A little more than two years ago, when my fifth baby was small, I wrote a series of February posts about resolutions -- not belated New Year's resolutions, not early Lenten resolutions, but "new baby's resolutions." I knew that our lives had been upended, yet again, and I couldn't go back to spending my time the way I'd been spending it; I needed to reset my priorities.
- Resolution zero was to figure out what my priorities were.
- Resolution one was to identify "unscheduled" intentions, priorities that I wanted to keep in mind all the time. Delight in the children, kindness, diligence, etc.
- Resolution two was to simplify the list of things I had to make time for. I got it down to six things: rest, self-care and clothing, meals, learning time, outside activities, and work. I defined work as "stuff I might put on a to-do list."
- Resolution three was to know and accept the limits on my time. Subtracting the predictable duration of the other categories, I estimated I had 4.75 hours each day in which I could choose to "work."
- Resolution four was -- ahh, it didn't work very well. Best forget that one. But what did work well was making my to-do lists on index cards, so as to keep them short.
- Resolution five was to quit multitasking. It worked well. I should have kept it. But I didn't keep it.
I've been getting overwhelmed again, and (more importantly) unhappy with life's balance. I "wasted" a couple of mornings in the last week or two, sitting outside in the spring weather with a book and sunglasses while my two-year-old played in the sandbox. I liked it. I decided I needed to do it more. I decided that I have been working all the time again and I need to put a stop to it. End of the school year is as good a time as any.
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So, I mentioned a couple of months ago being in therapy. I went for about a year, and then just recently I decided to stop and see if I felt like I still needed or wanted it. But I'm still trying to put into practice some of the recommendations -- the mindfulness exercises, for one thing, and also the therapist suggested I make time for myself to blog, as a sort of grounding exercise, probably because I kept talking about how much I wanted to get back in the habit. Anyway, it's clear to me that I need to spend some dedicated time on my mental health, on my interior life, on examining my priorities.
So I adjusted my "six things to spend time on."
I decided to chop it up a little bit differently this time, based on relationships. Here's what I came up with:
(What's that? "Top-level homemaking?" That's stuff I can't or won't delegate. The kids can load the dishwasher and pick up the floor and even cook dinner. I'm going to be the one making the grocery list and scheduling the pediatrician.)
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Then I sat down and worked out time requirements.
Eight hours of sleep. Thirty minutes each for meals (I realized shortly after this that "breakfast" is almost exclusively in the green "me alone" box -- win.) I probably get to sit with Mark having coffee or after dinner for an hour a day. Forty-five minutes for getting up and dressed in the morning. Activities, let's say two and a half hours. Five hours a day for schoolwork.
I subtracted those things and left myself with five-and-a-quarter hours per day. Then I took a deep breath and committed one of those hours to "mental health" activity: mindfulness, blogging, Mass maybe, priority-setting. Remaining for work: 4.25 hours, that is, 255 minutes, which feels nice because of all the 8-bit NES games I played as a child.
That's a bit less than I figured back in 2014, which is fine. Good, even.
The 4.25 hours is really only for Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. I employed a very rough estimate to figure out the work time for the other days of the week:
- 2 hours on Mondays
- 3.25 hours on Thursdays
- 3 hours on Saturdays
- 2.5 hours (from after dinner to bedtime) on Sundays
Add all that up and you get... 20.5 hours a week. So, about twenty. It turns out that my "work" is a part-time job. Not counting the teaching-the-children part of homeschooling, which brings it up to full time.
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So, my idea here is a little bit more ruthless than the last idea.
Last time, I was going to use my knowledge -- how many minutes in the day -- to stop feeling bad about all the stuff that I tried to get done but couldn't. That actually worked pretty well -- I've done a better job of letting go of the things I didn't get to. I still tried mightily to cram in as much as I could, and if I had extra time I always put it into work.
This time, I want to use my will. Not just to stop feeling bad... but to stop.
I want to use those times to set a ceiling, not a floor.
If it's Tuesday, and I've been school planning for four hours, I need to wrap it up and go outside with a good book and an iced tea. Or read somebody a story.
And if I don't work for four hours, I need to let it go.
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The other thing I want to do is make sure that I hit that "mental health" requirement. One hour -- before the work starts.
So this is sort of a dual resolution: Before I "clock in" and try to polish things off my to-do list, I want to spend an hour every day on my own mental and spiritual health -- not resting exactly, but thinking about the things that help me keep perspective.
And at the end of the time I've decided to allow myself, even if I'm not done, I want to "clock out" -- put the work away and not return to it till the next day.
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I'm not sure I have the self-discipline to do this. It requires thinking ahead and prioritizing. I mean, there are some things I need to get done. I've already committed to writing a chemistry test for next week, for example. And I have... uh... sixteen work hours between now and when it has to be ready. I mean, that should be plenty for doing the chemistry test, but I have other things too. So I'm going to have to budget my time.
And (quick back of the envelope calculation) there are about 240 work hours between now and the start of school in the fall. Is that enough to set everything up? I don't know! I guess it will have to do!
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Well, I wrote a blog post. It took more than an hour. I guess I'll deduct from my Saturday work time. Let's hope nobody minds having waffles for dinner.