I was talking with my best friend yesterday, and he said I ought to write a post about things that I am currently struggling with. So here goes.
I teach a religion course to 15 young men and women ages 14-16. I teach this course 5 days/week at 5:50 in the morning. I am working full-time as a nanny for Elena and her family. I am trying to get my consulting business off the ground. I am trying to maintain personal relationships (which are not easy for me in the first place) with friends and with my boyfriend - all of those but 1 are long-distance relationships. I am trying to learn how to connect with my siblings and nieces and nephews better.
Each of these needs daily time from me. Here's my problem. I start one, and because it is unfinished, I cannot stop. I do not stop doing something until it is done. If I don't finish everything I need to do for the seminary class, I keep working on it. Then I do nothing else. Or I'll work on my business and work on my database for consultations - but nothing else gets a moment of attention. I do not know how to multitask.
In struggling with this, the thought hit me multiple times that I don't know how to organize myself very well. But then I looked at my notebook in front of me. I saw myself organized every-which-way. I was organized by the difficulty of the task, by the time it would take, by the date it was due, by the date I was first told about it, by the number of steps it would take to complete.....
I was overly organized. The problem is that I complicate everything because I think and consider everything that could possibly affect it. Then I am left with a mess of lists, 45 minutes spent on working out how to work, and still no clear headway on what to do and how to accomplish it all. My head was aching and I felt like I was standing in front of the bread isle after being asked to "go get a loaf of bread." I was paralyzed by the options and did not want to make the wrong choice.
Then my Justin called. After 10 minutes from him everything was right with the world. He pulled me out of the details and helped me be general. He helped me organize my list according to priority of importance. Then helped me get subcategories for each list, again in priority of importance. Then helped me "see" what multitasking looks like. He told me to put my headset on, grab my laundry basket and get my laundry started.
Then he reminded me to set a timer to pull me out of whatever project I'm in when it was time to change the load of laundry. Then we sat down and started to work on the first thing on my list together. After accomplishing the first couple of things on my list, I was feeling overwhelmed again. There were still so many things to do on that list!
Justin could sense my frustration and asked me to tell him what else was on the list. After a moment of me reading off 6 or 7 things, he interrupted me and asked me to do a little differently. He asked me to read over the list to see if anything else on that list could be accomplished right now or if it had to wait for some other work to be completed first. Nothing else could be done in that moment. "Okay. Now we move on to the next section of the list."
It was so hard for me to turn the page, knowing I had so many unfinished tasks. I could not put it down easily. But I did, and began to work on the next list. It was a struggle for me to "shift gears" if you will. My brain was still in seminary mode and now I had to stop and go into work mode. That was hard. As I began working on work stuff, Justin had to go. Before he hung up, he reminded me to check on my clothing in the washer...I had already forgotten about it and about setting a timer.
I asked myself why I didn't set the timer. The answer, it's too much to do. Meaning, I had too many other gadgets on my phone. If I opened up the box of worms, I'd dump them all out and get messy again. So I didn't set a timer. I instead accomplished very little because my brain was on watching the clock to make sure I got to the washer in time. Which is silly. Now, writing this, I think, "Good grief! What do I think is going to happen if I don't get the laundry into the dryer right when the washer is done? It's okay if it sits for 10 minutes while I finish up the task I am working on." But I was nervous the whole time. I had given myself a task and I needed to complete it.
Anyhow, I made a few discoveries in thinking about this experience, as well as still making them as I write about it. First of all, I know the list will never be accomplished. In the past I had the mentality of, "Well, it may never be accomplished, but I'm going to die trying." Literally. On average, I have literally 2-3 nights every week that I do not sleep because I am trying so hard to accomplish everything on my list. The other 4-5 nights I only get about 4 hours of sleep, sometimes less. All in the name of getting that list to completion. It's silly! But there is something in me that says I cannot relax and play because my work is not done.
Wednesday "night" when I finally laid down to go to sleep, it was nearly 7 a.m. on Thursday morning. I was up and going by 9 a.m. I had a lot of work to accomplish and I was going to do it all! A little later a very dear friend texted me something exciting, and I called her to hear all about it. She invited me over. We had what she called a "pajama day." And we literally hung out in her home in our pajamas all day long. Thursday night, as I was readying for bed, I found myself thinking about the day. I didn't accomplish everything I wished to accomplish. But it was a wonderfully productive day in terms of my spirit and my heart. I did get some work done, but most of the work that was done was learning to let go and just be in the moment. It was a great lesson.
I also discovered that simple gadgets are best. I love to have the complicated ones and figure them out - or try to. But for practical use, I need simple. I need to get a simple timer that has only a couple of buttons, nothing fancy or complicated. When it comes to practical use of devices, simple is better.
I use my iPhone for everything from my alarm clock to my gps. I also get very frustrated with the amount of things I don't get accomplished. It's because I get caught up in what I'm doing on the iPhone and don't realize that what I'm doing isn't even the reason I pulled it out. Simple is better if I want to accomplish tasks. The more complicated and away from nature it gets, the more work and struggle I have.
If I really want to be able to be functional on a multitask level, then I have to simplify my gadgets and I have to be okay with accomplishing a few tasks in each column everyday. I have to shift my paradigm from having my tasks completed today to having completed my tasks for the day. We'll see how it goes. Wish me luck! (I'm going to need it.)
Organized is good. Simple is better. Taking a balance of time for work and time for play is best. There is plenty of time to work and if I don't make the time to connect with those around me, then I will never feel connected to them. Simple. Basic. Elemental. This is the thing to remember. When I find myself overwhelmed by it all, I'm probably in the details too much and need help getting out and back to the general level. Basic, general in practice and in theory and in everyday life.