Finding the Joy in the Small Tasks
I have always been a hard worker. When there is a task before me (well…maybe except for dishes or dusting), I usually approach it with a fierce gusto and get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
When I had my oldest son, I worked full-time until he was 18 months old. I didn’t feel like I got into a good rhythm with caring for him and keeping up with the housework until he was closer to 2 and I really hit my stride when he was about 4. We moved twice within that time frame and with each move, I got more and more organized. So when I started homeschooling him (we started with Preschool) I felt like I had a pretty good handle on things. Sure, I still struggled with a few day-to-day items…especially keeping up with the mail (paper clutter is still the WORST clutter that exists in my home today), but I felt more organized I had in years.
Then, I got pregnant with Dash. And when I was 7 months pregnant, we moved! This time, I ended up being on and off bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy so I had very little time to unpack or organize my home the way I wanted. Add a newborn to the mix and you can pretty much forget about organization, housework, and any other life task that does not consist of feeding babies, changing diapers, or not sleeping.
Dash is almost 6 months old now (where has the time gone!?!?!) and I feel like I’m beginning a return to a more normal routine. Except it doesn’t look anything at all like it did before. It’s amazing what having 5 years in between children does to your memory of infant care. I knew it was demanding but I forgot just how little time there was to do anything BUT infant care! I purposefully planned a school break for Ace during the first few months after Dash was born because I knew that I would need time to learn what it takes to fit it all in. But figuring that out has been challenging to say the least.
I used to find joy in setting a big goal and then working at it straight through until it was accomplished. I might decide to clean the entire house, or deep clean the bathrooms (grout scrubbing and all), or plan out our entire school year’s worth of lessons, or complete a very involved school activity. And I wouldn’t stop until it was finished. So naturally, when Dash would go down for a nap, I would make a big goal for myself and set to work. Only to be interrupted 30-60 minutes in by him waking up. This would frustrate me to no end and often leave a bigger mess than when I started since I never finished the task. [Side note: I’m firmly convinced kids have this built-in productivity and relaxation sensor. As soon as they detect that you are sitting down to relax and enjoy some quiet time (or eat that delicious whatever-it-is that you’ve been saving), or get something super productive done, they feel an urgent need to stop that from happening immediately. Am I right??]
Then one day, it hit me. Life has changed for me! Someday, I will be able to go back to accomplishing my big goals in one fell swoop. But that day is not today, not tomorrow, not even next year. AND THAT’S OKAY! Rather than keep trying to fit my old life patterns into my new life situation, I need to adjust my paradigm. I still need to feel productive. Ace still needs school. My house still needs to be cleaned. But it can’t happen the old way. I need to find a new way and, more importantly, I need to find the joy in the small tasks.
So now, I take my big goal and break it into small chunks; chunks that can be accomplished in 20 minutes or less. And I work my butt off for those 20 minutes because that’s all I might get. But then I’ve checked something off my to-do list instead of feeling like I will never, ever accomplish anything. Here’s an example of what this looks like for me:
Old Goal: Clean the bathroom
- Clean the toilet
- Clean the sink/mirrors
- Clean the tub
- Sweep and mop the floor/change the mats
Of course, I still wish I could just clean the whole bathroom and have done with it. I love the feeling of something being completely clean (and not just one step-at-a-time clean.) But now I have the satisfaction of actually getting something done!!! I don’t know about you but when I can check something off my to-do list (even if it’s just a mental list), I feel like a champ. And that does wonders for my mental and emotional well-being.
For school, this means that, while I plan out our lessons, I think of that schedule as an outline rather than a must-do. We may not get through all of our formal lessons, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t capitalize on learning moments throughout the day. And there’s always tomorrow. It just means that I have given myself, my kids, and my homeschool GRACE. And in this high-pressured world we live in, that’s something we all need.
On top of all this, I recently discovered this new way of scheduling called Loop Scheduling (read a post about it here from Proverbial Homemaker). This dovetails exactly into what I’m trying to do in my life. It’s perfect…you just add things to a rotating list and you work to accomplish whatever is next on that list without pressure or stress. Since I just found out about this, I’m still working on exactly how to incorporate it into our life but it makes so much sense.
We moms, especially homeschool moms, will always feel like there are more things to get done than there is time to do them. But being able to turn those to-do lists into something manageable will go a long way to helping us feel more productive and successful. And that will help us find the joy, not just in the small tasks, but in day-to-day life as well!
What do you do to fit it all in? I would love to hear your tips and ideas!