When it comes to making the most of my time, I am my own worst enemy. Truth be told, I have the attention span of a toddler. Things start off strong but I end up bored and distracted and eventually wander off. This lack of long-term focus has dogged me my entire life. I was always the kid reading the book the day before the report was due. Despite penning copious vacation to-do lists, I end up packing the night before we leave. And who needs to keep the house tidy when you can wait until someone is on their way over to fly into a panic induced cleaning frenzy?
The kicker is . . . at work I’m uber-organized. I manage calendars, schedule meetings and am the primary assistant to an agency director, department director and a fifteen member Board. Minutes, meeting notes, policies, binders and reports are maintained with OCD precision. I color code, alphabetize and can tell if someone has used my stapler by the manner in which it was returned to my desk without placing it at a 90 degree angle with the corner. Organization is a measurement in which I am consistently graded high during evaluations.
But they pay me. They can fire me. Maintaining income is quite an incentive. Do you think I’m going to be replaced at home? There are no union scabs waiting in line to fill the position of washing dishes, mowing the lawn and folding laundry. I could only hope for such a demotion. I attribute this contradiction of being on point at work and lackluster at home to somehow inheriting both of my parent’s management styles.
My mother marks productivity much like Chinese Dynasties. She is an incredibly talented woman but focuses intensely on a specific project for a finite amount of time. Then as quickly as it arrived, it is gone. There was the year of the afghan in which every single extended family member received a crocheted Chevron pattern afghan in their favorite colors (before Chevron patterns were the rage). There was the wool hat period that involved an extensive multi-step process of felting with scalding hot water and shaping over soup pots. They were such a hit that she started selling them for a hundred bucks a piece. And who could forget the era of the knitted socks. Not only were these foot cozies soft and warm but sported incredibly complicated patterns. Have you ever tried to knit two socks with stripes that align perfectly when holding your feet together? My point being, she dives head first into each project and comes up completely exhausted never wanting to jump into that pool again. This may explain my two cross stitching projects. One beautifully hung and the other unfinished in a craft basket by the couch.
My Dad, however, was full-time military and all about being prepared ahead of time. I have vivid memories of shoes shined to the point you could apply your make-up in the reflection. They were lined up on the floor of his closet which was divided into the section for his uniforms and the section for his “civies”. Those were then divided even further into pants, shirts, short sleeves and long sleeves. He labels everything in his shop and divides screws and washers by size placing them in clear jars that are attached to a large magnetic board by their metal tops. And he exists in perpetual motion. Don’t put off ’til tomorrow what you can do today. This may explain my need to place everything in a line and feel guilty for taking a day off work.
Much like the light and dark that joined to create Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, my parents different styles collided to create an organizational enigma that is my life. And given my once dedicated free time with my teenager has been whittled down by school activities, summer jobs and hanging out with friends, I feel an unfamiliar sense of urgency to get my ducks in a row. So, my first order of business is to . . . well, get in order.
After much thought and observation, I have found there are three bad habits that consistently suck the hours out of my days. They are:
Distraction: The biggest culprit comes via my cell phone. A typical task goes somewhat like this. I need a new recipe for dinner. I search some vegetarian dinner options. “Let me see if I have the ingredie . . . oh look, an alert that someone has played me on Words with Friends. Wow . . . I have six games to play. While I’m on here, let me check Instagram. Madalyn’s in Rome?! That guy from that band really has a green thumb and . . . PUPPIES!!” An hour later my daughter walks in eating the dinner she prepared while I was looking up “recipes”.
Justification: I can justify the Hell outta anything. That mid-day nap before I’ve finished folding laundry. Well, according to a study I read by the Mayo Clinic, it’s good for me. And those extra pieces of milk chocolate contain calcium which a woman in my age group needs to be concerned about. Those Dove Promises might say “Get out there and change the world” but I’m hearing “Take a load off and fight brittle bone disease.”
Procrastination: I have an awesome tote that is perfectly designed to keep me organized. It’s not so big that it is a trap-all but instead the right size to be a veritable secretary with sections to hold my mail, pens, envelopes, postage stamps. There are even extra birthday and sympathy cards for those last minute mailings. However, none of this matters when, while placing my bills in the appropriate pocket, I decide to “do that tomorrow.” Fast forward two weeks and my daughter asks if I paid the Dish bill because the only channels she can find are infomercials on hair removal and how to cook a turkey in a convection oven.
Much like that toddler that knows it feels better after a nap yet continues to fight it, I know I feel better with my life in order yet continue to let things slide. And while the stack of magazines on my armoire isn’t the end of the world, it bothers me. I disagree with the adage that there aren’t enough hours in the day. There are enough, if you manage them wisely. No magic . . . just good old fashioned stick-to-itiveness. That’s where real progress will happen. Having not only the fortitude to do things but the patience to know they can’t all be done at once. Not throwing the baby out with the bathwater is a real time saver in the long run since you don’t have to keep running out there and picking up the baby. Or in this case, a toddler . . .