As the school year began and the work started piling up, it struck me how hard it is to get anything done. When I say work, I don’t mean the work I get paid to do (although that is piling up as well). I mean the work that comes with life and especially comes with having children. This is the signing up for extra-curricular activities, putting the soccer schedules in my calendar (there has to be an easier way to do that), buying fall clothes so that my kids aren’t wearing shorts when the temperature suddenly drops 20 degrees (don’t get me started on jacket options) and just so many forms. So. Many. Forms. This doesn’t even include the standard chores of paying bills and laundry and grocery shopping and buying birthday party gifts (the list is endless).
So, I started looking hard at what is keeping me from feeling as productive and efficient as I want to be. Or as I promise myself to change the next day as I fall into bed with a still unpacked suitcase, laundry in the dryer and empty lunch boxes. I came up with a list of ways to hinder me from being as productive as I would like.
Five Things that are Challenging my Productivity:
I’m always telling my kids, “if you had X already, you would be done.” The X could be brushing their teeth, taking a shower, cleaning their rooms, whatever the event is that they spend more time whining about than it takes to complete. Well, don’t tell my kids, but I do it too. I just don’t feel like folding the laundry or cleaning the kitchen and so I will check social media or watch my show, just for 5 minutes, I promise myself, which turns into an hour. I may eventually accomplish my task, but I wasted an hour so something else will not get done. Or I do finish everything but I’ve lost an hour of sleep.
I am incredibly guilty of this one. One aspect of over-booking is planning something for every minute of free time I have or my family has. I love to do things/see friends and I love to say yes, but I don’t leave any time to get my stuff done. The other aspect of over-booking is just having too many things to do. Not social engagements, but when I have to plan the Halloween party and bake cupcakes (oh, and buy the cupcake ingredients), and choreograph for my Zumba class, it is completely overwhelming and that doesn’t even include my work day or my normal responsibilities just to keep life moving forward.
I sometimes dream of sitting down and completing one full task (how my dreams have changed). And while I am a multi-tasker by nature, there is a point at which it is disruptive. My kids and I have a joke about how long it takes me to get my son something to drink. He will nicely ask me to get him something, but on my way I see a toy that I want to put away. Then I remember I need to pre-heat the oven for dinner. Then he will ask again. “Oh right, getting it!” Then the baby drops her spoon so I need to grab that. Then I get a text. Could be important. He asks again. “On it!” I head over the refrigerator and open the door. “What am I doing in here?” I can’t remember. I close the door and go back to packing lunches. Interruptions can be small things that pile up and temporarily distract me from the task at hand making everything take longer. Or they can be large and totally throw me off course.
When my oldest daughter was a toddler, my Mom always told me that toddlers are particularly bad at transitions. It is hard to stop one thing and get going into another. That advice has always stuck with me. If I can just get my child through the transition (and coinciding tantrum), we will be ok on the other side. So, as I took a hard look at myself and my productivity, I realized that I too am bad at transitions. I sit in my car for 20 minutes in the parking lot of the grocery store because I just can’t motivate to go inside. I like grocery shopping (to a point), but the idea of that next step of getting myself inside and doing a full shop is overwhelming. In fact, a lot of my transition challenges revolve around that car time. Getting myself into the car to go and then getting myself out of the car to actually accomplish what I set out to do.
5. I’m Freaking Tired!
I’m not sure how much I have to say about this. I’m tired. Really tired. I just want to sit on the couch and watch TV (and fall asleep on said couch). I have so much to do, but I am just so tired.
So now what? I’ve figured out the things holding me back, but can I do anything about them? When I conceived of this post, I had an idea that I would spend a week avoiding all of the above and just be really productive. It lasted a few hours. I wrote about half of this post thinking I could end it with the knowledge of how to solve all of your (and my) challenges around getting things done. And then before pulling myself together to finish writing, I did all of the above. ALL OF THEM.
Productivity Mindset Shift
However, as I reflect on these obstacles to productivity, I am beginning to understand that this is life. The challenges are my reality and no matter what I do, to some degree, they are likely to continue. Some of these challenges, like interruptions and over-booking can be managed better, but they also aid in a different kind of productivity that I don’t give myself credit for. I may not have folded the laundry because I planned the Halloween party and I may not have gone through the mail because I bought the fall clothes, but guess what? I planned the Halloween party and bought the fall clothes. That deserves a pat on the bat for productivity. Yay me!
Even procrastination has its place. It provides a break from my constant going, going, going. And some things that seem like procrastination are actually valuable choices. I may choose to spend time with my kids or my friends or my husband (or myself) instead of being productive in the traditional sense. But isn’t that time productive–fostering relationships, taking care of myself, creating memories?
In reality, I need to look at productivity differently. Creating a full and satisfying life is the ultimate productive venture. And yes, there are those things that need to be accomplished out of necessity and responsibility and sheer just keeping your kids alive. However, if I look at the big picture, I am getting so much done. They may not always be the things on my list, but maybe it is my list that needs to change.