Friday, February 7, 2014

Three Things

Okay, so I've got a personal theory about how much any one person can do before everything they're trying to do suffers. It's a trend that I've noticed in my own life over the course of the last few years.

I think we can do three things really well. When we try to add a fourth or a fifth thing to our list, everything we're trying to do suffers. We can't be great moms (or dads), and great writers, and great co-workers, and great critique partners, and great friends, and great wives (or husbands), and great service-givers all at the same time.

It's impossible.

I believe there are constants that we should implant into the first couple of slots, and then constantly rotate the third spot to what needs to get done.

For example, my first two slots are 1. Family, and 2. Work. I need to be on top of things at home. I need to sign homework slips, and make dinner, and schedule appointments, get cars fixed, drive kids to activities, etc. That always comes first.

I need to be a good teacher. I need to be dedicated to work during work hours, and I need to feel value in what I do at school.

Those two cannot budge. If I take work out of the rotation and fill it with something else, that's bad--and not only for me. Same goes with my family.

So there's one more slot. What do I fill it with? What do I dedicate my non-working, non-family-devoted hours to?

For several months, it's been going to the gym. Exercising takes a lot of time and mental energy for me. I don't have much left to give at the end of the day when it's filled with family, work, and healthy eating/exercising.

Which has been great, considering that I haven't needed to focus on anything else--including writing. I feel like my routine is more settled now, and that I could occasionally swap out that third thing -- the gym -- with writing.

I can compartmentalize my hours much better now, having realized that I can't do All The Things all the time.

So my days now look something like this:
1. Family
2. Work
3. Gym until 6:00 PM
3.1. Writing until exhausted

That's not really four things, lest some of you think it is. I cannot focus on going to the gym if I'm worried about not having enough time to write. I can't write if I don't first dedicate the time needed to go to the gym.

They're swappable, not coinciding. I hope that makes sense.

So I'm constantly swapping out the third thing, sometimes even on a daily basis.

What do you think? Can you do more than three things simultaneously -- and do them well?


Judith Mercado said...

Organization and perspective about values characterize your approach, which is why it will be successful. It is likely to be more successful than what is suggested by my following poem:

Expanding To-Do List

Start projects with hope.
Poof! Energy fades quickly.
Intentions vanish.

Unfinished projects
litter across the landscape
of my intentions.

I say to myself,
just add to the growing list.
Extend the deadline.

Kittie Howard said...

Your reasoning makes perfect sense. I also drop whatever I'm doing for family as it's the cornerstone.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Makes sense, but I've learned to do more. Work and family are first. Then an online course, blogging, and writing are scrunched into #3. I don't get them all done as much as I'd like but I try.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Family, work, and writing were the three things for me. Still are, at the moment.

But I am hanging up my teaching cap at the end of this school year. (If it ever ends, that is. We are on our 7th cancellation day this winter.)

Common Core did me in. I teach less than I ever did before, under the pretense of teaching more. I no longer have any say over how the students are assessed or what goes on the report card. We never had enough computers, but now they've taken away some of what we did have under the guise of getting us something better, but they never bought us anything.

I can't do this any more.
Maybe going to gym will take its place on this list this fall! (If we can afford to keep our gym membership after I retire ...)

Barbara Watson said...

Three things well about sums it up for me too. The idea of the third thing swapping out from time to time allows leeway in our lives. I like it.

Jemi Fraser said...

I've never thought about it that way, but it makes sense. Family, Work & Everything Else depending on the day might describe the way I'm currently living! :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

I totally get that whole write/exercise thing. Only so much energy and time. That's why I have a laptop on my treadmill. Now I can do both--well, really the business part of things. I like it.

jenny said...

Right now I've got family and health (including serious fitness efforts) in the first two spots. Reading, writing, and PTA stuff at my daughter's school are all vying for third but, if it comes down to it, I would prioritize them in the reverse of how I wrote them here (PTA first, writing, then reading). As long as I can do one each day I think I can balance them all but we'll see.

Nichole Giles said...

I totally agree with this. I think sometimes some things can be overwhelming all on their own without the addition of the other parts of life. I like the way you've simplified this. Thanks for the reminder of how to sift through to what's important day to day, and what isn't.

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