Even those of us who are naturally driven to organize things struggle to get the things we want to get done actually completed.
I am sure I don’t have to tell you that there are a ton of distractions all over the place – just waiting to zap your productiveness. If you do not guard yourself against them, it is easy to fall prey.
For most of my adult life, I have worked at home – either as a stay-at-home-mom or a work-at-home-mom. In either case, there are things that need to be completed in order to be successful and have that arrangement work for my family. Whether I like it or not, in order to do my job well I need to stay on task and make sure certain things get done. The more efficiently I can do that, then the more time I have to spend with my family and do projects I want to, and the more content I am likely to be.
I feel like I was really good at this in my thirties, but I notice that in my forties I seem to be slowing down just a bit. I want more calm and I tend to let those little distractions offer me mini-escapes. The problem is that those distractions are not my priority (Kate Middleton’s lovely wardrobe on her latest trip, for example) and I need to limit them as the entertainment they actually are.
Sometimes fear is what drives me to distraction. I want to build a blog and I know what my next step should be, but I am afraid I might fail or even succeed and be brought into new, uncharted territory, and that is scary. It is so easy to just click on this link or play one more move on Words with Friends, rather than buckle down and do what needs to be done. And, when you have a job that is really only dictated by you, it is even harder because you do not have outside deadlines forcing you into action.
I have been thinking about this a lot, and here are some steps that I am taking to really focus on getting my top priority items done.
I turned off the noise alerts for my email. Now I just check it 3 times a day – once in the morning, once in the afternoon and once before bed. I also turned off the visual notifications for other apps, like Facebook. Those red circles with the number in them drive me nuts. I feel compelled to get rid of them when I see them, so I just turned off those notifications. Now, when I am waiting for a kid or an appointment, or at a scheduled break, I can choose when to check in on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or even update my Apps.
Understand My Priorities
Very often when I am most discontent is when my priorities are not aligning with how I am spending my time. Things go much better when I use my priorities to organize my time. In my case, my priority is my family. Making sure everyone is prepared for their days/activities and keeping the house in reasonable order and food prepared is my first job. After that, I am responsible for brining in an income. Right now, that is mainly done by consulting as a CPA to small businesses. My work is flexible, but I do need to get it done. Beyond that, I really enjoy working on projects around the house and blogging about it. This is the thing that can run away with my time if I let it, so this last bit is the thing that needs time constraints – once I have spent my set amount of time, then I need to move on to my other planned activities. When I don’t do this, I feel out of balance and everything starts to suffer.
Set a Schedule
I sat down and wrote out what my ideal day would look like. Taking a page from Saying Goodbye to Survival Mode, I built in some cushion so I am not so planned that I cannot deal with the unexpected. I am the parent responsible for dealing with the day-to-day of our kids and household, so there are lots of unexpecteds that come up on a daily basis. My schedule won’t work for you, but setting your own schedule can do wonders for you.
Here is the schedule that I set for this season in life. I will have to rethink my schedule once summer is here and the kids are home each day, but for now everyone is in school. And of course, this is just an ideal day – very often things will have to shift and change and that is just life. Setting a schedule is sort of like setting a goal; without a solid idea of where you are going, you will never get anywhere close. No, you may not execute it perfectly, but at least you will be working down the right path.
And because it is helpful to see how someone else has set her schedule, I am sharing mine.
The Right Attitude
I had an epiphany earlier this month. It was my birthday, and I promised myself that I would just relax and enjoy the day. I still had tasks to complete that day, just like any other day, but on that day I promised myself that I would not worry or stress over getting so much done. I would just be in the moment and enjoy each task. I felt so good that day – it was a wonderful day. I thought about what made it so great and I realized that I have been really down on myself, trying to get more done than is possible and in the end not being as efficient as I could be.
It was then that I realized that once I set my schedule according to my priorities, then I could not second guess it. I had to just plan the work and work the plan – within reason, stick to the schedule and trust that I was getting done all that I could within the time I had.
I am not perfect at it, but I am consciously trying to get out of my head and just be in the moment.
After all, there are only 24 hours in a day, right?