Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Focus...


I wanted to write today about something that I find myself struggling with more and more. Lord knows I am not the organized type. But lately, I am finding my thoughts to be so unorganized that it's affecting my drive and my efficiency. We have been busy...yes. And more and more of our time is spent outdoors where to-dos do not get done. But I need to find a way to sort my mental trinkets.  I'm feeling very overwhelmed and unfortunately, when I'm feeling this way my tendency is to turn off...completely...and as a result, I get absolutely nothing done. So instead of chipping away at my tasks, they start to pile up.

Lately, I have been feeling a strong need to focus. As a mom, my life is constantly being pulled in multiple directions. I feel like I have been trying to do everything at once and, as a result, getting very little accomplished. I crave the feeling that comes with finishing a task. But how do you focus? And once you decide to focus, how do you determine where to put that focus and which task to finish first? And what's more, how do you turn off those voices suggesting that you need to be elsewhere {mentally or not}.

I would really like some input here. Do you have a system that works for you? Do you make lists, schedule days, plan tasks? What has simplified your process when it comes to getting everything done and still having a little time for yourself?

Here are some of the things I am thinking of doing:
  • reserving certain days for certain tasks {however, the rigidity of this makes my anti-conformist bones cringe}
  • making weekly lists and making sure to complete one task before starting another
  • focusing on only the kids {really, it could take up all my time..but then who will clean my house and cook my dinners?}
  • getting a planner {but seriously, I would need someone to teach me how to utilize such a thing}
  • sell everything I have so I don't have to take care of it anymore
  • let things go and worry about them when they become so that they cannot be ignored {like the stench in our bathroom that I absolutely HAD to obliterate this morning}......okay, prime example of my lack of focus is that after writing that line, I remembered that I had our shower curtain in the wash which needed hung on our line and I went and did that...do you hear me? NO. FOCUS.
  • have a set schedule for the day which allowed certain time blocks for certain activities
These are just some of my thoughts. Have any of you done any of these? Have they worked for you? Do you have any suggestions, links, books, etc. that might help me. I'm an artistic, free spirited, creative type who likes routine but dislikes rigid structure. Please help me!!!!

19 comments:

Dyche Designs April 21, 2010 at 6:59 PM  

I'm not a mom and I'm list adverse so I really not the best person to give you any advice. I hope other mom's can offer some great suggestions but remember you don't have to be super human just love your family and the rest will somehow fall into place. Good luck.

Amy April 21, 2010 at 7:28 PM  

All I can offer are the thoughts of another artistic free spirited, creative type who likes routine but dislikes rigid structure. I have found that my focus comes in stages and I don't fight it anymore. I found myself more frustrated and unsettled when I thought I was supposed to be doing something else and trying to maintain some routine. Instead, I try to go with whatever the flow is and let go of other expectations. I have a 12 year old son and a 2 year old son. So I know (now) that the toddler stuff really does end and eventually you get your concentration ability back, and some more time to yourself as they become more able to satisfy themselves (or go to school if that's how you do it - and we do). So this time I'm not nearly as stressed out about not getting stuff done because I really believe that one day - I'll get to it. So the house is a mess? My kids are fed and happy and I made something today. Maybe it was a photograph, maybe part of a quilt or a sweater or an essay. Whatever felt important. Here's a post I wrote about it a few months ago with might say it in a less rambling way than I did just here: http://www.acommonplacelife.com/a-commonplace-life/2009/10/19/the-trouble-with-martha/ - Anyway, take it for what it's worth - just my thoughts. Best of luck with your struggle and I hope you find some answers that work for you.
xo

Kellie Hatcher Photography April 21, 2010 at 7:37 PM  

ohh, Maegan, I am so looking forward to seeing everyone's comments. I feel the EXACT same way. I just sat down on my computer to do something and I can't remember what it was to do and here I am on your blog....I get it.

Suzanne April 21, 2010 at 8:16 PM  

If you're like me, you do it until you literally drop. So the best way is to have a schedule but make sure to schedule in time for what you feel is important. Since I am so scattered I have to write things down and assign a time to each task, including getting dressed! The kids have schedules too but my youngest is in kindergarten and that was a huge life-changer for me. Now I have extra time and need to figure out what to do with that. Putting aside my creativity was the worst thing I did. Find time for that and if something falls through the cracks, so be it.

Camilla~ Bloom April 21, 2010 at 8:17 PM  

Hi Maegan,
Been there.
I am a couple of years ahead of you with my four kids(age wise).
There was a while where everything was a blur, it still is at times.

The one thing I have to say looking back is I miss it.
I miss how we were, the little ones.
Life is even more stressful now that they are older but I homeschool too, (so adds to it. If I were you I would try a few things that sound appealing to you,(that you wrote down) you might think would work...if it doesn't skip it.

Accept the circumstances, this is a busy chapter of your life.
(this will pass.)
I also noticed that our family was busier at some times and quiter in other times...go with the flow.

Don't sweat the small stuff.(it doesn't matter in the end)

ALways, always remember they are only little, for a little while.
Enjoy it.
My son is now 14 and it feel as if it was yesterday he sat on my lap while I was reading to him.

I have to say though, we did have a routine,still do, breakfast, lunch, dinner, naps, bed time. Kids feel comforted knowing what to excpect and when.

I'll get off my soapbox now.

You'll find your way Maegan, something that works for you.

barbara April 21, 2010 at 8:30 PM  

oh, i know the feeling all to well. i currently have so many things on my mind it's hard to keep them straight. unplugging from the internet helps for me as does making little lists. i also reward myself :) after getting my "chores" done, i get to eat something sweet or spend some time "surfing". photography has taken a back seat lately as does any kind of creative outlet. with spring here and summer fast approaching, i'm finding my time time too valuable to be sitting at the computer. good luck finding what works for you :)

Johnna Riddell April 21, 2010 at 9:10 PM  

I'm so sorry, I read this and had to smile... the eternal struggle of the Mom, huh :)

I know the feeling... I loose focus all the time. I am constantly forgetting bog things and little things, as simple as remembering to bring diapers or cups along on our outtings.

My mom has always LOVED lists. And she has a bathroom day, kitchen day, a dusting day, and it has always worked well for her. It seems so productive. Unfortunately, I did not inherit that ;)

Often times, when I loose focus I just step away. I grab the kids and go outside or visit the park. I go take a photo of something... I do something I don't have to do and give myself space to breathe. Then, I come back.

Just over the last week I have gotten a lot of things done. Cleaned out our junk room and made a little office for me :) Deep Cleaned the Living room and sorted numerous boxes. Donated TONS of clothes to the church and charity and lots of other little things. But... to get there, I took 3 days to play. It made me feel less guilty about taking the time I needed to clean. I knew the kids had spent tons of time with me, playing and having fun, and that a few partial days of entertaining themselves would be all right.
Often, I just say, "What do I want to work on" and if that's the kitchen three days in a row, then that's fine. If I do what will reward me the most, It's easier to stay focused on it. :)

I hope it gets easier, but sometimes... it's nice to get lost in the non-focus of it all ;)

Jamie April 21, 2010 at 9:30 PM  

I usually just fly by the seat of my pants - and only occasionally pull out a to do list when I get completely overwhelmed. My best advice - check out the Elizabeth Gilbert article in O magazine I referenced in a post today. Read it and then lighten up on yourself!

Teresa April 21, 2010 at 10:05 PM  

I'm sorry that I can't offer any advice because I am right there with you. There just isn't enough hours in the day and of course the kids come first..and after that, there really isn't much left. I have stages where I'm really stressed out about not getting things done and other times I just go with the flow and try not to care. I do know that when I get time away from the kids I like to unwind with photography processing and flickr and such but it can just suck the time away. If I'm really busy I try to have days I just don't turn on the computer. At the same time it's hard because it is a creative outlet that I really enjoy. Best of luck figuring it out for you :)

This Heavenly Life April 21, 2010 at 11:09 PM  

I love having a basic routine to keep me in line. I really have trouble with focusing, too. (Right now, I'm supposed to be emailing a friend with a link to this great new blog I found [yours!] and instead, I'm commenting :)

Our days are loosely based around certain things. Most days (probably all days, if I'm being honest, rather than hopeful), that's eating and sleeping times. And everything else revolves around those as needed.

As far as tasks, it's REALLY helped me to have a planner. Hubby got me one for Christmas last year, and while it's been kind of hard to actually remember to WRITE things down in there, I feel a weight off when I do. Knowing that I don't have to remember every detail -- because it's written down! -- saves my sanity. Helps me focus on areas that need my attention immediately, like playing dress up with my girls :) Nothing's worse than thinking about meal planning or bathroom cleaning needs when you'd rather be all into the game at hand.

Good luck!

Hyacynth April 21, 2010 at 11:15 PM  

I make to-do lists. I then set priorities for the day. If something isn't a priority and it doesn't get done, I don't let myself stress about it.
For the priorities, I operate under one philosphy most of the time. (And when I don't, I regret it!)
Eat the frog. If you had to eat a frog every day of your life in order to remain alive, when would you eat it? First thing in the morning, right? That way you won't be tempted to forget.
So I usually Eat the Frog every morning with the top-priority things.
:)
Don't sell all your stuff. Just some. lol.

Julianna Collett April 21, 2010 at 11:23 PM  

This is the never ending question!firstly being a northern Canadian girl , when the weather is nice everything that can slide does- there will be another long cold winter to get on top of things! I am a procrastinator and when things get busy I tend to have them go round and round in my head and overwhelm me.I am doing that right now with my "getting a photography business organized stuff"

I do find that when I feel that way making list help tremendously ( why I quit when things settle down I do not know) I put1 or 2 extra things a day for me to do and when they are done cross them off. I love seeing things getting crossed off and I no longer have to be constantly thinking of everything I have to do.And when I have done my task for the day I am done and guilt free to enjoy my kids / hobbies etc.it is amazing after a week or two you can really climb out of a hole.

kelly@thebluemuse April 22, 2010 at 9:22 AM  

First, I found your blog through Kim Klassen, it is lovely, and your photography is amazing. I don't have any great answers for you, I struggle with the same exact problem every day. I think it is partly the bane of the creative mind, and partly also that we all, in these times, try to do so much. We have too many choices.
I do use lists, it helps some. And every morning, a post-it right in front of my face that lists the things that absolutely have to be done that day. I have a planner but usually forget to look at it!
One thing that helps me accomplish things that I tend to put off forever (like cleaning my bead table) is the 15 minute rule. I work on it for 15 minutes a day, because I can always fit that in, until it is done. Otherwise it just seems too overwhelming to start.
And I guess the other thing I would say is that sometimes you just have to stop and let your brain rest, even when your to-do list is miles long. It will still be there when you "return," and you will be better able to deal with it.

Courtney Corey April 22, 2010 at 12:47 PM  

I am going through the exact thing now. I am on a massive spring cleaning - cleanout of closets, the garage, my son's room. So, what I am finding is before you even try to get "organized" - simplify as much as you can. Get rid of excess STUFF. We all have so much STUFF, and it prevents us from seeing the stuff we have. Then, the organization part is much easier. I have found that too many lists, too much over-organization is not very good, either. I am setting my son's room up now very much like his Montessori classroom - he loves it. I will take pictures in a few days and post on my blog. At Earth Fair, I met a great group of artists who work with kids - they talked about creating an "Exploratorium." For us, that is a shelf/bin system where each art tool has a place. There is a bin for ribbons, for pipe cleaners, for "recycled" items, for paper, etc... - all out so that my son can get to it. All organized so he know where to put things. I guess what I am learning - that everything needs to have a place. Nice to know other moms go through the same stuff I do!

Melissa April 22, 2010 at 9:04 PM  

I have a hard time focusing these days, a lot. I don't do well with structure or schedules, so I am trying to just accept that life with kids is a little crazy.

You asked for a book? I actually LOVED (and should read again) The Balanced Mom: Raising Kids without losing yourself. I found it real, and helpful.

Just figure out what works best for you and go for it (and know that your house will not be clean for 18 years! That will help a lot!)

Kathleen April 23, 2010 at 8:15 AM  

WOW! Though I admit a tiny bit of disappointment that none of the comments offer the one and only perfect solution, I'm loving all the responses...

I cycle between ignoring the mess and the to-dos with a quiet mantra of "this isn't what matters", freaking out that maybe having a neat and organized life IS what matters, and taking a deep breath and tackling whatever I can in 15 minutes.

But most importantly - I turn to friends whose kids are older, even grown, who assure me that there are years and years for cleaning and focusing... all in good time.

Micheline April 23, 2010 at 3:17 PM  

I remember feeling lost for quite a while when the girls were little. I didn't make time for myself and when I thought of trying to fit it in, I felt guilty. The low point for me was when I realized that for a couple of years I had never been alone save for a couple of weekends when my mom took the girls to her house. I wish I'd had support from women like the ones in your comment section. It would have been a lifesaver.

If I could write down the two most important things for me they would be: 1. Kids don't stay little forever. Enjoy every second of it without feeling guilty. (Easier said than done, I know.) 2. Make time for yourself. Even if it's only 15 minutes a day. Fifteen minutes where you acknowledge yourself and your creative ideas - not writing to-do lists or sorting the mail or reading school newsletters. Fifteen minutes just for you. (Easier said than done, I know.)

If personal experience tells me anything I would have to guess that you're doing a great job at managing things considering what's on your plate. Looking at the list, I'd say we've all been there in one way or another.

janine April 24, 2010 at 3:19 AM  

Reading the comments others have left here makes me feel better about my lack of focus! I find it comes and goes. I work 3 days a week and find I'm generally more productive on those days because I'm already in 'action mode' when I get home. Other than that, I confess to being a list freak and some have said I have OCD tendencies - but this does NOT mean that I accomplish more! My only piece of advice is to make time for you a priority. If I don't do that I get grumpy and resentful and then I'm no use to anyone. And when I do, I'm a nicer person all round so everyone's a winner!! Good luck with it :)

Michelle P April 25, 2010 at 1:31 PM  

As a fellow creative, I can recommend this simple site for list-making built by SwissMiss. If you don't do a task one day, it bumps it to the next, & I love the "Someday" section:
http://teuxdeux.com/