As I work towards approaching my days with greater intention, I have to examine what it is that inhibits me from doing so. Some days I feel invigorated and I greet the day with a great sense of purpose, a "can do" attitude, and the energy to make it all happen. The best part about these days is that I feel more peaceful, I am more positive in my interactions with others, and I am able to handle bumps in my day with more grace. Some days I find it hard to get anything accomplished and I indulge myself in activities and behavior that are counterproductive. The worst thing about these days is not the outer chaos around me (though I am not a fan of having a messy house, dropping the proverbial ball on any number of commitments, running late, etc.), but rather the resulting inner chaos that seems to go hand in hand with the outer unrest. It is these days when I have very little patience and I am more apt to take it out on the people around me - especially the kids. Sure, everyone needs a day off now and then and I don't think that every day needs to be a veritable bastion of productivity. However, I haven't gotten myself to where I am now by just taking the occasional mental health day.
So upon reflection, I have identified what I think are the four things that I do - sometimes on their own and sometimes together - that stop me from enjoying those great days more often. This is how I live unintentionally.
1. Sleeping in
For me this means skipping my morning workout - something that I was very good about not doing until the last few weeks - and staying in bed until I have to get up to get the kids moving for school (with little to no time to spare). It may also mean hitting snooze on my alarm repeatedly. Often it means doing both of these things. Not only do I feel better and more energized after a workout, but I know that the kids and I all have a better start to the day when we have had the time - because we are up earlier - to move slowly in the morning and, quite honestly, putz around doing a bit of nothing.
2. Reading during the day
I absolutely love to read! I enjoy reading books that teach and energize me. I enjoy reading about different times and places. I enjoy reading books that show me a slice of someone else's life. And I admit to enjoying the occasional fluff book with no redeeming qualities other than its pure escapism and entertainment value. It is usually this last category of books that gets me into trouble. I can easily get sucked into a compelling story and all of a sudden I find that my day is gone. Either that, or I stay up ridiculously late finishing up a book because I just have to know how it ends.
3. Spending time online
As Rachel over at Small Notebook discussed so ably in a recent post, it is easy to find ourselves in inspiration overload and I certainly have the need to protect my time from too many good ideas. I find myself cruising the blogosphere and reading about all sorts of great things that I'd like to do - ideas about parenting, cool places to go, ideas about gardening, interesting activities, beautiful crafts to make, and more...oh so much more! When I spend way more time planning great things to do rather than actually doing them, that is a problem. Rachel has followed up her discussion about inspiration overload with a post about breaking up with old hobbies - it is well worth the read and I, for one, have some breaking up to do.
Need I say more?
Numbers one, two, and three on this list can be great things. Sleeping in occasionally is not only a treat, it is an important way to help me get much needed rest that often is lacking as the parent of young children. Reading is tremendously enjoyable and is the primary way that I treat myself to something just for me (something that is important for everyone and absolutely necessary, I think, for anyone who spends most of their time taking care of the needs of other people). Connecting with others through email, staying on top of world events, and finding inspiration in the blogosphere absolutely enhances my life. But I find - for me - that these things are only good in moderation and I can have a hard time keeping myself in check.
As for number four on the list - this one is the most troublesome and often can be found skipping hand in hand with my other time wasters. Sometimes I procrastinate because if I can't do something perfectly I don't want to do it at all. Sometimes I procrastinate because I would simply rather do something else. But procrastination really drags me down when it is a result of having so much to do that I don't know where to begin and I feel overwhelmed by the day ahead. If I allow me to psych myself out, then I just end up making the situation worse by putting off until later what I should be doing right now. For example - this week is a particularly busy one with a variety of commitments (more than usual) around here. Today I started the day knowing that I had a lot that needed to be accomplished. So how did I spend my morning? Feeling overwhelmed, floating around the house getting a few small things done here and there, flipping through a book, and sitting like a lump in front of the computer in my pajamas. Sure, I rallied eventually and got a lot done during the second half of the day. But still, I could have accomplished more and I would have felt better about my day had I just taken baby steps this morning.
For now I'm going to sit with these four things and see where this awareness takes me. There will certainly be more to share in the coming months. In the meantime, what are your time wasters and how do you keep yourself on track during the day?
"The perfect is the enemy of the good." ~Voltaire