Wednesday, July 12, 2017

How I'm getting things done these days

For the last few weeks, I've been checking more than usual off both my daily chores and my house project lists.  A big part of this, of course, is that Peter has a regular nap and bedtime routine that gives me some free evenings (and free hands during the day) and that we've gone almost two months without anyone needing antibiotics (!).  So there are certainly circumstantial reasons why the clean clothes are all currently folded and not in a heap on my bedroom floor.  

But even though it's easier to get things done, it still requires effort on my part.  I'm still prone to all my crazy reasons of procrastination (more here), but I've been repeating two mantras to myself, and those shifts in mindset have seemed to be a big help.

1) Don't wait until it can be completed perfectly to start.

This applies to both upkeep chores and renovation/crafty projects.  I was out in the backyard last week with the kids and felt annoyed that our back porch was still painted bright red, that the furniture was haphazardly placed there, and that it was so far from my mental (and Pinterest) image.  I knew there was a lot to be done, some of which probably won't be done this season.  But I finally decided to just trim the bush.  One tangible step towards the space being tamed and beautiful.  I immediately felt better about the whole area and more committed to making it more like my vision.

Within a few hours of my first clip, we were at Lowe's buying porch paint.  Credit for that trip to Anna, who caught wind of the project (and her mother's improvement enthusiasm) and asked to go to Lowe's "right now, mommy!"

Fast forward to the pretty pictures, and the porch is a much prettier, happier space.  I enjoy looking out my kitchen window.  We have had lovely mornings with our breakfast and library books out there.  Sure, there is more to be done.  But it was an important lesson in taking the first step towards a goal, and in recognizing that a space that is halfway towards what you want it is far more enjoyable than a space that is 0% of the way there.  

I'm trying to train myself to look at everything else this way.  We are planning to do a major kitchen renovation in a few years.  I used to resign myself to being dissatisfied with its form and function until then, but I've recently identified a few small things I can do to make it prettier and more operational.  I haven't even done these projects yet, but just knowing I can already makes me like my current kitchen more.

I've also tried to remember this rule in the typical day-to-day jobs, too.  I don't have to wait for a block of time sufficient to iron all the shirts to do one or two.  And, bite by bite, the elephant is eaten.

(reminiscent of the "use the moments" observation from this old post)

2) Obedience to the circumstances of my life.

We were listening to a Catholic radio broadcast in the car the other day, and the host was talking about obedience in daily life.  Many of us are familiar with the vows of priests and sisters, to poverty, chastity, and obedience.  This broadcast was talking about how these virtues are not exclusive to those in religious life, but rather are a calling for all Christians.  These virtues are, of course, manifest in different ways depending on ones state in life (celibacy for the religious and exclusivity for the married), but are not to be ignored by the laity.

I am not called to obedient to a bishop or superior in the same way that a priest or sister would be, but I am reminded of the story of St. Therese, who would drop her pencil mid-sentence (not even pausing to dot an i) when the bell chimed for prayer.  She was obedient to her obligations and responded promptly, even to the schedule.

The radio host was talking about the weather, and how we can be cheerfully obedient to whatever comes our way, accepting it without grumble.  I've extended this to my daily chores.  There is work to be done, and it is my responsibility to do it.  I'm working on silencing my inner grumble and doing whatever needs done promptly and cheerfully.  

As I was making my way through my copious ironing back-log today, I realized I would typically dig through the basket, looking for the things I enjoy doing to do first, leaving a pile of polo shirts at the end.  It became a bit of a game today, picking up what was on top and doing that immediately.  The whole process today was both quicker and happier.  This of course, is a simple and silly way of practicing obedience, but I'm hopeful that in emptying the training potty without interior complaint, I will learn to be obedient and accepting of actual challenge or suffering.


I think there's a Nike "Just Do It" hidden in both of these mindsets, and in both cases, it's requiring me to focus on the process and the progress over the end result.  I read last night that for effective goal setting, one should focus on the activity rather than the accomplishment (e.g., I will exercise everyday instead of I will lose 10 pounds).  I think that my most recent copy of my resume describes me as "results-oriented," but perhaps the new "progress oriented" version of myself will get me happily closer to those results than ever before.


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