Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Do it Anyway

*Caution* Long post with run-on sentences. 

This post falls under the category "I don't claim to be an expert, but someone asked, so here's my answer." :)

This what I came up with when someone asked me "how I found the time" to do what I do.  Though not completely comprehensive, it's a beginning and enough people wonder how to do all they want to that I thought it was worth sharing.  I remember reading that Mothering Magazine article featuring my favorite blog authors and wondering the same thing.  A lot of how I changed what I did revolved around Angelo and hearing how someone else applied all of those anti-perfectionism, time management strategies I'd read about helped me to make the most of my time.

I've worked it all in over the years rather than all at once and one of my
secrets is taking advantage of the "5 minute step". Through lots of reading, I
realized that I'm a perfectionist by nature and I was avoiding doing a lot of
things because I couldn't do it "perfectly" because I didn't have a big enough
space of time or the right place to do something. So, I fight that urge and
just do it anyway. Maybe I only have time to clear the dining room table or
pull out some supplies and then have to move on, but I'm that much closer to
getting something that's really important to me done. Though I have a
dedicated space for my creative pursuits, it is in the attic, and most of our
day is spent 2 floors down, so it is sometimes easier to have 1 or 2 steps
pulled out downstairs for art stuff... and then it becomes part of
homeschooling. :) When Angelo was younger, I'd have one or two steps pulled out and on top of the washer and dryer, where he couldn't reach.

Also, I have decided that what fills my time is what's important to me, so if
there's some time where my son is playing and my husband is watching TV, I'll
write a blog post, list things on Etsy or edit photos, etc. If I miss a yoga or
belly dance class, then my body tells me that was not a good move. If I have an
art project I want to make, it drives me crazy until I get to, so I have to
listen to myself or I get cranky. I figure that's not good for my family, so I
make sure it gets done. I usually only have one show a season that I care about
watching and record it so I can watch when I'm ready and I spend very little
time watching random videos or reading random stuff on the internet. I'm also
working hard to use what we have here, so I spend less time shopping (including
on-line shopping). 

My house is only totally clean when we invite people
over, so a super clean house is not a priority all the time. ;) I ask my
husband and son to help out, and once I ask, then it's not my job anymore. Though sometimes I end up doing something anyway, it helps me to feel less pressure about it getting done.   
If it gets bad, then I just take it one step at a time and other stuff gets put on
hold. But, even housecleaning can suffer from perfectionism. sometimes I just
sweep the dirt and stuff from under the edges of the cabinets/furniture into a
pile to be dealt with later or clean the bathroom sink with a wet washcloth and
call it good for now.

Part of why I wanted to homeschool is so we can follow our own rhythms and a
schedule that works for us. There's no homework or tests to prepare for and for
now, no soccer practice, etc. We go to museums or the park or zoo when it's good
for us.  Now that Angelo is 4, and even a good deal before now, he plays on his own a sufficient amount of time for me to get a thing or two done throughout the day (sometimes that thing is vacuuming or dusting, but he loves to help with that stuff too). I've found some activities for him in my studio and he asks to go up to the attic.  There he's made necklaces, played with piles of vintage buttons, put pins in the pin cushion, put thumbtacks into cardboard, drawn at his easel, set up pieces in patterns on a chessboard, arranged dominos, colored, stamped (with washable ink), dusted the gears in my sewing machine, sat and spun on a lazy suzan (which apparently will not be used for storing supplies anytime soon), and more all while chatting with me.  I feel creativity and DIY skills are important for everyone and by modeling for my son and giving him the opportunity to be creative and get comfortable around the supplies and activities, I feel it helps him build important skill sets that will allow him to problem solve, be more self-sufficient, process emotions, heal himself, build self-esteem, and express his true self (along with building fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination).  That's another reason it is "easier" for me to work in what I do, because I truly see the importance in doing these things.  

Another thing that works for us (except for the punitive time-outs) are many of the methods in "Happiest Toddler on the Block".  Things like "filling his cup first", "making sure he knows he is heard in language he understands", etc.  For example, I've written this post in at least 7 different bursts to take swinging and "Tickle Monster" breaks. Being Mom is my #1 job, and doing things that keep me healthy and happy help me do that job.  For example, Yoga keeps me flexible in body and mind and the more I do, the more I can adjust to life as it changes, as it always does.  When I can accept changes and adapt, I spend less energy agonizing and more time doing.

I started sewing and belly dancing in high school and doing yoga shortly after,
so I'm not learning that from the ground up, which takes more time than when
you're adding to your skill set, I think.  This makes me think of something I heard on Oprah once, "You can have it all, just not all at once".  So, what I'm saying is that if you're interested in adding more x, y, and z to your life, start with x.  :) 

Focus on tiny, manageable steps, one at a time.  And focus on getting done, not making something perfect.  Procrastination is a form of perfectionism.

Something I hear a lot when people say they don't have the time to do something, it's because they are tired after work or because of sleepless nights (or afternoons) with a little one or because they are putting a ton of energy into things that don't give back, like someone else's drama or a volunteer position that requires more energy than they have.  So, first, take 5 minutes to meditate to re-set your brain and mental energy.  Keep doing that every day.  If 5 minutes is too much, try 30 seconds.  I know you have that! :)  This habit will also allow you to put life a little more into focus.  

Where are you putting your time and energy?  Is it where it is most important to you or is it where you think others expect you to put it?  Are you doing what you are doing because you've been told that's what you "should" do or because it truly makes a difference in the quality of your life.  I don't have those answers for you, but you do, so listen for them.  Write them down.  Write a few lines in a journal (or on a napkin and tape them into a journal); write a few more.  You can change your life by shifting your focus.  It can be gradual.  One day you'll wake up and say, "yes, this is what I wanted".  Something that led me to how I live my life today is something Jill Parker said to me at her intensive in D.C.- "become crystal clear about what you want."  Turns out that what I thought I wanted, wasn't what I truly wanted or needed for my path.
Not that I am never fatigued- that is not the case at all.  But, now I am better able to focus the energy I have where I want it rather than sending it out to places that don't return that energy.  For the times I am fatigued and can't really think that well, I have some things to do that are "mindless", but still get me closer to whatever goals I have: cutting apart collage images, throwing in one load of laundry with no intentions of folding or putting it away anytime in the foreseeable future, painting or inking one color of a background, folding/smoothing and putting away the recycling that will work for art supplies (you see where my priorities lie), putting supplies away in my clearly marked, organized studio (crucial for those quick one-step in and out visits), printing collage images, embroidering while on my nice comfy couch while I watch my show or a goofy movie, etc.  

You may say to yourself, "but I have a full time job, and she works from home, I can't possibly do this."  First, I maintain that TV/lost in internet world/couch time can be spent "doing what you want" (more yoga, dance, other creative pursuits) and that the "5 minute step" gets you closer to completion every time.  (Maybe you could take a tiny step of an art project to work and spend 5 minutes of your lunch break on it, for example.)

Through lots of soul searching, worrying about money, etc. I've gone through the following to help our family's income: from a full time OT and 1 class/week belly dance teacher, to part-time OT and full time belly dancer to full time belly dancer and studio owner (primary teacher in many subjects) to Mom and belly dancer to Mom, visual artist, and belly dancer to Mom, visual artist and "mindful spender"/DIY'er (and thinking of maybe possibly teaching a belly dance class soon).  

It was never an easy decision to change from one role to another, but each change was preceded by a calling inside me that said "it's time".  This subject, especially working less to spend less money (that may sound wrong, but in reality if you spend a lot of time working, then you spend a lot of money for convenience items and child care) and more time with family, making what you need if you can (or acquiring those skills), and using what you have is covered in depth in Radical Homemakers.  Part of why I make things is so we don't have to buy them.  And I get the satisfaction of making them. If I spend less money, I spend less time shopping and time having to promote my business.  Another reason I home school is so I don't have to pay for private tuition (I've posted before why public school is not for us).  Even by making gifts for people, I not only get to show appreciation for them through my effort and heart, I don't spend as much money.  Personally, I'd rather receive something from someone's heart and hands than a commercially made item.  *Note to husband:  please do not try to make me a really fancy digital camera so I can post prettier pictures here... *ahem*   (yep, I still think about it) ;)

So, to sum up: get more time by cutting out things that don't contribute to what you really want to do; do what you want to do (that you thought you didn't have time for) even if you're tired, you feel guilty, you don't have the perfect set up or amount of time, or you think someone expects you to do something else.  

This became a blog post because someone asked me a question on an art swap group I just joined. That's another way I "multi-task". If
someone asks me a question, I use my answer as a post. :) I've wanted to do a
post like this anyway and I will add the books below that have helped me: 

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