Monday, May 14, 2012

Utilizing every.single.second.and the Law of Diminishing Returns

People have been asking me how I find the time to workout or cook or craft or whatever.  I think about this a lot and I think it boils down to this:  I have to ensure that my time is fully utilized in order for me to get done what I need to do and what I want to do.

This does not mean that I am "go, go, go".  I rest. I relax. But I have to plan for it or I have to give something up.  I have also accepted that I need to be flexible and accept that things will never completely go as planned and that things do not (and really should not) be perfect.  Finally, I have reevaluated what "NEED to do" and "WANT to do" really mean - and if I don't really NEED to do something and I don't really WANT to do something, guess what- I don't do it!

I thought I'd give an example of a typical Friday (feel free to ooh and ahh at how importantly busy I am.  Or not.)

4:20: Wake up
4:20-5:00: Get ready to leave the house.  This includes making coffee, getting dressed, packing my lunch and work clothes if I have not already done so.
5:00: Leave the house
5:10: Arrive at Go Barbell and set up
5:15: Class Starts
6:00 Class Ends, head to work. Snack in car. Listen to Audio Book.
6:15: Arrive at work
6:15-6:20: Change, clean up, do hair, put on make up. (yup- no shower- I'm gross, I know this. I accept this.)
6:20: Start working
9:00- Breakfast (while working)
11:00: Snack (keep working)
1:15: Leave work (note- no breaks). Stop at ATM to get money for parking and babysitter.
1:35: Arrive Home. Have Lunch. Read blogs while I eat.
1:50-4:15: Pick up house. Do some laundry. Relax a little. Craft. Cook make ahead meals. Blog. Run errands (usually grocery store or fabric store if needed)
4:15: Head to Spin Class
4:30-5:30: Spin
5:30: Rush home, hop in van with family, head to dinner (still in workout clothes)
5:45-7:00: Eat dinner, relax with family.
7:00: Home. Feed the pets and play outside with kids and dog.  Maybe work on the lawn a little.
7:45: Start the bedtime routine for Mack.
8:00: Start getting things ready for the next day (clothes, lunches, coffee pot). Switch laundry/run dishwasher.
8:30: Start bedtime for Tommy.
9:00: In bed.
9:30: Hopefully I'm asleep.

Monkey Wrenches and Multi-Tasking

Anything can mess this schedule up, from a doctor's appointment to a dirty diaper (um, that's Mack having a dirty diaper, just to be clear).  Throughout my day I try to squeeze in things like checking email, returning calls, making shopping lists, working on my calendar, paying attention to pets, reading the mail and blogging.  I also try to be aware of where I can and cannot multi-task.  I believe that when you multi-task, neither "job" is getting done as well as it should and you are rarely really "present". I also know there is a difference between multitasking and "killing two birds with one stone". I try to think a couple of steps ahead and plan.

An example of this is I always try to go to the ATM at work, so I don't make a separate stop.  When I make lunches, I pull out all the food I need at once and put it all away at once.  It sounds silly, but I swear, I used to do Mack's lunch, then Tommy's, then mine and I'd open that fridge15 times! When we are in the car, I try to engage the kids and ask about their day, tell them what the plans are for the day and the next day, etc. I try my best to avoid going to the store for just one thing and if I am out shopping, I try to plan it so that I am running two or three errands, not just one (ex: go to Target and Whole Foods, which is a block away).

I also break things down a lot.  I don't need to do all of the laundry at once or vacuum all of the house at the same time.  I can do a little here and a little there.  I have four minutes? I can unload the dishwasher.  I'll load it later.  Two minutes- sweep the kitchen.  I used to feel like I had to clean an entire house, or at least a full room at once.  Now I know I can grab a towel and spray and within two minutes, all of the tables and counters are clean and that in itself is an important accomplishment. This practice is especially useful in my crafting.  For example, I am making curtains in two different rooms plus a skirt for the craft table. A week ago Friday I bought the fabric. That Sunday I washed and dried it. Tuesday I set it out with the iron and ironing board. Today I hope to iron it and maybe by Thursday, the curtains will be done.  I would never have time to do the entire project start to finish, but bit by bit, it can get done.

It's funny, but before kids, I think I felt more stressed and more rushed.  I even felt this before taking up such a serious fitness regimen.  I had 5 or 6 things that I had to do a day, with lots of gaps in between.  I didn't plan for what I would do in that free time and when it came, I was overwhelmed.  I didn't know what to do. Nap? Grocery Shop? Laundry? Exercise? Call a friend? I usually didn't know what to do and would just plop on the couch and watch t.v, accomplishing nothing.  Heck, I wouldn't even be relaxed because I felt bad about doing nothing.  Later I would end up stressed because I was out of clean clothes, forgot to get a gift for a party, had nothing to eat and you get the picture.  I'd then try to jam way too much into a day and end up miserable.

Getting Over Myself

This isn't to say that I don't get thrown off and upset. I can talk a good talk, but this is still a new thing for me and I'm still learning.  Last Friday was a perfect example. You see, I can handle things like Tommy announcing he has to poop right when we are supposed to be walking out the door for an appointment. Oh well. We will be a little late. I've got kids and this happens. I don't worry about little stuff like that.  I can also deal with rearranging my day because of something like a doctor appointment, hair appointment or birthday party.  I plan ahead and can rearrange my activities so that everything still gets done.

What I do not like are large amounts of my day being taken up without proper notice. This leads me to Friday.

Background: I've mentioned how our neighbors are moving. Well, they've received a great offer and we decided that this would be a great time for us to sell our house.  We decided to use the same agents and my husband was to call and set up a pre-listing appointment where the agents would come and walk through the house, tell us what we had to do and give us an idea of what it might sell for.  On Wednesday, I gave my husband the info and asked him to set it for 10-14 days out.  He set it 2 days out. At 4:30. On a Friday.

So not only do I miss my favorite class of the week, I had only 2 days to clean up my disaster of a house. Not only do I have only two days to clean, but they are my busiest 2 days of the week.  We have zero free time on Wednesdays. Thursday could have been ok, as I am usually off of work, but I had volunteered to work for someone else.  To top it off, after work 5 kids were scheduled to come over to play at my house before we all go to dinner. After dinner we get ready for bed.

This left me 3 hours on Friday to clean a filthy house.  And I mean, filthy.  Friday is always the worst day for our house.  I cannot even put into words what it looked like.  (I completely meant to take pictures, but I forgot!Bad, bad blogger)

I spent the days leading up to the appointment being stressed and irritated. I was overwhelmed and anxious. How was I going to pull this off? On Friday, I rushed home from work and cleaned like crazy.  I was super cranky at first, but then it happened.  I stopped, looked around and I simply got over myself.  Who the heck cared what these people thought of me? This would not be the worst house they ever went into and no matter what I did, it was not going to be the best.  We were hiring THEM to sell our house.  This was not about me, but was about the house. I regrouped and enjoyed the quiet and the sense of accomplishment.

I ended up getting more done than I had thought I could and the process was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  I was I got over myself and just enjoyed the quiet. I did miss my class.  I was irritated. But in the end it all worked out. The house certainly was not ideal, but it was good enough.  And I am learning to be happy with good enough.

It reminded me of my old econ classes, specifically, the law of diminishing returns.  I didn't do well in econ, so don't quote me, but in a nutshell, there comes a point where the effort you have to put into something just isn't worth it anymore.  That's how I see perfection. Good enough is doable. Perfect- it's just not worth it.  And that's OK.

I can't wait to tell you about the agent's visit...but that's for another day.

Do you try to be perfect?
How do you manage to do what you want to do AND what you need to do? 


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