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I decided I have about six categories of things that I do during a typical day:
- learning time
- work (which itself can be subdivided -- more on that later)
I have a vague idea of about how much time I have available to do each of these things, but I am resolved to keep that idea vague and flexible from day to day.
The main point is that it's finite and not all that much; so I shouldn't get bogged down in endless, super-long to-do lists that get carried over because they are never finished.
It's okay to keep a master to-do list with ALL THE THINGS on it, and consult that while making the day's list. Right now I'm trying out an app called Wunderlist, and I'm using it for the ALL THE THINGS list. But I'm copying a few things from that list onto an index card each morning.
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I also had some all-the-time goals: for example, one goal is to demonstrate to my children, interest in the things they had to say to me, and delight in each one as a person. I feel these things far more often than I make them known, and I wanted to work on communicating that love, interest, and delight all day long through all the things I do.
But I've found that a major obstacle to that is constant multitasking. I'm always trying to do two things at once. If I'm resting, I'm answering email on my iPad. If I'm running a spelling lesson, I'm tidying my countertop while I wait for kids to write down each word. While I'm chopping onions, I'm supervising my seven-year-old's math homework. While I'm lecturing my son about the boots that I keep tripping over in the mudroom, I'm photocopying worksheets for the afternoon's school.
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Somewhere, I know, there is a homeschooling parent with the opposite problem who is resolving to learn how to multitask. I can be quite effective, it's true. BUT I can't multitask like that AND demonstrate love, interest, and delight. Rather, such effectiveness tends to give me Resting Bitchface. Not a good look on a mom.
So here's resolution five: Decide what I'm doing, and do that one thing.
Leave room in my attention for that love, interest, and delight.
Leave room in my attention to be reasonable, to be kind, to be generous.
Leave room in my attention to stop and guide a child back on task before the urge to yell sets in.
Leave room in my attention for ...intention.
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So what kind of practical change can I make that will bring this about? I think one of them is simply to look at what I've asked the kids to do, and to be doing that same thing.
So, for instance, if the kids are working on schoolwork, I want to try to stay there with them instead of thinking, "Oh, they're working, I'll go get a head start on lunch."
When it's time to make lunch, I am going to try to stop their schoolwork, and then we should all leave the schoolroom and start setting up lunch together. Alternatively, if I need a little quiet time in my own head, I should send them on "break," while I set up lunch by myself or with just one child helper.
This also amounts to "quit multitasking," but on the family level. My thirteen-year-old is really the only one who can reliably be sent to do something -- be it his algebra or scrubbing a toilet -- and finish it without getting distracted. It's going to be fine to let him do his own thing. The rest of them really do need attention and guidance whenever they are given instructions.
So I'm going to try that today, just as soon as I make my to-do list.
Good thing I never count "...and nursing the baby" as multitasking, or I'd never get out of this chair.