Thursday, August 21, 2008

Juggling Life

Lest you think I have it all together, which, ahem, none of you did anyway, I’m really struggling with order and discipline in my life right now. I did really well all through school, all through college, and even in my first two years of graduate school. But the last two years have been a constant battle to maintain order and routine.

One major challenge for me is having no external structure created for me, like classes meeting at a certain time or assignments due regularly. I do have external responsibilities and things that are expected of me, but no established routine or structure to it. I’ve been learning how to impose my own structure on my life and develop my own routines, but one of the challenges lately is that so many things seem to change so often. I start getting into a routine and something changes again. I feel like I’m juggling 10 balls, but every few minutes new balls get thrown in and others get thrown out. And the existing balls keep changing size and weight while I’m trying to juggle them. I’m dropping balls all over the place!

Another major challenge is that I’m very analytical and I have a hard time not over-analyzing everything. It’s really quite comical when I articulate to my dear husband all the things that are running through my mind even over something so simple as putting a load of laundry in the washing machine. This paralyzes me and then I start getting anxious about it all. Having order and routine to my days both imparts structure and takes away the constant re-analysis of what I should be doing when and what comes next, but I’m having such a hard time making it happen.

I’m really good at budgeting money, but really not so good at budgeting time. When I think about what works for me with money, one key is that we set aside money in a number of categories. This means that I’m not constantly making choices between spending money on groceries or spending money on clothes and therefore continually recalculating where all the money should go. Instead, there’s a certain amount of money for each, which gives me freedom to spend money on groceries since I know clothes are taken care of. At the same time, I know that I only have so much for groceries, so I have to use it well. I’m making choices within each category, but not between them, because those choices are already made. I don’t have the same overall structure to my time that I have with my money. I keep trying to establish a routine where I do certain types of things at certain times – having periods of time that are set aside for CDC work, responsibilities for church or things I need to do at home, but every time I start getting into a workable routine, it seems like something else gets thrown in the mix and I don’t know how to keep it in balance. I think one issue might be that I’m trying to be too flexible to accommodate everybody else and I end up giving away my order and routine. I guess I need to guard my time boundaries as closely as I guard other boundaries.

The main reason I’m writing this, aside from helping me think through it, is to ask if any of you have any thoughts, insight, experience or encouragement that might be helpful to me or to others. What do you find that works for you? What do you struggle with when it comes to using time well or balancing different aspects of your life. Have you read any good books or articles lately about time management? Please do share. And please pray for me, that I would be set free in this area, because I know that God is a God of order and not of confusion and disarray.


PEZmama said...

I was the same way when I was in school. Even for the first few years that I was working. I had a specific job that I know I needed to accomplish, and I was, for the most part, able to focus and get things done.

Fast forward 8 years and I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of three. I also do some housekeeping on the side. And it is all up to me: what, when, how I do it.

And I juggle too. I am not good at this at all.

I have a friend who sits down with her husband every weekend to plan out the following week. She budgets time to herself for certain things. And she seems to have enough discipline to stick to her budget.

I will be working on more planning in the coming weeks as school starts. I normally have the kids' lesson plans done, but have never been very good with working in my quiet times (sadly) housekeeping, making lunch, prepping dinner, etc. It is a lot to juggle (for ME, anyway,) but I have realized that I need to ask God to help me prepare a reasonable schedule in advance, prepare whatever I need to have on hand in advance, and then ask God to help me stick with the schedule as much as is possible.

This helps you none, of course. I think I am just 'feeling the pain' with you.

Katie said...

One of the best things to happen to my need for structure is becoming a mama... although it really still wears on me to not have more built-in routine to my time, I've learned to adapt bit by bit.
Short of you getting pregnant and having a baby JUST to help "solve" this problem (hahaha - NOT a good idea!!) - my encouragement would be to set small, workable goals for yourself. I love crossing things off lists - so that helps me - but I also need to let myself off the hook when things don't get crossed off when I want them to.
And as a fellow-over-analyzer - start making a point of taking people at their word - at least outwardly, at first, until you get the hang of it. Just look at the face value of their words and accept them and move on. It's hard work at first, but really liberating once you start to get the hang of it.
Praying for you and your family and grandma as well!

Julie said...

I love lists as well! One of my best strategies that I started about a year ago was a list that I placed inside a sheet protector. I use a dry erase marker to check the stuff off each day.

It's taken me a long time to decide what I want on the list. I tend to make huge lists. I found that if I keep this list short and simple I would actually be able to finish it.

It has things on is like wipe down the bathroom, make the bed, start some laundry, do my Bible study. Things that are a priority for me every day. The cleaning parts of it aren't always done each day. If I miss a day on some, I focus on those the next day before doing the other jobs.

I like my list because it's detailed enough that it keeps my home in order but also leaves room for spontaneity.

PEZmama said...

Okay, I'm back. But first let me say I am sorry to hear about your grandmother. I will be praying for your family.

Reading other comments has jogged my memory about this topic. We did just recently started using lists like others mentioned. We focus on one room (or area) of the house each day of the week. We have the weekly and once a month jobs listed on one page for each room. We keep them in sheet protectors too.

I made sure that those sheets cover every area of the house. Sometimes we don't get it all done, but that's okay. If you work at the list for a set amount of time, you still get something done, and you can do what you missed another week.

The idea of only working for a set amount of time is one that I picked up from the Flylady. ( I don't follow her to a T, but she really does have some good ideas for keeping on top of the housework. For me, just having the house clean and neat freed me up. I felt less rushed and scatterbrained, which helped me get things done in other areas too.

Jungle Mom said...

Start a list for sure. I find my life is better structured by a routine than a strict time schedule. Too many times children or ministry cause my schedule to not be as I had planned, BUT, if I have an established routine I can jump back into my day at any time.