It’s Thursday, so I’m Crafting my Life! I invite you to join in the fun. If you would like to share a story from your own journey, please drop me a line. If you’d like to find out more about my online class on living with intention and my upcoming e-book, visit craftingmylife.com.
It’s been over a week now since Hannah started grade one. With her out of the house for six hours every weekday, and Jacob going to daycare part-time, I have more time to myself now than I’ve had in years – probably since before I had kids. It feels incredibly decadent, really, and I love having dedicated kid-free time to work in. It’s really increasing my productivity.
I’ve started using SlimTimer to track my time, and I’m spending more time on work-related tasks than I thought. I’m spending an especially large amount of time on email, which isn’t great, but that’s another story. What’s pertinent for this story is that I am spending all of my kid-free time and a whole lot more on work. And by “work” I mean the things I do to earn a living. I’m not counting obligations like cooking, cleaning and running errands.
I’ve given you a lot of back story, but in truth the bottom line is simple: I’m a parent, so I’m busy. There is never any shortage of stuff for me to do. If you’re a parent, the odds are good that you feel the same way. So what do we do? We become efficient. There’s no time to waste, so we do everything as quickly as possible. We eat quickly, we clean quickly, we shower quickly and we brush our teeth quickly. It’s all about getting as much done as you can as quickly as you can. Productivity is key, and there’s no room for dallying.
I especially feel the pressure to be productive during the time that my kids are out of the house. I’m paying for daycare, so it feels wasteful to use it on tasks that don’t generate revenue. I need to bring in enough income to cover the costs of childcare and then some. I can’t afford to use my free time watching funny cat videos or playing around on Pinterest.
While I feel that I should use my available time productively, in reality I don’t always live up to that ideal. There are two competing forces at work inside my head at any time. One of them is telling me to buckle down and get things done, and the other one would really prefer to hang out on the couch eating salt and vinegar chips while watching old Law and Order reruns. The laziness is strong in me, and it’s especially vocal when it realizes there’s no one else around to hog the remote or steal my chips.
Is it so wrong to want to just put your feet up and relax once in a while? Probably not. I learned something a long time ago, and it’s that I’m at my most productive when I give myself periodic mental breaks. Maybe sometimes you need to waste time, so that you can be ready to go later. If you ignore that need, and keep pushing through, you’ll start making mistakes and cutting corners because your mental alertness and focus are diminished. After all, the goal isn’t just to churn out work, it’s to do good work.
Where’s the balance, though? How do you tell when it’s time to buckle down, and when it’s time to take 20 minutes out of your day to have a snack and go for a quick walk? I think the answer comes down to knowing how you work best and setting priorities. If you work best in the morning, then that’s the time to buckle down and get things done. If you’ve been staring at the same screen and getting nowhere for the past three hours, then maybe this is the time to switch things up and play around on YouTube for a while. On top of that, if you have a good handle on what has to happen when, then you can make the best possible decisions on how to use your time.
It’s great to be efficient and productive. But it’s also important to give yourself a little time and space to recharge your batteries. If you can figure out how to balance those needs (it’s not easy!) then you’re really set.
How do you balance the need for downtime against the constant onslaught of work that comes with parenting? I’d love to hear!