the distractions of all the minutiae.
The great part about this method is that it doesn’t mean that you CAN’T ever do anything beyond your main goals. You absolutely can. The point is that you want to focus on doing those essential things first. Then, if you feel so inclined, you can use any available time left over to paint your toenails, scroll through Facebook, or deep clean the fridge.
When I was in college, I complained to a friend that I was stressed out and didn’t have time to do everything on my plate. She responded, “Do you have time, find time, or make time?” In that moment, her comment just made me even crankier, but as I reflected on her words, I came to realize how true they are.
We all “have” the same amount of time, and we can’t be passive about how we spend it. We have to proactively carve out and “make” time for the things that will really help us create the life that we want to live. For me, that’s a life where I spend my time savoring my little boys (and my awesome husband), experiencing life and learning new things, and trying to lighten the burdens of others. When I think of all that I do (or want to do) in terms of these ideals, it’s easier to let the less important things drop off in favor of building memories with the people I love most.
QUESTION: What takes your time and attention away from pursuing your ideal life? How do you stay focused?
CHALLENGE: This week, make a list of your primary life goals and compare that to your daily to-do lists.
Edited by Lisa Hoelzer and Sarah Monson.
Image provided by the author.