Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Money Monday (Tuesday): January 4, 2010

This week had just as much time for thoughtful self-reflection as I expected it would: About none.

In some ways, I knew it was a doomed exercise (at least in terms of being a one-week-and-done kind of thing) before I even started due to sheer busy-ness. Daycare was closed, visitors were plentiful, stuff is going on, etc. etc. etc.

And every time I thought I was going to get a whack at it, somebody decided to jump into the quiet and fill it with their noise.

Whaaaaaat, in this house?! Quelle surprise!!!

But, you know…it is what it is. As much as I’d love to complain, it’s kind of hard to do so because when you come right down to it…Oooooooooo, what a wretched situation, being so immersed in friends and family and more friends and more family that I can’t get a moment’s peace over these darkest, longest, coldest nights of the year…

See? Kind of loses the whole pity-inducing momentum there.

Another part of the problem is that there is just too much going on inside my head as well. It’s the usual cesspool of self-recrimination, jubilation, wild-eyed scheming and equally wild-eyed bubble popping that always seems to go on when I’ve gotten back in the job-force saddle.

There is no routine yet for me to fit things into. Ordinarily I’ll say I want to do this, and then I look at where I have an available place to put it…but right now, there’s just no space anywhere. There’s no time before work (unless I want to get up a half hour before 4:30 a.m. so I can do some housework before it’s time to wake everybody up)…there’s no time after work either, because by the time I’ve gotten through the homework-dinner-baths-beds routine, it’s usually 10:00.

I’ve got six and a half hours to “do whatever,” grab a shower and get some sleep, because 4:30 is a’comin’ fast.

Now eventually, believe it or not, there will be a stride to hit.

The key is to hit it, and not just flop down and go, “Oh thank GAWD I can siddown for a minute! Hey honey, grab your momma that bottle of wine from the fridge, would you, be a dear…?”

People often ask me how I do “all” that I do. I usually just shrug and say something stupid like, “Wellllll, I dunno, I just…keep pegging away at things…”

And then they shoot me looks of pure venom because how useless an answer is that?

But as I’ve been actually starting the process of figuring out how to wedge an absolutely impossible amount of tasks into a too-short day…I realized (at least in part), how I actually do it.

The trick is to look at your day not in terms of where you’re going to do, but what you’re actually doing, right that second.

Throughout the day, there are usually periods of time that are…perhaps not used with their full potential.

There are the long periods – maybe spending two hours “relaxing” in front of the TV at night. Sure, it’s pleasurable and far be it from me to tell anybody they shouldn’t relax once in a while.

But if what you say you want is a beautifully cleaned home? Sitting on your backside for two hours watching Survivor is not helping you get what you say you want. Your words say “beautiful surroundings!” but your actions say “don’t care as long as it has a telly!”

But just as important, IMHO, are the short periods.

Fifteen minutes waiting for a transfer is time enough to take a peek at your to-do list; thirty seconds is enough time to jot something down when it occurs to you in the soap aisle at the supermarket. Two minutes at a stop light can be an excellent time to collect together car-trash for later disposal.

They’re snatched moments, tiny chunks of real estate carved out of a day that seemed packed too full to allow any such self-indulgent, goal-punting things.

I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I do it all the time – and the crazier things get, the harder I start looking for them, and the quicker I am to leap on them.

The big pay off for it isn’t actually that I get “so much” done in a day…it’s that, when I am done…I’m done.

If I sat down this afternoon after that girl scout meeting, propped up my feet and turned on CSI:Anywhere…it would have been a tainted experience for me. The shoulda-coulda-woulda choir would have been bellowing inside my head. I would have been fighting to relax, demanding the ‘me’ time, telling myself that whatever it was could wait, because I needed this downtime, here…

But when instead I worked on some planning, and got us ready to hit the road tomorrow with minimal angst, and set up the Wii Fit at last and forced myself to spend thirty minutes making an ass of myself on it (girl can’t ski, oh no she can’t…), well…I’m going to bed now feeling pretty good about my expectations for tomorrow.

I did a lot today, a lot of good things that were mostly in keeping with what I say I want for myself and my family.

And now I get to go to bed knowing that, while things still are a long-shot from perfect…they’re getting better. Every day, little by little, I’m getting more and more “together,” and more and more of the things we say we want to have, do and be are becoming reality for us.

In five minutes or fifty at a time.

Take a look at your day. I know it’s packed – most of them are. But as you go through it, stop every once and a while and ask yourself, What am I actually DOING, right now?

Sure, you’re on a train…aaaaaand…? Getting to work, OK, good, aaaaaaaaaaand…?

Daydreaming? Reading? Knitting? Twiddling with your phone letting your Facebook friends know that the seats are particularly itchy this morning?

Ask yourself if there might not be something you could be doing instead or as well in that moment, something that would be meaningful not to the moment itself but to those things you want to have, and do, and be.

Don’t be conned by the thought that you deserve the rest. You do, and you will get it. Rest is good – inertia is just waste.

Overcome inertia, do away with the waste, and get ready to be amazed by how much you can get done in an average ho-hum day!

(Oh, but do try to remember that’s how you do it. Trust me. People get mighty irate when they ask how Do you do that? and you’re all, breezily, “Oh, I dunno…I just do, I guess, ha ha!!”)


Science PhD Mom said...

You're so right--there are many snippets of time in the average day that can be used to be productive in some fashion. I am better about this than I used to be, but I could still use improvement (witness reading blogs at 8 am instead of actually *doing* something).

Stephanie said...

All the "fit chores into the 5 minutes here and 20 minutes there of free time" in the world would not make me able to walk around not maiming innocent bystanders if I were trying to subsist on 6 or fewer hours of sleep per night like you do. So you have maybe answered half of the "how do you do it?" question, but that does not mean you are not still superwoman.

Anonymous said...

I've picked the chores I hate the most and actually timed them. Got 5 minutes? I can unload the dishwasher. 7 minutes can clean a small bathroom. Sock rows are easy--only 20 or so stitches per needle, and you can stop after just one needle: I've found this is excellent in traffic jams, the ones where you sit sit sit, then creep forward 10 feet. I never watch TV without some knitting or other finishing of fiberwork to do.