Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rethinking Productivity

If you read my last post, you know that Matt and I didn’t have a very busy summer. I wish could say that we accomplished a lot with both of us at home every day; that we didn’t just sit around and do nothing for 6 weeks. Well, that’s pretty much what happened and before I knew it we were in our last week of summer, and all I could think about was all the productivity I missed out on by allowing myself to relax.

So in response to my little end-of-summer freak-out, I decided that when Matt went back to work I would get right back into my jam-packed days of cooking, cleaning, and yes, even showering on a strict schedule. On Monday morning I was up, showered, and had dinner in the crockpot before Reese was even awake. I then proceeded to spend the morning jumping back and forth between cleaning the house and playing games with her. After lunch we headed out to run an unnecessary amount of errands. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we went to 7 different places. I thought I would be so excited to finally have such a productive day, but by the time we got home I didn’t feel any better. In fact, I felt worse because I failed to give Reese my full attention all morning and then I dragged her all over town all afternoon. This is not how I want to start a new year.

Talk about two opposite extremes! I bet I did more in 10 hours on Monday than I did all summer. I shouldn’t be surprised though because I have always been this way. That’s why I always force myself to go 100 miles an hour – because the more I have to do, the faster I do it, and the less I have to do, the more I just sit around doing nothing at all. The overwhelming feeling of extreme busyness motivates me to the point that I create reasons to stay busy (like believing that I need to run 7 errands in one day) just so my life doesn’t fall flat (like having nothing to show for an entire summer). Ironically, I chose to stay home full-time so I wouldn’t miss out on a single moment of Reese’s life, but I rarely slow down enough to be fully present in those moments anyway.

I always thought that letting go of my schedule would mean flying by the seat of my pants all the time with no plan and no consistency. I have to remember that I don’t need to completely let it go in order to get some relief. There is a middle ground somewhere. I just need to separate the necessary (showering and meal planning) from the unnecessary (this is the last time I’ll mention that I ran 7 errands in one day… with a toddler). I also need to remember that spending time with Reese is the single most productive thing I can do in a day. That’s the most important part. I have to stop thinking of Reese as a distraction from my to-do list and start thinking of my to-do list as a distraction from Reese. Sure, I still have to make time to fold some laundry, dust some shelves, and cook some meals but there’s no reason to be doing all of that in one day (or to get down on myself if there are days where I don't do any of it). 

Over the past two months, we spent every day as a family, nurturing our marriage and our relationship with Reese. We taught her a bunch of cute things (like when we say “what’s on your belly?” and she says “a button.” I love that one). We went to the pool and the zoo, visited my family, and took an awesome vacation. We took a lot of pictures and made a lot of special memories. In the end, I even had time left over to learn a valuable lesson. When you look at it that way, I guess I did have a productive summer after all.

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