Here we are, with one day left in Christmas and the first Monday in January upon us.
I didn't blog over the holidays, and I'm ready to start up again. I decided to dig back into my past year to look for old posts that I can update. Why not start with last year's resolutions, and see how I did?
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In February last year, my baby was about six weeks old. It was too late to make New Year's Resolutions, so I decided to make New Baby's Resolutions instead:
I am now thinking that a really great time for a resolution -- a shaking up of the old routines and a turning over of a new leaf -- is several weeks after the birth of a new baby.
Because you know what?
There's no going back to the way things were before.
I might as well formalize it....
Mostly, this post was about how I realized I needed to cut back the amount of work I do -- lowering my own standards for productivity -- while I was pregnant and with a new baby. I started in that post with New Baby's Resolution Zero, and continued through a few others.
New Baby Resolution 0: to recognize and honor all my priorities. (I identified thirteen).
New Baby Resolution 1: to keep in mind the priorities that don't fit into a schedule:
I drew a vertical line down a sheet of paper. To the right I made a list of the things "There's A Time For." Meals and chores and the like, a rough schedule marked out by hours.
But to the left, outside of the schedule, I made a list of things to strive for "All The Time:"
- Serving God in everything
- Showing each other LOVE, INTEREST, & DELIGHT in one another
- Anticipating/resolving conflict by modeling KINDNESS, GENEROSITY, & REASON
- Helping each other work by teaching DILIGENCE
These all have to do with keeping a certain intentional attitude while taking care of all the busy-ness of the day.
Resolution one is to keep these in mind as all-the-time intentions, and find ways to do each thing -- to spend each "time" -- that honors these priorities all day long.
I hope to revisit these a bit. I had a bit of success with intentions, but less of that came from this resolution than from some reading I did from the works of St. Francis de Sales.
New Baby's Resolution 2: Simplifying the list of things that there are "times" for.
Better to re-formulate the categories and condense them, without micromanaging the details. Mother Teresa's rule for her sisters famously included time blocks that were simply labeled things like "Work for the poor." It wasn't subdivided into individual tasks. I need the same generality categories, because in this season of life, I need to stay flexible. At a particular time in the afternoon, I may need to spend some time homemaking, but I don't want to say "laundry at this time, bed-making at this other time, return phone calls from then until the next time." I need the flexibility to do whatever household task is most important and then let the rest of the to-do list go when I have to move on to some other activity.
So what I came up with was this list:
Things we make "times" for
- Taking care of body and clothing
- Learning time
Much simpler, isn't it?
...Rest, meals, learning, work, self-care, activities. To everything there is a time. And each of these to be met, all the time: in a spirit of service, loving one another, peacefully, diligently.
New Baby's Resolution 3: Know how much time I have in the day. I subtracted off time for rest and stuff, and calculated that on a typical day at home I have 4 h 45 minutes to knock stuff off my to-do list (not counting teaching). Then I resolved
- to stop pretending I can somehow stretch those 285 minutes out;
- to value them, and try not to waste them;
- to quit berating myself for not doing more than I could reasonably have done in those minutes;
- to decide what tasks to use them for, and then to delegate the rest or let them go.
I think all these still stand pretty well.
New Baby's Resolution 4. This was a pretty nebulous resolution, "Don't get bogged down in scheduling specific tasks." At the time, I resolved to think of tasks in broad categories, and planning to "schedule" the categories instead: work for schooling, work for the family, work for others, and creative work. The problem I was trying to solve with it is my tendency to beat myself up over departing from my specific plans, even when I do so for a good reason.
Back then, commenter Jenny sent me to a blog post at Amongst Lovely Things called "Looping: Task Management for the (Recovering) Type A Mom". That post helped me a lot as I planned out the rest of my school year, including this year: several of my 3rd- and 5th-graders' subjects are arranged this way, and it's worked out great. I think maybe this coming year I will try to figure out how to use it for some of my other recurring tasks, and for my sadly-neglected creative outlets. I'm going to revisit it soon.
New Baby's Resolution 5. "Quit multitasking."
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.
This is a great resolution. So great that, I, um, need to make it again.
Bonus Nifty To-Do Trick. I started making my to-do list on an index card instead of a whole piece of paper, to force myself to keep it short.
Guess what: This mini-resolution has stuck, probably permanently:
That's from this morning. As you can see, I'm still on task #1.
On the left side of the index card, by the way, are some notes about what I can expect to happen today (especially things that might derail me) and a short list of faults I am hoping to avoid (anger, irritation, procrastination). I think I'll revisit this soon, too.
I do keep a longer, running to-do list on Wunderlist and also schedule time-sensitive things on my calendar. The index card is just for daily concerns. I can throw it out at the end of the day, whether everything on it is done or not. Works great.
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I have to say that although the details didn't work out exactly as I'd planned, the past year -- particularly the school-support-work part of it -- has been going astoundingly well.
Practically every time I sit down for end-of-the-day tea with H, with our three babies toddling around at our feet, we look at each other and say: "I can't believe how well this is going." The two of us really scaled back our expectations for what we can accomplish with babies underfoot, and -- lo and behold -- we seem to have actually set realistic, achievable ones.
In my own home, I pushed most of my weekly schoolwork prep (including recordkeeping and grading) to Saturday afternoons, resolving not to let it bleed into Sunday. I gave myself a deadline, and I found that I can get the essentials taken care of in two or three hours of focused work.
(Mind you, I used a lot of the summer to put together a whole-year, big-picture plan for each subject. So this isn't all my planning, just the setup and takedown of each week's work: making photocopies, writing out assignments, grading papers, and the like.)
I lowered my standards -- and life is better for everyone.
Maybe you should resolve, in 2015, to lower your standards too!