Hi, how have you been? Busy? Flat out? Overwhelmed?
When was the last time you said or heard something different? Something like “relaxed”, “loving life”, “really organised”, “balanced”.
Even if you did feel any of these ways, would you admit it, or would you feel compelled to be at least seen as being busy?
More and more of late, I have been reading articles and books suggesting that “busyness” has become something of a status symbol, that it is “now the social norm that people feel they must conform to, or risk being outcasts.” (1)
Why is running oneself ragged suddenly de rigeur?
I have a husband, two small children, a home, other family, friends, a part-time job, a volunteer role, membership of my son’s school’s P&C, management of his U6 soccer team and a blog. I love and enjoy each of these facets of my life but, to successfully oversee them all requires enormous energy, effort and efficiency. Usually, I achieve this, but, recently, exhaustion took hold and I asked myself, “what for?”
Do I have to do all these things?
The answer is no, but the thing is, I want to. I have chosen this life. So, I then asked myself, “what can I do to make things easier? What can I change about my approaches and expectations to ensure I can spend time playing Lego with Captain Chatterbox and Mademoiselle Headstrong, that I do have more than a 15-second conversation with my husband every day, that I can sit and read something for no other reason than pleasure? I pride myself on being a highly organised person.
1 – I stopped fussing about my home’s cleanliness. I have finally accepted The Husband’s assertion earlier this year that, in a household containing small children, cleanliness is next to pissing against the wind.
2 – I stopped worrying about appearing “incompetent” whilst easing into my new workplace and job, and started taking it easy on myself, acknowledging that it takes time to feel like you “own” your role.
3 – I re-embraced my love of lists, religiously plan my week’s dinner menu, and stick to my once-a-week shopping list. I hate grocery shopping. Hate it.
4 – I bought an extremely stylish Mr Men-themed calendar for our kitchen wall, which has a column for each family member. It is such a simple thing, but god it makes my life easier.
5 – I unsubscribed to the several thousand e-newsletters and blogs that I used to have time to read. I am now extremely selective, and have the time to actually write my own.
6 – I may have relaxed about cleanliness, but not about tidiness (very different things). The thing is, it is actually easy to be tidy if you do not have clutter. Over time, I have gone through every area, cupboard and drawer of my home and purged. There are only two small baskets of toys in our lounge room now, and I can shut Captain Chatterbox’s bedroom door when he is in the midst of one of his “projects”. Doing just a little bit every day, I can totally stay on top of things. I find this both calming and necessary to maintaining my equilibrium.
7 – I loathe ironing. I am very fortunate that The Husband both enjoys and is good at it. Weird, I know. He irons his business shirts for the coming week every Sunday evening, and now irons my three work outfits, too. I love him. Choosing and having ready clothes for the three days of the week when it actually matters that I wear something other than jeans and a black tee-shirt (un-ironed) removes another small yet irritating daily decision and task.
8 – Breakfast things are out the night before. Dinner things are out before I leave the house in the morning.
9 – Clothing for Mademoiselle Headstrong is laid out the night before she attends her little school three days per week. Captain Chatterbox’s uniform, lunchbox, and school bag are ready before bed each evening.
10 – My favourite: soccer training occurs each Wednesday evening. When we get home, les enfants shower with The Husband, I pop a frozen pizza and loaf of garlic bread in the oven, throw salad leaves about artfully on a platter, dry and dress the children (The Husband manages by himself), and then we have Family Pizza Night.
11 – I am training myself to not “multi-task”, or rather “task-switch” because I know that it is actually not at all efficient. “We don’t process information as thoroughly when we task-switch, which means that information doesn’t sink into our long-term memories as deeply or spur us toward our most intelligent choices and associations. We also lose time whenever we switch tasks, because it takes a while to intellectually relax into a project and build a head of steam.” (2)
12 – I am trying on this new perspective for size: to the ancient Greek philosophers, “living a life of leisure was the highest aim of a human being. True leisure, the Greeks believed, free from the drudgery of work, not only refreshed the soul but also opened it up. It was a time and a space where one could be most fully human.” (3)
I was reminded on the weekend by the lovely Paul Murty of Parkinson’s Law, which is that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. I urge you to read about it here.
I am continually amazed what a big impact small changes can make, and how positive effects flow into other areas in unexpected yet wonderful ways.
I’d love to hear about your techniques for staying sane and reducing the busy-ness of life. Please add your thoughts to the Comments section below.
And remember, people who put accomplishment first end up with loads to write home about, but risk having nowhere to address the letter.
1 & 3. Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has The Time, Brigid Schulte.
2. All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, Jennifer Senior