Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Focused Time

One of the things my husband has been challenging me on (read: calling me on the carpet about) lately is the concept of not being so scattered in my daily life. He has noticed the way I dash about from one task to the next, often leaving one thing undone as I get sidetracked with another. This practice leaves me spinning my wheels, constantly running and always frustrated. He has been asking me some pretty directed questions about my priorities and the amount of time I spend doing "work stuff" (writing, blogging, speaking business stuff) as opposed to the amount of time I spend focused on my kids. He is a good accountability partner in my life, even if I don't always like what he says!

Reading this post helped me a lot with this whole concept. It was a lightbulb moment for me as I realized that I need to get back to a more scheduled day with more focused timeframes-- a time for cooking, a time for cleaning, a time for schooling, a time for errands, a time for the computer. And so, I began to work through what this all would mean. I also own Holly Pierlot's book A Mother's Rule Of Life that she mentioned, and recommend it highly. While it is definitely a Catholic book (and I am not Catholic), there is still much to glean from her advice. I found the book at a time in my life when I was at the end of my rope, and the book ministered to me from the first paragraph-- so that's saying a lot! Since then, it stays in a place where I can get to it at any point as a refresher/reminder. But what this blog post pointed out had never jumped out at me before, especially not the way she words it:

My goal when sitting down to create routines and schedules was always to "get things done," so I'd aim to squeeze in as much as possible. I would drastically underestimate how much time was needed for each task in an attempt to fit more in (I realize now that nothing takes "just five minutes" around here). When my goal changed to "bring peace to my household," it became glaringly obvious that obtaining peace was going to involve sacrificing a huge chunk of my to-do list; that I would have to give up not only on the idea of being able to do it all, but the idea that I can do much of anything other than just keep diapers changed and kids fed and the toys and dirty dishes put away and have some quality time with the kids and free time for myself.

A friend and I just discussed this when we had lunch together this weekend. She said that one thing she has found is that she makes commitments and vastly underestimates how much time those commitments will take. Then as those commitments start hitting, she gets stressed and starts micromanaging her family in an effort to maintain some sort of control as her life spins out of control. This ups the stress level in her whole family-- which causes strife for all of them. She commented that she is learning to keep track of how much time things take-- to the point of keeping a log and writing it all down. Then when she is asked to do something she can commit with a more realistic view of what that "yes" is going to involve. I thought this was very smart and will most likely begin doing this myself. Most of all, I am looking forward to a winter season of S-L-O-W living. I am turning in my book, Lord willing, this week and plan to not take any big writing projects for awhile. That's my plan, at least.

I loved the idea of weighing our commitments against our goal: a peaceful home versus getting "just one more thing" done. I knew this would be key in setting my new schedule. And so, with that in mind, I have spent the last several days working through a schedule and goals that reflect my focus. This means there will be focused time for devotions (and nothing else), focused time for school (and nothing else), focused time for housework (and nothing else), etc. That means when I am doing that thing I am not answering emails, surfing blogs, making phone calls, etc. I hope to stick to this focused schedule in the new year, and not forget about it and get sidetracked as I am prone to do.

Being "all there" wherever I am is a good goal to have for this new year. It will be a new thing and a welcome change.

*If you left me a question in the comments section, please read the comments as I will be answering any questions there instead of here. This will be my new policy on this blog. Thanks!*
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Deanna said...

This post is just exactly what I needed to read this morning. We're getting ready to get back to homeschooling. I am notorious for frittering away my time and lately, I've felt like my kids aren't getting enough from me. (Or my husband) Thank you for giving me an excellent idea to ponder.

Happy Four said...

What an excellent post to ponder and pray about. Marybeth, thank you for sharing your new goal. Some days I find I am focused and others the time just vanishes. It is my desire to use time wisely also and be there in full on the commitment at hand.

Thank you sister for reinforcing that need as a wife and mother.

Sandra in Phx said...

I appreciate this post, but I have a question. How do I find peace in my home when my brain can't seem to shut off the things that need to be done? I know that I don't function without a clean house, but sometimes that means I sacrifice time doing other things. The lists then pile up in my head and keep me awake at night...OK, does ANY of that make sense?! LOL

Marybeth said...

Sandra-- I think that's where the focused time comes in. Set doable goals to accomplish during your focused house cleaning time. If you need to have several times built into your day, then do so. Just know that when you are cleaning, you are cleaning. But when you are reading aloud, you are reading aloud, etc. You aren't trying to do two things at once and, consequently, becoming divided and less effective.

Just know I am new at this too-- so I will be learning as I go. I like this concept, but I will see how it plays out in my actual life!

Kelly said...

This is so interesting that you wrote this this morning...I just watched Joyce Meyer on tv and she had Dr. Carolyn Leaf on where they talked about slowing down to focus on the thing you are doing and not trying to be spread thin doing many things at as a culture we are so saturated with information and options and choices and things to do that we don't know how to slow down and just do one thing well and concentrate on it. After seeing that show and reading your post, I feel that God is speaking to me, because I am constantly side-tracked with things at home and work and have trouble staying focused on what I am doing. Today, I made myself read outloud my devotional scripture Psalm 103 so I could hear and concentrate and take it in (rather than try to quickly read it and get onto the next thing)...I long to be less stressed and more calm and I think focusing on the one thing at hand is a big key!

Anonymous said...

Marybeth, did you change your post by chance? I thought it was you that referenced a devotion you were using. I came back to check out the title but it's gone.


Marybeth said...

Yes, Debbie-- I ran the one for tomorrow by accident! Sorry!

That devotion is called 365 Days of Celebration And Praise by Julie Lavender. You should be able to find a used copy on Amazon for relatively cheap.

Anonymous said...

thanks Marybeth....

Julie Coleman said...

You are absolutely right. I am like you-- sidetracked is my middle name.

I took a class last summer about spriritual disciplines. One of the activities during the week was to go outside and spend one hour alone with God. Not even Scripture, just us and Him, thinking and allowing Him to speak to us. Just meditating on nature. I had an attitude about that one-- it seemed a little too mystical and forced for me. But I grudgingly found a spot under a tree and pretty much dared the Lord to speak to me.

Something amazing happened. He did. As I sat and stared at the branches overhead, He began to show me how He is at work in my life-- that there are different seasons, just like in the life of that tree, for how He works. It almost sounds trite as I try to recall it here, but it was an amazing hour. I left that spot rejuvinated and refreshed, as well as excited about a new direction he would have me pursue in my writing.

I began to think how much He could teach me if I would only slow down for a few minutes to listen. I think busyness is a tool that Satan can use to keep us from going deep with God.

Thanks for a great reminder. I needed it (again).

Flamingo Mama said...

NOOO! I can't believe you are posting about this today! I really, really feel God is leading me towards schedules and less multi-tasked time. I am a spontaneous multi-tasker by nature, so I do not want to be come scheduled. Sadly, my committements are not high or unreasonable, but i don't always manage my time well.

Thanks for the push and the advice!

Jeannie said...

Great post, Marybeth! Happy New Year. I think Holly Pierlot's book is wonderful, too. She sets the bar very high.

rural momma said...

This is great timing for me too!! I am very good at muti-tasking, but many times the most important task gets undone. For instance, I could go on the computer to find something for school, and end up just "checking" a blog. Then reading the blog, becomes my focus and not what I was doing, and my wheels keep spinning. Thanks again, for the reminder. :0)

Karin Katherine said...

I really enjoyed, "Life management for busy women" by Elizabeth George. I think I'm going to reread it now that I'm here suggesting it to you. I too struggle with my to do list vs my family peace (and my own).