"There is never enough time, unless you're serving it." -Malcolm Forbes (1919 - 1990)
My son is 17 months old. (OK, all you seasoned parents out there, stop laughing!) I work full time, commute an hour to work each day, cook most meals, attempt other household chores and try to carve out a small amount of time for myself and my partner each day. Did I mention the 2 dogs and 5 cats? I understand lack of time. In today's fast-paced, technology driven world, most of us feel stressed at not having enough time in each day to do what needs to be done. For parents, this pressure can be overwhelming. Not only are we trying to conduct our own lives in a manner that Oprah would be proud of (eating healthy, exercising daily, living our best life), and building relationships that even Dr. Phil couldn't find fault with, but we're also attempting to raise healthy, happy, well-adjusted children in a world that most often seems in direct opposition to those ideals. Where do we find time for family, work, personal development, the chores of daily living, oh, and sleep? The truth is, many of us don't. We do the "have to's", an occasional "want to" and feel guilty about not doing the rest.
Focus on Your Accomplishments
It seems to be human nature to beat ourselves up over the things we didn't get done, or didn't do as well as we'd hoped. These negative thoughts do nothing to improve your life. Instead of lying in bed at night frustrated over the mountain of work left undone, reflect on the things you did do. They don't have to be big things, even little things add up, and indeed, probably did add up to comprise the biggest portion of your day. A list might include:
made sure the kids ate breakfast
fed the dog
locked the front door
returned an important phone call
started a report
filled the car with gas
noticed that your child's picture had a great-looking tree in it
wiped off the kitchen counter
made macaroni and cheese for dinner
let the dog outside before he peed on the carpet
You accomplished hundreds of things today, and probably did them all well. There is no use in poisoning the way you feel about yourself by focusing on the things you did not get around to today.
Let Go of the Guilt
This may sound strange, but guilt is selfish. It takes away time and energy from you, your family, and other priorities. Know that you are making the best decisions you know how to make, and are doing the best you know how to do at any given moment, and allow yourself to feel good about those facts. Release yourself from the grip of guilt and allow positive feelings to take its place. As you start feeling better about yourself and less guilty, you may even find you have some extra energy at the end of the day or an extra smile for your child.
Really Consider Your Priorities
It makes sense to say we are going to focus on the positive and give up guilt, but being humans, it's not that easy to do. That's where priorities come into play. When you hear, or read, someone suggesting that you consider your priorities, what does that mean to you? For some, that means realizing that spending time with family is more important than extra time spent at work hopes of a promotion, for others it means studying and going back to school is more important than two hours in front of the TV at night.
These large-scope priorities are certainly important, but I suggest you even think on a more basic level than that; think on the level of day-to-day tasks. Ask if it is more important today for you to take a walk outside with your two-year old or to cook the meal you'd planned that will take an hour. Is it more important today to do the laundry or to read the childcare magazine that's been sitting on the kitchen table for a month? Is it more important today that you send a birthday card to your cousin or sweep the kitchen floor? What kind of mood are you in or is a family member in? Where will your energies make the most difference to you or your loved ones today, at this moment?
I'm not suggesting that the laundry can pile up for weeks or that you should always eat fast food. I am suggesting that you cannot do all of the things you want to do, so many of the things you can do should be done consciously, and you should feel good that you've made a choice about how to spend your valuable time.
You cannot make more time in a day, but you can reframe the way you think about what you accomplish during a limited amount of time. This will help you to feel better about yourself and your life. Celebrate your accomplishments, don't give guilt a chance to consume your energies, and make conscious choices about your priorities each day. The day is yours ? feel good about the ways you spend it!
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Dakota Duncan, Freelancer
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About The Author
Dakota Duncan has her degree in Cross-Cultural Counseling and Communication. She's spent much of her professional career working at a non-profit health organization located in the Pacific Northwest. The birth of her son in April of 2002 has had a profound impact on her life and her vision of the future.