Years ago I remember watching an episode of Oprah that included a guest psychologist that made a startling statement that stuck with me (and I mean years, that would have been during my nursing days when I actually was forced to sit for long periods of time because a child was attached to my boob). Their statement suggested that some people don’t get things done or put things off not because they are procrastinators, but because they are perfectionists. They worry so much that they won’t be able to do something perfectly, that they would rather not try it at all than do it only adequately. I rather like that notion. It takes the pressure off of me to be more productive.
No one likes to think of themselves as a procrastinator. I sure don’t. But if I am honest with myself, I would have to admit that I am a little bit of a procrastinator. Notice I said “would have to admit” because I’m not really there yet. I’m still clinging to the hope that maybe I’m just a perfectionist in disguise. That junky home office that needs my attention? I’m just trying to come up with the best organizational strategy possible before getting started. Those scrap-books that are only half completed? I’m still planning my page layouts and looking for the perfect scrap-booking supplies. That article on “The Importance of Girls in Sports” that is due by the end of today , that hasn’t even been started? I’m still formulating the best opening statement. Oh – and that 8k run I’m supposed to run in March? Well, of course, I’m still figuring out the best running schedule to follow.
Ok, so you don’t buy that perfectionist theory either?
I used to be more productive. I used to be able to juggle multiple projects, work, exercise, even go to school and parent all at the same time productively and still manage to get the bathrooms cleaned. Now it is a big accomplishment to take a shower. It’s not that my personality has changed or that I am busier now then when I was working. My schedule is full, not doubt, but the difference is that I don’t have a concrete schedule any more.
Luckily, I have years of time management skills and experience to draw from and revamp my schedule. I need a schedule, most moms do. Schedules give our days purpose and rhythm. It will take time to turn bad habits back into good habits and then eventually into routines, but this is how I lived my life for years before I suddenly found myself home alone for so many hours of the day. I recently bought The Tortoise the book called: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey . That has inspired me to put in writing my own list of habits.
THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE STAY-AT-HOME MOMS
MAKE A LIST OF YOUR TOP 5 BY FIVE THE NIGHT BEFORE– You can not expect to be very productive when your feet hit the floor each morning if you don’t know what needs to get done. Having a task list ready to go when you wake-up helps you plan the flow of your whole day. Also, by narrowing your list to a Top 5, you learn to prioritize more effectively. If the list is too long or unattainable, I only get discouraged. I feel defeated when things don’t get done. Don’t overlook the obvious things either. I actually have to put “Make dinner by __ o’clock” or else it sometimes gets shuffled to the side and suddenly it’s time to eat and nothing is ready! And definitely put a time limit on your task list. My “work day” starts at 5:45 in the morning. So why shouldn’t it “end” by five o’clock that night. Part of being an effective homemaker is knowing when to “clock-out”.
MAKE A WEEKLY GOAL LIST– On Sunday nights, I used to make a list of all the things I hoped to accomplish for the week. It gave me a visual of how to plan each day. Part of my daily Top 5 by Five came from that Weekly Goal List. It was so nice to widdle away the things on my list in small chunks rather than get overwhelmed on Friday when I tried to get everything done in one day. And if things didn’t get accomplished? Well, just put them at the top of the list for the following week if possible. When I was working, there were always continuous projects in the works. I never expected to ever be completely done with everything. Why in the world would that be different in running my family?
CLEAN YOUR HOUSE BY ZONES– I had to get over the crazy idea that the whole house needed to be clean at the same time. Because let’s face it, trying to clean your entire house from top to bottom is really not efficient. I end up doing a half-ass job so that I can be done by the time everyone gets home. Nothing ever gets thoroughly cleaned. So I divided my house into sections or “zones” (Thank you FlyLady for some valuable tips and tricks) and just focused on thoroughly cleaning one zone at a time. I didn’t spend an entire day making my home “clean enough”.
WASH ONE LOAD OF LAUNDRY A DAY – I’ve tried doing laundry only a couple of times a week but then all that happens is that I have piles and piles of clothes to fold. For days. And days. There is always enough laundry with a family of four to do a load a day. Sometimes it is just a load of sheets and towels (which I usually do on Fridays), or a load of everyone’s sweatpants and jeans. No matter what the load consists of, it not only gets washed, but it gets folded and put away in the same day it is started. No more baskets lining the floor or wrinkled clothes to sort through.
USE A TIMER – I know this sounds ridiculous, but if I don’t set a timer on stuff, I can take all day to do anything. Even if it is a mental timer, put an end to whatever task you are doing. Cleaning a zone? Decide how long you are willing to commit to that project. Returning emails, paying bills and “playing” on-line? Set a time limit or else you’ll blink and realize that you’ve been sitting at the computer for a couple of hours.
PICK-UP CLUTTER THE NIGHT BEFORE – This one has always been the hardest for me because I get into that “I’ll just get to it tomorrow” mentality. Unfortunately, several days of that and you end up with a huge mess by the end of the week. Plus, if you have to spend half your time de-cluttering everyday before you can clean it, well, it’ll take you twice as long to finish the task. Make your children pick up all of their crap on their way to bed each night. Hang up coats, put away shoes, make a home for papers and school work every night. A little can get done in a short amount of time. At my house, the things that still get left out are put in a big basket in our coat closet. We call that basket the “Lost and Found”. The kids know that if they can’t find something, rather than whine and freak out, they need to check the basket first. One of my children’s weekly chores? To empty that basket. It’s amazing how much less gets left out when they know they have to put a basketful away on their precious Saturday morning. Of course, having a place for everything helps, so if you need some ideas to get organized in the first place, check out this website/blog: I’m an Organizing Junkie.
PUT YOURSELF ON THE SCHEDULE – I am the worst at this. This isn’t about “time for me” either, it’s about scheduling things that I need to get done rather than want to get done. I don’t want to exercise, I need to exercise. I don’t really want to go to the dentist or the doctor, but I sometimes need to make these appointments. I certainly don’t want to go to the grocery store, but we all know we have to do it at some point. When they are on the schedule, then they get done and they aren’t hanging over my head making me feel guilty everyday or pushing me to procrastinate and start random projects to avoid what really needs to get done. Also saying, “Oh, I’ll get to it when I have time” is just another way of making sure it never happens.
You are probably wondering what happened to the dedicated “me” time though that “those people” are always recommending. It has been my experience that when I manage my time better, there is “me” time left over. Cleaning a zone of my house, completing one load of laundry, making my daily task list more manageable, etc. frees up parts of my day for me to write, be with friends, read a book, or whatever else I choose to do. And then I don’t feel as guilty either, because I can see accomplishments every day.
However, none of this is possible if you don’t get started.