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I don’t know exactly how this happened, but I woke up one morning and realized I’m in what seems to be the busiest season of my life—well, at least since my children were small.
Writing, preparing for my daughter’s wedding (now only 5 weeks away!), hosting a writers group, volunteering, working on home renovations, cooking, cleaning, and spending time with family and friends, are all keeping me running.
I’ve always considered myself to be happiest when I only have one or two things going on at any given time. I never thought I was good at fragmenting my time and energy between more than a few activities. But recently I realized that at some point along the way, I developed the ability to have a lot of “balls in the air,” so to speak. I use that expression because, like so many other people, I feel like I am essentially juggling. Surprisingly, I find I’m enjoying the variety and challenges of this season.
Here are some of the ways I’m coping with my current busyness:
I make a list almost every day. I write down the things I hope to accomplish and I draw a little square next to each item. I put check marks in the squares as I finish the corresponding tasks. Checking things off my list gives me a feeling of satisfaction, as well as motivation to keep going. I always include some very quick and simple tasks on my list; that way I can get a few check marks right away, which makes me feel like I’m making progress. Making lists keeps me focused. It also reduces stress because I’m not using brain space to remember what I need to do next.
“Juggling” is not the same as “Multi-tasking.” Studies have shown that when people multi-task, literally doing two things at once, neither thing gets done as well as it would if done alone. So I try to focus on one task at a time—even if I can only give it fifteen minutes. I give it the forefront of my brain for the amount of time I can, then put it on the shelf while I do whatever I have to do next.
I understand that my brain is problem solving even when I’m thinking about other things. So if I’ve hit the wall with a certain task, I move on to another, knowing that my subconscious will continue looking for a solution. Often, when I come back to something that was giving me trouble, the answer is waiting for me when I get there.
I’ve come to understand that my main problem with these busy seasons of life is that I’m afraid I’ll fail at one or more of the things I’m juggling. But the truth of the matter is this: I am not a brain surgeon or an airline pilot or a military commander, so if I drop a ball, it isn’t likely to create a life-or-death situation. I may have to apologize to someone or look at a task completed and recognize that it wasn’t my best effort, but it will be okay. Life will go on.
I was in the middle of installing flooring in our upstairs hallway, when I realized the subfloor had a large low spot I’d have to find a way to build up. I enjoy installing laminate flooring because it’s like working a big puzzle, and it looks so nice when it’s finished. But this job is very tricky because it involves stairs and railings and odd angles; with the low spot added in, I knew I needed time to think the job through before moving forward. I had really wanted to finish before the new writers group began—people would be coming to my house for the first time, and I didn’t want them to see an unfinished project. In the end, patience prevailed over vanity. I decided I’d rather do a good job later than a poor job now, so I neatly stacked the flooring in the hallway and put the tools away. I’ll get back to it at a better time.
For me, family comes first. I recently chose to back away from a volunteer position I really enjoyed. Scheduling changes meant that it was now cutting into the small amount of time I have to spend with my husband, so I opted out. If I had stayed in the position, I’d have become resentful, which would have negatively affected the other participants. I knew it was better to make room for someone else to fill the position, bringing fresh energy and ideas. My family is the only group in which I can’t be replaced. Recognizing that I’m expendable everywhere else is liberating and makes decision-making much easier.
And finally . . .
This can be a tough one—especially for mothers. We are given these little humans who need so much help. As they grow and become more and more capable, we still want them to need us, so we continue to do for them what they can and should do for themselves. The desire to be needed can easily spill over into other relationships and into work environments; it causes us to take on stress we shouldn’t be carrying, and it isn’t good for the people we’re “helping” (ahem, “enabling”), either.
I hope one or more of these ideas will help you: not just to cope with your busiest times, but actually enjoy them, too.
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