It is human nature to tempt fate. There is some deep seated drive to prove that we are up to the challenge and that we will persevere. Why do I mention this? Well, it’s because I can already feel this post making plans to haunt me later. I’m not even two months into the blog with a jam packed schedule, and here I am getting ready to babble (in 3 parts no less!) about sticking to things. Yep, that’s me baiting fate. I wonder which of us is holding the net…
The big question is: Why do we stick with certain projects, jobs, tasks, etc. while others fall by the wayside? Is it the level of difficulty in completing something? What about it’s relevance in our life? Could it be the level of support we get during the process? What about the final pay off when we are done? The answer to all of these is: YES… well, and no. You can thank human nature and your own psychological make-up for that great big shapeless gray blotch of an answer.
All new things are challenges. All people have different strengths, weaknesses, and interests. When the challenge lines up well with our strengths and interests, we handle it smoothly. If it falls into categories that don’t interest us and force us to work on our weak spots, it can be very easy to give up.
So, what do you do when you are faced with a monster that makes you want to throw in the towel? First, you face it. Identify exactly what makes you want to turn tail. Does this project make you exercise skills (mental and/or physical) that have gone a little rusty? Are you worried about the opinions of others when they see your interest in the topic? Are you concerned that the time you will spend to reach the goal will be wasted or force you to take time from something that is more important to you? Whatever the reason for your doubt, acknowledge it.
Once you have identified the source of your discomfort, look at the project from a post completion view. If you battled and won, would you have gained from the experience? Maybe this gain looks like Passing the History Test, or maybe it falls under the Personal Achievement label. Payoffs come in all shapes and sizes. If you are not absolutely sure of the outcome, I suggest leaving the rose colored glasses in your desk. By example from personal experience: Do not convince yourself that if you finish writing a book that has been giving you trouble, you will magically sell so many copies that you will pay off all of your debts and even make a profit. If you don’t have guaranteed pre-sales and a line of people waiting with money in hand, you may want to bump your expectations down to something closer to “I’ll be able to look for an agent/publisher when I finish” or even “I will have the satisfaction of knowing I accomplished this phase/goal.” In a perfect world, everyone gets the big prize. This is not a perfect world. Trust me, there is nothing like unfulfilled expectation to make the next similar monster task that much harder to defeat.
Now you know what the challenge is, why it bothers you, and what the end result will (hopefully) be. If you look at that list and see something like:
Project: This job requires me to speak fluid Mandarin.
Problem: My foreign language experience is limited to two years of high school French. I don’t know how long it will take to learn Mandarin or how much it will cost.
End Result: I will have to move to a place I don’t want to go and do a job I don’t want to do.
Maybe this is not the challenge you should be focusing on. Let it go. There are plenty of others out there. However, if the end result looks like this:
End Result: the company will reimburse my expenses and give me the promotion that I have been wanting for two years.
Maybe you should face your fears, get a good language program and hire a tutor.
Make your challenges worthy ones. This goes for the easy stuff too. Don’t push a button once an hour for three days if in the end you will have only pushed a button once and hour for three days. That is a waste of your precious time and ability. Find a better button to push. There has to be one out there that will help you pay your bills or save a live, or simply grow your own amazing self! You just need to find it.
So, this week look around and find your monster. Help your kids find theirs. Then take some time to get to know them. Don’t be afraid to look the challenges squarely in the face and tell them to hold still so you can get a good idea of what they really are and why they make you uncomfortable. Understanding is the first step to a successful outcome!
My To Do List has been making threatening sounds at me all summer. It growls. It hisses. It occasionally laughs maniacally. Oh wait, that’s me. The list actually just sits there and looks menacing. But it does a really great job! I’m effectively menaced and stressed. Sometimes I even want to pull my hair. I have no idea what good it would do, but the urge is there.
I’m sure you understand. I’m positive you have a list of things that need doing today and only your two hands and 24 hours to do them with. I’ll even wager that every time you cross something off of your own silently threatening schedule two more things get added. I’ll go so far as to say that your “free time” is scheduled too. Am I right?
Then, there is the fact that I very rarely do one thing at a time. Take right now, for instance. Between the last paragraph and this one, I went to stir the spaghetti sauce I have on the stove, I loaded and started the dishwasher, and I dug out the recipe for cream of squash soup all while thinking about whether I am actually pro multi-tasking or think that too many irons in the fire lead to shoddy workmanship in the long run. I’ve decided that it’s a gray area. This is probably just self-preservation speaking. If I don’t multi-task, my list gets out of control. If I do too much at a time, I have to re-do too many things later.
For me, multi-tasking has a set of subconscious rules. I can join up to three activities that don’t require me to put much brain power into them with one actively thoughtful project. More than three and my brain pays too much attention into what my hands are doing so it gets distracted and the mental project suffers. I also require at least one physical activity going if I’m working on something that requires a lot of brain power. For some reason, if my hands aren’t busy my brain won’t stay on task. Most likely I’d be labeled ADD these days. Sometimes, I wish I had the “H” there too just so I could keep up!
This brings my wandering path back to today’s topic: Time Management. Some people, like my sister, are amazing at managing their time. They fit work needs, home needs, extra curricular activities, school requirements, etc. into their days without seeming to break a sweat. If you detect a hint of jealousy, I’m afraid you’re right. Then there are those who always seem frazzled no matter how few things are on their plate. I like to think that I fall somewhere in the middle and that my frazzled days are fewer than the days I’m holding my own in the battle to fit as much as possible into each 24 hours.
There are a lot of ways to manage your time. They range from strict hourly schedules to simply winging it and hoping for the best. None of them work for everyone, but all of them work incredibly well for the right people.
I manage my time by calendar and list. The calendar is there to keep track of days that I have vs. days that are spent before they even get here. It helps me see when I can tackle things around the house, and when I will need to work around outside activities. The calendar is the only thing that has kept my garden running smoothly this year because I can see at a glance when I will have time to can spaghetti sauce and when I will only be able to rush through freezing tomatoes. The list gives a general outline for my day and offers flexibility for my time. Some days the list is a typical To Do List, others it’s an Accomplishment List which works because it lets me see progress and encourages me to grow the lists length instead of cross things off. Usually these two things work pretty well for me. They don’t save me from chaotic days where the needs of others rush in, but they do help manage the normal ones.
So, how do you deal with the dreaded hour glass? What are your time management tips and tricks? Share them! Trust me, no matter how great someone is at juggling their day they can always use one more handy hint up their sleeve.
Being a homeschooling parent for 13 years and an independent author/illustrator makes a person learn quite a bit about a lot of things. Now it's time to pass it on!