Monday, March 7, 2016

Gimme a break…

When you hear the phrase, gimme a break, it may bring a few things to mind: the memory of an old sitcom, a television commercial about a candy bar, or that instant reaction you have when something just doesn’t go your way.

Or, maybe you just really need a break.

My response to that phrase is mostly the fourth option – you know what I mean? When you feel as if you need a time out - for a whole day or even a whole week - so you can just figure out how to get caught up on everything?

I wrote, recently, about staying focused when it comes to finding a way to reach our goals.  Specifically for me, the goals I’m usually writing about involve…well, writing and my continued journey as a published author. And I also recently wrote about what I did to help myself when it comes to writing so that I can do better about staying on task weekly, monthly and even yearly. But when it comes to other areas in my life: work, home, family, when I can go on vacation again, those too involve goals that require some focus so I don’t get lost in the sea of to-do lists.

But how do we find the time, energy and ability to focus well in all areas and also reach specific goals when it comes to each area?

That is the question of the day.

My focus for the past few months has had to continuously shift from many important areas: the needs of my high school senior who will soon graduate before moving on to college; the needs of a family member who I am assisting as she battles a life-threatening illness; and the demands of a job where hands on deck have been slim and duties far outweigh the available hours in the day. This is in addition to keeping up with a writing schedule, taking care of my family, the house and myself; while making day-to-day decisions we always hope will keep us healthy, wealthy and wise. 

Time management has been an on-going issue ever since I took on a full time job right about the time I also first became a published author, and I will always try to learn new tricks and tips that might offer some benefits. Even going back to some old posts I wrote myself has been helpful…and in reviewing those about time management I came across this one about being productive versus just being busy. Part of that post involved ideas on how to stay on task, including making lists to stay on track. Anyone who knows me knows I love to make lists.  So what I decided to do was to use that idea to begin making lists of the “have to’s” and “want to’s” in my daily life, involving, writing, health, home, and family. Oddly enough, the lists aren’t huge. Some items are obvious and easily managed on a daily basis out of routine while others I could easily accomplish after a little more time in order to form a habit.

However, one list in particular has really grown…and that would be my projects under a “want to” list. 

When I wrote recently about decluttering, I started out with the intention of cleaning each room and removing/getting rid of items I no longer need or want.  But since I started the process, the act has brought on a revelation for me that I’m sure I knew, but just never really saw until I made “the list.” And it was pretty much a ‘gimme a break’ moment. The revelation is that I have so many unfinished projects, with some that began many years ago and I may have kept up with them for quite some time, but I haven’t been able to find the time to stay on course or actually complete them.  Examples include: a scrapbook from our last road trip, organizing photos for the past four years, finishing a quilt out of completed cross stitched patterns, painting a few more ceramic houses to add to my Christmas village, completing a scrapbook for my writing projects and so on, and so on. 

Actually, I could find the time to complete one or two projects, but when there are too many to choose from, it becomes much more difficult to choose wisely from the list while finding time out of the few precious moments of every day. 

This is where my need for a break came in…but taking a day off from life won’t help me shrink that project list without causing me anxiety in other areas of my life, especially since it’ll take more than a day or two. My next task is to narrow down that project list to what I really want to complete, and what I can actually do without completing. Then I’ll pick a project based on its importance, begin from there, and once I finish with one, I’ll move on to the next. Some may take only a day or two while others may take a few weeks since items on my “have to” and other “want to” lists will always come first. 

While this project of putting together a task list to complete these projects wouldn’t be called taking a break, it will eventually give me more time to manage what’s important if I’m able to prioritize tasks, make sense of what’s essential, and recognize what can wait, or what doesn’t need to be done at all.  

The result of this project as a whole should give me the ultimate prize…some extra time to take more breaks and eventually I’ll also be clearing the clutter.  

I hope you also find some extra time to call your own – have a great week!

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